Guidance for agricultural equipment on public roads

After investigating dangers associated with farm equipment on public roads, a committee convened by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES) has recommended that guidelines be established for farm-equipment manufacturers, standard-setting organizations and government agencies.

Urbanization of traditional agricultural-production regions and changing production practices have led to a substantial increase in the mix of agricultural equipment and licensed motor vehicles on public roads, creating safety problems, according to Dennis Murphy, Penn State Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Safety and Health, who chaired the committee and served as editor for its just-released report, "Agricultural Equipment on Public Roads."

"Federal, state and local government bodies rarely give this area of roadway safety any attention because agriculture-related collisions comprise a low percentage (0.2 percent) of all vehicle collisions," says Murphy. "The impacts of changing demographics that characterize the urban/rural interface are not well researched or understood."
The report was developed by the USDA-CSREES North Central Regional Committee on Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension. Recognizing the need to quantify and qualify risks of vehicular collisions, the report suggests research, policy, standards development, and extension and outreach priorities for agricultural equipment on public roads.
"The report addresses the rural/urban traffic interface, state and federal regulations, higher-speed tractors and transport of workers on public roadways with farm equipment," Murphy says.
The report also calls for research describing the characteristics of crashes between motor vehicles and agricultural equipment, using standard reporting guidelines.
"The committee believes that engineering design standards should be used to incorporate automatic and passive protection for drivers and riders of agricultural equipment during public-road use," Murphy notes. "Safety-education programs are needed to educate both the public and farmers on best practices for operating agricultural equipment on public roads, approaching slow-moving vehicles on public roads and the effects of excluding agricultural equipment from road weight and use restrictions." 
The report also recommends policy changes for a consistent source of funding for research into hazards, risks and best safety practices, and for the development of a Uniform Vehicle Code that reflects uses of modern agricultural equipment, which should be adopted by all states.
The full text of the report is available online at or at For more information, contact Murphy at (814) 865-7157.
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Last Updated March 19, 2009