It was a typical fall morning when Jack was heading off to work at the local steel mill. It was early, before 6 a.m., and he was in his truck just a few miles down the highway when the John Deere tractor appeared out of the darkness pulling a plow. But it was too late. There wasn’t enough time to miss the equipment. Jack’s truck crashed into the back of the plow resulting in a fatal accident. His widow was left looking for answers about what had happened that morning, and why there were no lights on the rear of the tractor. She resorted to filing a lawsuit against the driver of the tractor, a farm hand, and his employer, a farm owner.
Taking the proper safety precautions can often prevent accidents, and lawsuits, such as this. As the time changes and the days get longer, I’m seeing more and more tractors and other farm equipment on the road getting ready for spring. It’s a good time to think about the safety laws that apply when moving farm machinery so that we can prevent tragic accidents like the one above.
In Arkansas, there are many laws that need to be taken into consideration when moving farm equipment on public roads. Many of these laws address the height, width, or weight of vehicles driven on state highways. Generally, there are exceptions for farm equipment, if you meet certain requirements. One such law provides that a permit is required to operate a vehicle on the highways if the vehicle is wider than 102 inches. There is an exception to the permit requirement for vehicles or machinery used for normal farm purposes moved during daylight hours within a radius of 50 miles of the point of origin. A permit may still be required to move equipment on any part of the interstate system.
The laws that govern lighting for tractors and other farm equipment provide important details that can prevent collisions on the highway. These laws require that the lights be used from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise and at other times when there is not sufficient light to see a person or vehicle at least 500 feet ahead of your vehicle.
Tractors or farm equipment without an electric lighting system must still have lights during these times. In the front there must be at least one lamp displaying a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front of the vehicle. Also, the tractor or equipment must have at least one lamp displaying a red light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the rear of the vehicle and two red reflectors that are visible from 100 to 600 feet away when headlights shine on them.
For tractors and equipment that are equipped with an electric lighting system, there should be two white head lamps and at least one red lamp visible from 500 feet to the rear of the vehicle.
If you are using the tractor to tow other farm equipment or implements you will need at least one white lamp mounted on the extreme left of the projection and two red lamps on the rear, or alternatively, one red lamp and two red reflectors on the rear. The lamps and reflectors should be positioned so as to show from front and rear, as nearly as practicable, the extreme projections of the implement to the left and right.
Even animal drawn vehicles should be equipped with lights if traveling on the highway during the time that lights must be used. These requirements include at least one white lamp in the front of the vehicle and two red lamps, or one red lamp and two red reflectors, in the rear.
Shannon Mirus, of Farmington, Ar., is a licensed attorney in Arkansas. She is currently pursuing an advanced masters degree in agricultural law at the University of Arkansas.