Experts Seek Improved Farm Equipment Safety on Public Roads

April 23rd, 2009

AMES, Iowa — Improving safety on roads that farm equipment share with other vehicles needs greater attention from governmental entities, according to a report produced by a committee including Iowa State University Extension agricultural safety specialist Charles Schwab.

"Federal, state and local government bodies rarely give this area of roadway safety major attention because agriculture-related collisions comprise a low percentage of all vehicle collisions," said Schwab. "However, when viewed by the agricultural community, these collisions become a dramatic and alarming percentage that tragically alters our agricultural workforce."

Schwab, professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering, served on the North Central Regional Committee on Agricultural Safety and Health Research and Extension convened by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The committee issued a report in February that addresses the rural/urban traffic interface, state and federal regulations, higher-speed tractors and the transport of workers on public roadways with farm equipment.

The report cites a study of Iowa crashes in rural areas, published in 2007, that found:

* Crash fatality rates in the most rural counties were almost double the rate in urban counties;

* Rural crashes were more frequent, more severe and more likely to result in death than urban crashes;

* The environment of the rural road contributes to increased crashes and more severe injury outcomes; and

* In crashes involving farm vehicles, the farm vehicle occupant was killed nearly twice as often as occupants of the other vehicle.

"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," Schwab said.

The report emphasizes that 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:


Charles Schwab, Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, (515) 294-4131,

Ed Adcock, Agriculture and Life Sciences Communication Service, (515) 294-2314,