Fall is here, and that means the harvest season has started.  Even though the northland might not be as agriculturally-based as some areas, there are still a lot of family farms - with people trying to get the last of the crops in or making the hay that they'll need for the approaching winter.  Often, this harvest season involves the use of roads and highways to get the tractors, trailers, and other farm equipment from one field to another.  At the same time, many car and truck drivers might not be used to seeing these slower-moving vehicles on the roadways.

What do you need to know?

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has issued a statement and some tips regarding the use of farm equipment on roadways.

Motorists traveling on Minnesota highways this fall need to be aware of large farm equipment transporting crops to markets, grain elevators and processing plants, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

“Harvest season is in full swing and farmers in every corner of the state are out using the highways,” said Sue Groth, state traffic engineer. “Motorists need to be prepared to encounter slow-moving farm vehicles, especially on rural, two-lane roads.”

Farm equipment is large and heavy, making it hard for operators to accelerate, slow down and stop. The machines also make wide turns and sometimes cross over the center line. In addition, farm vehicles can create large blind spots, making it difficult for operators to see approaching vehicles. All of these factors can cause serious crashes.

During 2010-2012, 377 traffic crashes took place on Minnesota roads involving at least one farm vehicle, resulting in 13 fatalities and 211 injuries. Of the 13 fatalities, six were farm vehicle riders; of the 211 injuries, 53 were farm vehicle riders.


“The biggest factors contributing to farm equipment/vehicle crashes are inattention, speeding and unsafe passing,” Groth said. “When approaching farm equipment, motorists should always slow down and use extreme caution.”

Here are some of the tips provided by MNDOT:

Motorists should:

  • Watch for debris dropped by trucks hauling sugar beets and other crops. It is safer to brake or drive through debris than to veer into oncoming cars or off the road.
  • Wait for a safe place to pass.
  • Wear seatbelts.
  • Drive with headlights on at all times.

Farm equipment operators should:

  • Use lights and flashers to make equipment more visible.
  • Use slow-moving vehicle emblems on equipment traveling less than 30 mph.
  • Consider using a follow vehicle when moving equipment, especially at night.

Safety and common sense will alleviate many potential problems.