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Harvest season road safety

First on the Farm Newsletter

Harvest season road safety

Tracey Erickson
Guest Columnist – former SDSU Extension Dairy Field Specialist

Silage harvest has begun, and soybean harvest will soon be following in parts of South Dakota.

Because of this, we have seen an increase in farm equipment on the road, including tractors, combines, grain carts, silage choppers, and silage trucks.

For producers, this is one of the busiest times of the year.

For the general public, the hustle and bustle have also picked up with kids back in school and extra-curricular activities in full swing.

That’s why we all need to increase our awareness and patience on the road, whether you are a motorist or a producer. Here are some things to keep in mind this harvest season:


First, patience is key.

Most farm equipment that’s operating on the roadways is traveling at speeds between 15 and 25 miles per hour. When you encounter a slow-moving vehicle (SMV) emblem on equipment, that is an immediate warning to slow down.

Second, remember that it may be necessary for producers to operate farm equipment on the roadways to move between fields or farms, and, legally, they are entitled to do so.

If you’re driving 55 miles per hour and come upon farm equipment that is driving 15 miles per hour, it will only take five seconds to close a gap the length of a football field between you and the equipment.

You also should not assume that a producer knows you are there. However, once they know you are there, they will attempt to pull over — if they are able to do so safely — so you may pass.

Stay patient, as there may not always be an approach that’s immediately accessible or a ditch that allows them to ride the shoulder without tipping or running into an object.


Producers also need to do their part in sharing the roadways.

All vehicles that move less than 25 miles per hour must be equipped with an SMV reflective emblem. The emblem should be kept clean and must be visible, and replacement is recommended every 2–3 years.

Producers should also place reflective tape on equipment to mark the edges, which will help to increase visibility.

Traffic rules

Whether you’re a producer or a motorist traveling on the roadways, remember that we must all obey the traffic rules; that includes no texting and appropriate use of cell phones.

Lastly, as always, courtesy and patience are key to safety on the road.

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