Farm safety is a two-way street

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Accidental injuries and deaths make farming one of the most hazardous jobs, usually ranking in the top five of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. To remedy the situation requires the cooperation of not only farmers and ranchers, but the non-farm public as well.

How can the non-farm public have anything to do with farm safety? The answer is simple -- slow down on county roads where farmers are often moving tractors and heavy equipment from one field to another. Many county roads are narrow with hills and curves, giving drivers of fast-moving cars very little time to react when topping a hill and suddenly finding a slow-moving tractor in their path.

The argument could be made the farmers are driving too slowly, but assessing blame is not the point -- the goal is to prevent the accidents in the first place. Farmers need to take all safety precautions, such as ensuring slow-moving vehicle warning reflectors are mounted to the rear of their tractors, wagons and implements, and making sure emergency lights are flashing. Drivers need to slow down and not assume the road will be clear around the next bend. Getting off the highway and using county roads is attractive to many drivers during spring months, however, farmers will use these roads, too -- spring planting is underway. National Farm Safety and Health Week is observed during harvest time, and yet the most dangerous time of the year for farmers is spring planting season.

To raise awareness of this fact, with the goal of reducing the accidental injuries and deaths so prevalent at this time of the year, Farm Bureau sponsors Agricultural Safety Awareness Week the first full week of March. Accidents between fast-moving vehicles and slow-moving farm equipment can cause serious injuries to both drivers. It is not about fault; it is about prevention of accidental injury and death. When using county roads and highways, farm safety is a two-way street.

Denny Banister, of Jefferson City, is a retired broadcaster from Missouri Farm Bureau, the state's largest farm organization.

Safe Operation

Farmers are responsible for the actions of all drivers of the trucks under their control. Commercial vehicles must be operated safely and according to state and federal rules, which include: Drivers are not allowed to operate a truck if they are too ill, fatigued or are under the influence of prescription drugs, where these conditions would impair their ability to operate the truck safely; Alcohol or illegal drugs are not to be in the drivers possession. No alcohol can be consumed within four hours of driving; All trucks must follow railroad crossing safety requirements by stopping if required, not shifting gears on the tracks and by looking both ways before crossing; All equipment or goods carried on the truck and/or trailer must be properly loaded and secured; Seat belts must be worn at all times when the truck is operating; Radar detectors are prohibited in CMVs; and warning devices such as triangles, road flares and hazard flashers must be used when a CMV parks on the side of a roadway.

Minimum Age for Farm Truck Drivers

Drivers of a commercial vehicle within Missouri must be at least 18 years old; Drivers must be at least 21 years old if: The load contains any amount of hazardous materials, including some fertilizers, or the truck operates beyond Missouri state lines.

Driver Qualifications

All persons who operate a commercial vehicle are considered drivers even if they are unpaid or own the vehicle. All drivers must meet age requirements, speak English, have a valid operating license, be physically capable of operating a truck and follow all applicable state laws.

Commercial Drivers License Requirements for Farm Trucks

A CDL is required if: The truck exceeds a 26,000 pound gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), or

a truck Is used in combination with a trailer for a gross combination weight rating (GCWR) greater than 26,000 pounds, or the load must be placarded in order to comply with the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act regardless of the truck size or weight rating.

No CDL is required if all of the following conditions are met:

1. A farmer transports his/her own agricultural products, farm machinery, farm supplies to or from their farm. (If the goods are not for farm use or belong to someone other than the farmer, a CDL is required), and

2. The move is within 150 miles of the farmer s farm, and

3. The driver is a farmer, family member of the farmer or an employee of the farm, operating a CMV for farm use, and

4. The load does not have to be placarded for hazardous materials.

Missouri Class E Drivers License

If a CDL is not required, then all farm employees who drive a farm truck must have at least a Missouri Class E (For-Hire) drivers license.

CDL-Required Drug and Alcohol Testing Rules

Drivers who are required to have a CDL must also comply with the controlled substance and alcohol testing requirements of the FMCSR, which include: A pre-employment drug test. A DOT pre-employment drug test must be passed before a driver may operate the CMV. The negative results must be kept in the driver's qualification file; Random drug and alcohol-testing program. All CDL-required drivers must enroll in a DOT random drug and alcohol-testing program; Post-accident testing drivers involved in a recordable accident must be tested for drug and alcohol use if a fatality occurs or a citation is issued.