Scout ahead to avoid problems with farm equipment in construction zones

Wide farm equipment may cause challenges in construction zones that can narrow with little or no warning; consider scouting trips and planning alternate routes to identify transport challenges.

April is the time when farming and road construction projects shift into high gear. It may be prudent to have a person from the farm evaluate routes before heading down the road. With wet fields across Michigan and the clock ticking, producers are itching to get into fields that have soil conditions that are dry enough for field work. But the late spring has also created a slow start to road and utility construction projects across the region. With many of these projects starting over the last week or so, growers need to be aware that bottlenecks can create challenges for most wide farm equipment. The tractor with duals, and the disk pictured below encountered a construction zone on Red Arrow Highway in the western end of the city of Paw Paw, Mich., on April 17. The tractor operator said that by the time he encountered the construction zone, he was rapidly approaching the narrowed area and with the traffic behind him, there was virtually no opportunity to turn around. 

Farm equipment stopped after construction site close call.

Photo credit: Bruce Mackellar, MSUE

The width of the equipment was around 15 feet at its widest point. The lane in the construction site was near the same width and several construction barrels were nudged or knocked over as the tractor and tillage implement passed through the work zone. This particular situation did not cause an accident. However, it is easy to understand that displaced construction barrels can cause hazards to both oncoming and following traffic.

This is an increasingly common situation producers can find themselves in as we move wide farm equipment over greater distances. Narrower county roadways can create even more difficult situations because of limited visibility in many situations.

Michigan State University Extension advises growers to consider sending a “scout” to look for construction and other potential dangerous situations and select the most appropriate routes before moving farm equipment over longer distances.

There are websites that indicate road construction plans. It is important to note, however, that not all projects are listed. Website construction information is often limited to freeways and state highways. Given the local nature of construction projects, putting a scouting mission in place before you move equipment can be an important step in getting the job done safely.

The construction project zone in the story above is located in Van Buren County just west of Paw Paw, Mich., on West Michigan Avenue (Red Arrow Highway) from approximately Hazen Street west out to near the Coca-Cola Plant. Currently, the southern lanes are closed. The traffic is shifted to single lane widths on the north side of the highway. Wider farm equipment should avoid this area.

For more information on moving farm vehicles over the road, the Michigan Farmer’s Transportation Guidebook, a joint publication of the Michigan State Police Traffic Safety Division and Michigan Farm Bureau, is an excellent resource. View the guidebook on the Internet.

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