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Bright ideas for farm equipment to keep others and yourself safe

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’.

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Bright ideas for farm equipment to keep others and yourself 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.


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Light guards, such as on this Richard Western SF20, offer additional protection on tougher jobs.
Light guards, such as on this Richard Western SF20, offer additional protection on tougher jobs.
Denroyd Farm’s Stewart trailer is designed to be visible in the worst winter weather.
Denroyd Farm’s Stewart trailer is designed to be visible in the worst winter weather.

Upgrades

 

“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.”

RULES AND REGULATIONS

RULES AND REGULATIONS

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:

  • A vehicle having a maximum speed not exceeding 25mph or any trailer drawn by such a vehicle
  • A vehicle having an overall width (including any load) exceeding 2.9 metres
  • A vehicle used for escort purposes when travelling at a speed not exceeding 25mph
  • On an unrestricted dual-carriageway road any motor vehicle with four or more wheels having a maximum speed not exceeding 25mph must be fitted with at least one amber warning beacon – unless any trailer drawn by it is fitted with one

 

Exceptions:

  • Any motor vehicle first used before January 1, 1947, and any motor vehicle, or any trailer being drawn by it, if on any carriageway of an unrestricted dual-carriageway road for the purpose only of crossing that carriageway in the quickest manner practical in the circumstances

 

General guidance on lights:

  • If lamps are fitted, they must comply with requirements of Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations – i.e. they should work
  • It is illegal to use rear-facing white lights, such as work lamps, on the road


Ensure these are switched off Tractors:

  • Tractors used at any speed should have a pair of red rear retro-reflectors and a matching pair of red rear position lamps (tail lights), plus a white rear registration plate light
  • Those capable of travelling faster than 15mph also need a pair of amber direction indicator/hazard warning flashers and above 25mph a matching pair of red rear fog lamps and stop lamps (brake lamps). These are not required for tractors first used before April 1986
  • Rear marker lights, turning indicator lights, brake lights and a number plate with a light must be clearly visible from the rear of the vehicle at all times, so if an implement obstructs the tractor’s lights or number plate, additional ones must be fitted
  • If towing, reflective marker boards must also be fitted to indicate the outermost parts of a vehicle. Lights must be no more than 2m from the rearmost part of the trailer or implement

 

Trailers:

  • Should have a pair of white front position lights (side lights), unless overall width is less than 1.6m or, if manufactured before October 1, 1985, or if overall length excluding drawbar does not exceed 2.3m
  • When travelling more than 40kph, overall length excluding drawbar of 5m or more need side retro reflectors, one each side every 3m, coloured amber or white (red if rear-facing). If overall trailer length excluding drawbar exceeds 9m, side marker lamps are required; one each side every 3m, coloured amber or white (red if rear-facing)
  • Trailers should also have a matching pair of amber direction indicator/hazard warning flashers, unless manufactured before October 1, 1980. All other rear-facing lamps should be the same as for the rear-facing tractor cluster
ON THE MARKET EXAMPLES

Reflective ‘conspicuity tape’ on Stewart trailers increases visibility in poor conditions.

 

ON THE MARKET EXAMPLES

 

■ 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.”

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