University of Illinois Extension

Safe Movement of Farm Machinery on Public Roadways


During a seven year period, the Illinois Department of Transportation indicates that at least 45 people have been killed in accidents involving farm machinery on public roadways. The deceased were primarily from the non-agricultural driving public. As far as the movement of farm machinery on public roadways is concerned, left turns across the opposite lane of traffic can turn into particularly hazardous situations. An important safety factor is the lighting of farm machinery.

The Illinois Vehicle Code requires tractors and self-propelled equipment to have the following lighting recommendations:

When towing equipment, the following are applicable:

Slow-Moving Vehicle (SMV) Emblems Important

The slow-moving vehicle emblem (SMV), the fluorescent orange triangle, is a common sight during farming seasons in rural Illinois. This emblem is not only a practical safety feature, it is also a requirement for moving "implements of husbandry" on public roadways. The Illinois Vehicle Code identifies implements of husbandry as those vehicles designed and adapted exclusively for agricultural, horticultural, or livestock-raising operations. Additionally, SMV emblems are required on certain other vehicles, such as horse-drawn vehicles.

A practical feature of the SMV is to warn approaching vehicles to slow down. If a car is traveling at 55 mph when 400 hundred feet behind a tractor traveling at 15 mph, it only takes 7 seconds to reach the tractor. A collision at such high speeds can be dangerous.

It is critical that SMV's be clean and visible. If wagons or implements being towed obscure the SMV on the tractor, then the rearmost wagon or implement needs to have an SMV in place. The SMV emblem is needed in addition to any lighting requirements.

The SMV emblem, because of its reflective nature and shape, can be found in many inappropriate places such as roadway entrances, lane markers and on mailbox posts. This use decreases the value of the SMV as a warning device to caution approaching vehicles with the SMV mounted on them.