Farm equipment share the road

Sharing the road with farm equipment

Every spring and fall, farmers fill roads with tractors, combines, and other farm equipment. Some farm equipment can take up the whole road.

That’s why both farmers and other drivers need to pay extra attention during those times of year.


Know your equipment

Before you take farm equipment on public roads, take a moment to review the laws in your state. Also, know how wide your equipment is. It could mean the difference between getting to a field safely versus hitting a bridge — or other drivers.

It’s a good idea to perform an equipment inspection before using public roads, too. The Upper Midwest Agricultural Safety and Health Center offers these tips:

  • Ensure lights, flashers, reflectors, and signals all work properly.
  • Check wiring and connections.
  • Make sure that the familiar slow-moving vehicle sign can be seen.
  • See if hitched equipment obscures lights or signage. The drivers behind you may not realize you’re making a left-hand turn if they can’t see your signals.
  • Make sure your load is balanced and securely mounted.

Know your conditions

Remember that farm equipment does not operate at its best while on the road. That’s why taking the time to evaluate your environment and conditions can help keep you and other drivers safe. The Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT) has these tips:

  • If possible, transport your farm equipment during low-traffic periods of the day. Avoid driving at night or in low light conditions.
  • Consider waiting for good weather and a high visibility index to move your equipment. Weather apps on your phone may help you keep an eye on the local forecast and any weather advisories.
  • Be familiar with the road you’ll be traveling. Mark where potholes, sharp curves, narrow bridges, loose gravel, or weak shoulders are and be prepared for them.
If you can muster a volunteer, have a pilot escort vehicle travel with the equipment to warn oncoming traffic and create a buffer between the two. Escorts should be equipped with the proper signage identifying that they’re assisting you. Check your local laws about what your pilot escort would need.

Other drivers

The Iowa DOT offers these tips for motorists for driving in areas where farm equipment on the road is common:

  • Be alert and always watch for slow-moving vehicles, especially during planting and harvest seasons. Slow-moving vehicles can be identified by the slow-moving vehicle emblem, an orange triangle with red borders.
  • Don’t tailgate. All it accomplishes is making the equipment driver stressed and distracted. Leave at least 50 feet between you and the farm equipment.
  • Watch for turns. A farmer may use hand signals as well as blinkers. Farm machinery makes wide turns, and often directly into a field, where there is no obvious road. Also, tractors may sometimes look like they’re turning right or pulling over, when in reality the farmer is swinging wide to make a turn. Never assume and try to pass when this happens.
  • Be patient. Don’t assume the equipment operator can move aside to let you pass. The shoulder may not be able to support a heavy farm vehicle.
  • Slow down as soon as you see farm equipment. It only takes seconds for a vehicle driving at 55 miles per hour to rear-end a tractor that’s 300–400 feet away. 

For more information

For more information about farm safety, visit our farm safety tips and resources page. Want to know more about how we help farmers trust in tomorrow? Read about our farm insurance products and services or find an agent near you.

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