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Driving Risk During the Fall Harvest

- November 7, 2016 by Dan Heinen, ASP (View all posts by Dan)

Summer has gone, and around here we have gotten into harvest season. This means large slow equipment for the next several months on most of the secondary roads often times with minimal lighting (usually the SMV triangle or just flashing hazards) and we can come upon them much faster than we realize. This can potentially create several issues we need to be aware of ourselves while driving.

  • Combines have a top speed of about 15-20 mph. and weigh in the 30,000 lbs (+/-) range depending on make and model.
  • They often have to use the shoulder and a part of the oncoming lane while on roadways presenting passing hazards for both drivers trying to get around them and those approaching from the opposite direction.
  • Tractors and grain wagons are often parked on the side of the road while getting loaded from the field. (See hazards above).
  • While loading grain, slight spills may occur on the road creating an unexpected slick spot much like gravel when one isn’t expecting it.
  • Mud may also be tracked on the road if conditions are right as well.
  • Be aware of turns into a field. Just because you don’t see a road doesn’t mean they forgot to turn off a turn signal and it is safe to pass.

Let’s go back to the word problems from math class. Driver “A” is traveling down the road at 60 mph and driver “B” is five miles ahead of him traveling at 18 mph, how long will it take driver “A” to catch up to driver “B”?

Remember, the men and women of the farming community are trying to make a living as well and have a small window to get a lot done with a small window to accomplish it. Weather, long hours, lines at the grain elevators, trying to get equipment from field “A” to field ”B” all at the same time can create a stressful work environment.

Getting “stuck” behind equipment for a couple of miles isn’t much different than sitting at stoplights in town. If you know you will be traveling down secondary roads leave a little early to allow yourself extra time or much like avoiding a construction zone take an alternative route if possible. Let’s not add to the stress and cause an incident by being impatient