Look both ways at the Crossing!

Last year I heard some farmers talking about moving farm equipment on the roadways and the many potential hazards that could happen. One mentioned was railroads and the respect we all need to have for the “iron horse”. It’s a force that you need to watch out for and realize that you can’t make assumptions around railroad crossings and always look and don’t take chances. I remembered a 2019 article I was quoted in about railroad safety. As this is a busy time of year for farming, I thought it was worth another read. I hope you agree.

Here’s the article from 2019.

Railroad crossings can pose a danger on farms

RICHMOND—Farming can be a dangerous job, but there’s one hazard farmers may not have on their radar: railroad crossings.

Many farmers live near rural railroad crossings or have railroad tracks on their property, which can pose a risk for train collisions. According to Operation Lifesaver, Inc., a national rail safety education organization, approximately 15% of all rail collisions each year occur on private crossings such as those on farmland.

“Anytime you’re crossing a railroad, there’s always a chance of something happening,” said Andrew Smith, associate director of governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Farmers usually have to go slower to make sure their equipment isn’t dragging or likely to get caught on rail lines, or if they’re going up an incline or over bumps. The safety concerns are there.”

In May an Augusta County farmer using a railroad bridge to cross a stream while repairing fences was fatally struck by a train.

Risk can increase with rural, private railroad crossings because some areas lack the gates or lights that signal an oncoming train. In addition, farm machinery is loud and farmers can’t count on hearing a train in time. Having visual contact with rail lines and looking both ways before crossing is critical. The American Farm Bureau Federation and Operation Lifesaver recently teamed up to remind farmers about the dangers associated with rail lines. Operation Lifesaver published the following safety tips:

  • Slow down as you approach a railroad crossing.
  • Stop no closer than 15 feet from the crossing.
  • Look and listen for a train. Open cab windows, turn off radios and fans and remove headphones. Rock back and forth in your seat to see around obstacles.
  • Look both ways again before crossing.
  • Once you start across, do not hesitate. Do not change gears.

“We can’t take a crossing for granted, and we can’t compete with a train,” Smith said.

Our friends at Operation Lifesaver, Inc. – Railroad Safety Education has some great materials such as this one on Farm Equipment around railroad crossings. Brochure

For more information visit https://oli.org/.

Andrew W. Smith, Associate Director

Beware of traffic behind you

Make sure you have your SMV sign on your equipment when on the road

Like many of you that live in rural areas I get behind Slow Moving Vehicles often, especially this time of year. Tractors and other farm machinery are busy getting to and from the fields to plant or harvest. We all get in a hurry, but let’s be safe and make sure we all get to our destination safe.

When I returned to the farm decades ago, I heard a story of a local farmer having a school bus behind him as he was moving a piece of tillage equipment down the road. He slowed down and waved the bus by, unfortunately the school bus hung the piece of farm equipment. I was “preached” a very good lesson to remember at the time. Always be courteous when on the road with farm equipment. Always get over when you can and keep tabs of the traffic behind you.  When you have folks behind you, get as far off the road as you can to allow them to pass. If they pass it’s their decision, don’t take on the responsibility of waving them by, there is a question of liability.

In the situation described above the Code of Virginia § 46.2-842. Driver to give way to overtaking vehicle. states, “… Any over-width, or slow-moving vehicle as defined by § 46.2-1081 (read Slow Moving Vehicles) shall be removed from the roadway at the nearest suitable location when necessary to allow traffic to pass.”

A few years ago, during the General Assembly I was approached about whether or not we wanted traffic to be able to pass farm machinery on a double line. At first it sounds like a good idea until you think about who is in the better position to decide when it is safe to pass. If the piece of machinery was the size of a passenger vehicle it might be possible for the driver wishing to pass to make the call and pass when they feel it is safe. But most of our farm equipment is much larger than a car these days, those behind a combine or load of hay cannot see around it to make that call. Considering the size of farm equipment today, the operator of the farm machinery is in the “driver’s seat” to better decide when it is safe to pull off the road to allow traffic to pass. Just to be clear, it is still against the law to pass a Slow Moving Vehicle on a double line.

This might be a good time to remind everyone to have that orange triangle Slow Moving Vehicle sign on the back of the equipment. To view the complete law on that in Virginia you can look at Virginia Code § 46.2-1081. Slow-moving vehicle emblems.It may be a small thing, but it has a big impact and can save lives, including yours. Don’t forget those flashing lights too!

Bottomline, be careful out there when you are driving farm machinery on the roadways. We are all sharing the road, farmers are driving very expensive, very large equipment in most cases, we are also very vulnerable. Remember to let folks pass when you are able to get over far enough to allow traffic to pass. Get over and let them decide if they wish to take the opportunity.

Dana Fisher, Chair of Virginia Farm Bureau Safety Committee has placed a lot of resources on farm safety on our website. You can check those out at www.vafb.com/Safety. Remember you can also check out other useful resources on our Virginia Farm Bureau Resources page at www.vafb.com/membership-at-work/farmers-in-action/resources. If there is something you still have questions about, reach out to me at the Virginia Farm Bureau headquarters or via your County Farm Bureau.

Andrew W. Smith, Associate Director

Are you equipped? Prepare your farm vehicles for the highway

If you are like me when you drive down the road alone you have a lot of thinking time, often making observations you might not make when you have someone to chat with. I laugh how our observations are relative to what we are doing in life. When I was in college living in a fraternity house, as I drove by a large old house, I would think what a great “House” that would make and how many brothers could live there. Now, working in governmental relations for Virginia Farm Bureau I notice vehicles and the potential violations or hazards present. For example, I notice when a driver is talking on their cell phone and not using a hands-free device, or for commercial trucks what the heftier fine that would be.

I am not the only one that thinks about it – just the other day I got a text asking me to settle a family argument. Apparently, they were discussing the color lights a farm vehicle may display on Virginia roadways. As someone that grew up on a farm and have had hundreds if not thousands of those “discussions” I could just visualize them having this intense conversation. That question gave me the idea to remind farmers of what equipment is required on the various vehicles and equipment they drive across the highways in the Commonwealth.

Producers spend a lot of time behind the wheel of a truck in planting and harvest season so its paramount that each make sure they have the proper safety equipment such as lights, horns, tire tread etc.

As you may know, I have conducted a lot of informational sessions on farm vehicle laws. I typically conduct these along with members of the Virginia State Police Motor Carrier Division and occasionally representatives from the Department of Motor Vehicles. At one such meeting the trooper speaking presented required safety equipment on each vehicle type in a convenient table, so I stole the idea! You can view my version of the table here: Required Equipment for Farm Trucks & Machinery I’d encourage you to review the table to see if you are equipped on each of your farm trucks and equipment. Each code section has a hyperlink that takes you directly to the General Assembly website showing the code online.

The table mentioned above breaks the requirements down in columns by vehicle type, including those using Farm Use, Registered Farm Vehicle (F-tag), those with non-farm truck registrations typically used in agriculture. The linked handout also has a table for farm equipment.

It doesn’t take long to make that pre-trip inspection to make sure your truck is ready for the road. It also doesn’t take that long to check your farm equipment before you go to the next field – its time well spent. There are also many things in addition to these requirements you should consider, any precaution can save from having a headache, or losing a life.

Remember you can always access the Virginia Farm Bureau Resources page here: https://www.vafb.com/membership-at-work/farmers-in-action/resources

Andrew Smith, Associate Director

From the Field: Equipment Safety a Big Concern for Young Farmers

Safety YFsFrom the Field is an occasional column written by Mark Campbell, Farm Bureau Field Services Director for the Central District. He writes about Farm Bureau member benefits and County Farm Bureau activities.

It is one thing to be safety conscious for yourself, but when you take farm equipment on the highway, your safety zone extends to everyone else on the road. It’s hard enough to share the road when your equipment takes up more than a lane and trying not to hit mailboxes or run in the ditch. Today compared to maybe 20 years ago, or even 5 years; equipment is larger, automobile drivers are more hurried and distracted with cell phones or vehicle technology. So farmers have to look out for the safety of others, and even more so now, anticipate what drivers will do.

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