Who’d have thought drivers on public roads would ever be warned to beware of faster farm vehicles? Not me. Traditionally, people have moaned about getting stuck behind slow-moving farm gear, prompting the ag sector to plead for patience and try explaining it’s just doing its job, getting from one farm, or from one part of the farm, to another.
But this summer a different approach is being preached, this time by the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario (CFFO).
It wants people to realize farm equipment has actually getting faster, not to mention bigger.
That has significant implications for anyone trying to fire out from behind a tractor and wagon or whatever, and zip back in quickly before meeting oncoming traffic. Failure to make a sound judgment on passing could have dire consequences.
So the federation is calling for change. It wants new road safety measures put in place, to avert the literal and figurative collision course facing the public and farmers.
First, it says, new signage is needed. The CFFO wants a new sign developed for certain farm machinery that signals it is not a traditional slow-moving vehicle. The organization believes Ontario drivers need this as a visual cue, to change their driving habits.
This change also has implications for farmers. The federation says farmers need a stepped-up level of safety training to adjust to heavier, bigger and faster equipment.
It’s recommending a voluntary training program be developed to acknowledge the increased skills required by operators. In conjunction with general farm organizations, insurance agencies and the appropriate government ministries, it wants a third-party appointed to administer road safety training for operators.
Reduced insurance rates should be considered for successful participants, it says.
This will surely be contentious, but the key is it’s brief – and voluntary, at least for now.
The federation is also concerned increased length of rigs on the road at higher speeds could create dangerous passing situations. It wants farm vehicle rigs that are either pulling more than two pieces of equipment, or more than 25 metres long, to use a sign similar to the “Long Commercial Vehicle” sign to communicate to other vehicles a long pass is required.
And finally, it suggests online- and foreign-language services be part of this updated approach. Much of the farm labour in Ontario comes from Spanish-speaking countries, so the federation wants training offered in Spanish, too. And having it online makes it available whenever farmers need to access it, rather than just during a training session.
The organization says the alternative to the industry taking action itself is to have potentially unruly regulations imposed on it by the province. CFFO believes farmers would rather manage this change themselves than respond to directives. But they need to act now.