by Debra Pretty-Straathof
Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Safety must be a top priority on and off the farm – especially now as farmers head out on the roads with equipment during harvest. It’s getting tougher to travel on roadways. Roads, bridges and traffic circles aren’t built to accommodate machinery and a lot more motorists are increasingly impatient around slow moving vehicles.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) recently sent a letter to the Minister of Transportation, John Yakabuski outlining the key issues and concerns farmers face when travelling Ontario’s roadways with farm equipment. The letter was part of OFA’s series of priority letters sent to various ministries that focus on short-term issues we are asking the provincial government to address.
Road safety cannot be compromised. OFA believes a number of ongoing issues can and must be addressed. The first is the planning and construction of roadways, bridges and traffic circles. Farmers share the road with motorists, but many bridges aren’t being built wide enough to accommodate farm equipment. Roadway shoulders are being reduced or rebuilt with a slope that reduces the area for farm equipment to use. The design of traffic circles, more commonly known as roundabouts, don’t consider the width of farm equipment, and in some cases, travelling on these roads is not an option. OFA is addressing these infrastructure concerns with the government and will continue to consult on road construction and rebuild projects.
Every farm tractor or self-propelled implement travelling a roadway must display a Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) sign. But most motorists don’t know what the sign means, or that the SMV sign identifies farm equipment that has an equal right to travel the roadway, at a maximum speed of 40 km/hr. OFA is asking the government to improve the awareness and understanding of SMV signs through driver education courses or general awareness campaigns.
The Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is currently revising and updating the Farm Guide, a valuable resource for farmers and enforcement personnel including OPP officers and MTO staff. The guide includes information on the rules and regulations that govern farm equipment and farm trucks. OFA is asking the government to collaborate with farm organizations on the next update of the guide to ensure new types of machinery like bale stackers and telehandlers are included.
There’s a lot of farm equipment travelling the roadways this time of year. Safe roads and safe driving practices are important for everyone. OFA will continue to push for safer, more accessible roadways for farmers in Ontario.