Whoa, there: Speedy tractors, signage, and brake requirements

Here’s a fun debate topic: if your tractor is capable of traveling at over 40 km/h, is it still a slow moving vehicle (SMV)?

It sure isn’t, and if you’re traveling above 40 km/h and displaying a SMV sign, you’re actually breaking the law.

Last month at FarmSmart, RealAgriculture’s own Peter Johnson was on-hand for a lively discussion about travel speeds for tractors and the accompanying signage rules. The in-person discussion spilled over to Twitter, as well, with several people then expanding on not just the much-misunderstood rules of the road, but also on to whether or not braking requirements were keeping up with modern farm implement sizes and ground covered in a day.

It’s a timely discussion as we head into a new planting season. The Ontario Federation of Agriculture has released an updated rules-of-the-road factsheet that deserves a quick review before you set out on the road. (Keep in mind it’s based on Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, but the rules are similar in other jurisdictions.)

Before we go fast, let’s review going slow — any tractor or self-propelled implement traveling on the highway requires a slow moving vehicle sign (unless traveling on a trailer as a load), and must travel below 40 km/h.

Fendt, JCB or other High-Speed Tractor:
All farm tractors and self-propelled implements of husbandry, including those capable of road speeds over 40 km/h must obey the 40 km/h speed limit attached to use of the SMV sign. This perspective is based on the following elements in Section 76 (SMV Signs) in the HTA;

Section 76. (1) No person shall operate a slow moving vehicle on a highway unless a slow moving vehicle sign is attached.
Section 76. (2) Farm tractors and self-propelled implements of husbandry are slow moving vehicles;
Section 76. (6.1) No person shall operate a slow moving vehicle with a slow moving vehicle sign attached … at a speed greater than 40 kilometers/hour.

— Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Fact Sheet, 2017

But as farms get larger, covering more ground in a timely fashion matters. The Fendt tractor pictured above has a top road speed of 60 km/h (just over 35 mph). These tractors that are capable of zipping along faster than 40 km/h are subject to different rules, lights, insurance and more, and you’re responsible to know what you need. Johnson notes there’s also the issue of what you’re towing — are the tractor brakes adequate to stop you AND what’s being towed? Is the safety chain adequate and properly attached?

To determine what’s necessary, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) recently released a five-part proposal to update and change braking requirements for ag equipment. You can be sure there will be some updated requirements for not only tractors, but implements, trailers, and towed equipment.

You can read and comment on AEM’s proposals here.

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One thought on “Whoa, there: Speedy tractors, signage, and brake requirements

  1. Over by Ravenscrag there was a tractor wreck whilst going down hill with a load attached. Using the “brakes” to slow the tractor caused the drive line to snap and the tractor became a runaway eventually crashing in the ravine. Driveline brakes are inadequate.

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