By Adam Hatley, Chairman of the Arizona Farm Bureau Safety Committee and an Arizona cotton farmer: Movement of equipment between fields or operations is imperative for all of our operations and many times we must use public roadways. Our state laws recognize and protect farmers and ranchers' rights to use public roadways to move farm equipment, a critical part of Arizona farming. These laws also recognize the unique nature of farm equipment and this equipment is treated differently than vehicles you typically see on the roadways.

One of the many challenges we face from urban encroachment is increased congestion on roadways and increased scrutiny from law enforcement. We are sharing the roads with more traffic that is less familiar with the movement of agricultural equipment. While it’s easy to fall into the “I was here first” mentality, we must recognize that these drivers have a right to the roadways too.

Use reflective tape and slow moving (SMV) signs to ensure other motorists see your farm equipment from a long distance. Equipment size does not substitute for safety signs. 

With that in mind there are some proactive steps that can be taken to avoid incident with the other motoring public on roadways.

  1. Make sure you are visible: It may be hard to believe that a tractor driving down the roadway is not visible in itself but flashing lights, reflective tape and SMV signs can be helpful in ensuring other motorists see these vehicles from a long distance and react accordingly. Another important consideration is making sure the widest points of the implement are marked, particularly if that implement occupies more than one lane. Farm Bureau offers all of this safety equipment at a discount for members.
  2. Keep Right: Farm implements are slow moving vehicles and should be in the slow lane and as far right as they can safely travel.
  3. Avoid Rush Hour: Avoiding traffic is a great way to avoid traffic accidents. We know that accidents can happen at any time but avoiding times of heavy traffic and congestion can cut down your risk.
  4. The Five Car Law: State statute allows for vehicles to travel on roadways at speeds less than the posted speed limit but it does require that you do not back up traffic. If you have more than five cars behind you state law requires that you move to the side of the road to let traffic pass.
  5. Implement Spacing:  If you are moving more than one piece of equipment, space the implements out so normal vehicle traffic can pass safely.
  6. Hearing Matters:  Your sense of hearing has the quickest response time in sensing danger. Be sure that when operating equipment on the roadways your hearing is not impaired due to headphones or other distractions that can impair your sense of hearing.

We all invest a lot in our equipment and employees. Let’s do everything we can to ensure they both make it home safe.

Editor’s Note: For information on safety equipment and practices or to order safety material please contact Liz Foster with the Arizona Farm Bureau at 480.635.3611 or Also, members can receive a complimentary copy of Arizona Farm Bureau's Transportation booklet that includes information on our state's transportation laws and regulations. To obtain a copy contact Ana Kennedy at 480.635.3614.

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