Keeping tractors and trailers visible on the road can undoubtedly save lives. Jane Carley looks at the legislation, some of the packages available and talks to farmers committed to ‘being seen to be safe’.
Wilton lodge farm at Bishop Wilton, York, is farmed entirely by the Hutchinson family with no outside staff, running a 230-hectare mixed enterprise which includes 75 sucklers and followers, 220 sheep and 125ha of crops.
Matthew Hutchinson, who works full-time as a structural engineer as well as running the farm’s workshop and helping out at weekends, says: “From baling to harvesting and haulage, we keep all operations in-house which means we have to make a lot of road journeys on minor roads including through the centre of the village.”
He points out that although journeys on busy ‘A’ roads are infrequent, traffic in the area has increased significantly in recent years and there is also the tour de Yorkshire effect, leading to a lot more cyclists.
To increase efficiency for the small team and cut transport costs, Mr Hutchinson has upgraded much of the haulage fleet with modern New Holland tractors and grain trailers increased from eight-tonne capacities to 16 tonnes. Bale trailers have gone from 7.62 metres to 9.75m long.
“When purchasing the new trailers, I wanted them kitted out to maximise safety, specifying commercial axles with air brakes plus hydraulic load sensing so they can be used on older tractors,” he explains.
“Lights are all LED with double light clusters and i have added strobes, and on the grain trailers, high level lights to the specification.
“These are important when traveling further afield, such as to the grain store, ensuring motorists in a queue behind them can clearly see when they are stopping or turning right.” Trailers were supplied by local manufacturer DRT, who fitted LEDs as standard.
At the same time, Mr Hutchinson decided to upgrade the older trailers still in the fleet, by fitting LEDs.
“I was not prepared to cut corners, so the upgrades include number plate and side marker lights.
I have also fitted a load resister for the indicators as they use so little power they do not come up on the dashboard, giving no warning if there is a fault.” He says he shops around for lights, using local agricultural suppliers as well as online shops.
“It is not an expensive exercise. To fully rewire and equip a trailer with LEDs is £200 at the most and the running costs are so much less than traditional light bulbs and clusters which are prone to getting smashed. They are also very simple to fit, with plenty of help via google and YouTube if needed.”
Getting replacements fitted need not be a major effort either, he says.
“Do not replace that broken bulb; swap the whole cluster for LEDs. This makes it a continual cycle of updates, which cuts costs.” He is also an advocate of using two flashing beacons on the tractor, so that if one fails, the operator is still working within the law.
The farm has also explored other ways of increasing other road users’ awareness of farm machinery on the road.
A board lit by strobes and displayed on the combine’s escort vehicle carries the warning ‘wide load escort vehicle’, allowing approaching motorists to pull over in a safe place.
Mr Hutchinson suggests every farm set-up is different, so he does not believe legal requirements should be made more stringent.
“We want to improve our safety and that of other vulnerable road users, such as the cyclists, and there are also practical benefits. It is helpful to see the flashing lights of an approaching tractor and trailer over the hedge during harvest, for example.”
Matthew Hutchinson has upgraded lighting on his farm’s older trailers to improve safety when towing through a busy local village.
Amber beacons should be fitted to:
General guidance on lights:
Ensure these are switched off Tractors:
Reflective ‘conspicuity tape’ on Stewart trailers increases visibility in poor conditions.
■ All Stewart Trailers are fitted as standard with an LED road lighting system, says company director Mandy Stewart.
She says: “The system includes multifunction rear lights, front marker lights, side marker lights and a flashing beacon.
The tipping trailers are also fitted with high level rear lights so if they are being used on the road, car drivers can see the lights from a distance, particularly important when turning.
“We also apply reflective ‘conspicuity tape’ to the trailers; on the tipping trailers this is along the sides and around the back door, increasing visibility in poor light.”
Customers can also specify extra side and rear marker lights or add a stainless steel light bar on the back door of tipping trailers.
Hinged brackets can be fitted to protect the lights on high risk work such as construction sites.
“An increasingly popular option is to fit work lights to the trailers,” adds Mrs Stewart.
“These are positioned to be used as reversing lights and are particularly useful when reversing into sheds.”
Steve Slater’s Denroyd Farm, Huddersfield, runs a number of trailer types for farm and groundworks haulage and has recently added a Stewart dump trailer with additional LED rear marker lights and the stainless steel light bar.
He says: “We have used LEDs for 20 years as we do a lot of roadwork with high speed tractors and need to be visible.
“We also carry out gritting for the local authority so we are used to working in poor weather.
“We have the peace of mind that we are doing the right thing in the event of a VOSA inspection or an accident.”
The Stewart trailer is a first for Mr Slater in a mixed fleet, but he says he expects to order more in the future.
“We need to be able to use them all year round as we move a lot of muck in the winter as part of a straw for muck agreement. Due to the altitude, it can be foggy so we specified extra marker lights.” He also points to the ease of use of LEDs.
“They are simple to swap and we use the same type across all the fleet, including the gritters so they are always in stock.
Plus they are much more resistant to vibration than a traditional bulb.”
■ Richard Western also supplies all its trailer products with LED road lights as a standard feature.
Rear high mounted tailboard lights and a flashing LED beacon mounted on the tailboard are a standard feature on Plus model trailers and options on LX and HS models.
Rear work lights can be added as an extra on any model.
Richard Western’s managing director Angus Western says: “We find most of our customers choose the options for the rear high mounted tailboard lights and the flashing LED beacon.
“We also offer a unique lighting feature in the form of a dedicated light circuit board which is installed on all our trailers.
“This detects the change in resistance should an LED unit be damaged and ensures a fault is indicated in the tractor cab.”