One of the many signs of fall, particularly in Carroll County with its rich agricultural heritage, is the increased presence of combines and other massive, slow-moving equipment on the roadways during harvest season, which began last month and extends to the beginning of November. This can be frustrating to the drivers in the cars stuck behind the farm equipment, particularly given that everyone seems to be in such a tremendous hurry these days. But a lack of patience for the minor and temporary inconvenience can become a serious safety hazard when said drivers try to pass when they shouldn't.

The Maryland Department of Transportation joined the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Maryland Farm Bureau recently to discuss driver safety as motorists traveling Maryland highways and rural roads likely will share the road with farm equipment from one of Maryland’s 12,300 farms, according to an MDOT news release.


“Farmers are legally allowed to operate farm equipment on public roadways and there are times when farm vehicles must operate on highways to move between farm and field,” Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder said in the news release. “I encourage all motorists to be patient when traveling on roads near Maryland farms and drive with caution to ensure the safety of motorists and farmers.”

Gregory Slater, with the State Highway Administration, said, where possible, the SHA will be placing portable electronic signs along major farming routes as a reminder to drivers about the harvest season and that they should approach and pass farm equipment carefully.

Maryland Farm Bureau President Chuck Fry said Maryland farmers are taking every safety precaution available to protect motorists and themselves while traveling in equipment on the roads. He also issued a plea to drivers of automobiles.

“Please help protect the men and women who work hard every day to produce your food, fuel and fiber, especially during this harvest season when there are more combines and farm trucks on the roads," Fry said in the release.

MDOT SHA, the Department of Agriculture and the Farm Bureau are working together to educate drivers to expect farm equipment on rural routes, and to approach these vehicles with caution, including getting that message out through social media.

We, too, would urge all motorists to take heed of the big, slow-moving equipment so common on many Carroll roadways this time of year. If you come upon farm equipment, chances are the farmer understands your trip is being significantly delayed, so they are likely to pull off the road at the first available safe location to allow you to pass. Farmers can’t necessarily move aside immediately, however, as shoulders may be soft, wet or steep, which could cause a farm vehicle to tip, or the shoulder may be unable to support a heavy farm vehicle.

The news release offered the following tips to help ensure the safety of motorists, passengers, and operators of slow-moving equipment:

  • If a farmer has pulled off the road to allow you to pass, or if he or she cannot pull off the road and you feel you must pass, do so with caution.
  • Be watchful of vehicles behind you that may also try to pass.
  • If you must enter the oncoming lane of traffic, do not pass unless you can see clearly ahead of both you and the vehicle you will pass.
  • If there are any curves or hills ahead that may block your view or the view of oncoming vehicles, do not pass.
  • Do not pass if you are in a designated “No Passing Zone” or within 100 feet of any intersection, railroad grade crossing, bridge, elevation structure or tunnel.
  • Do not assume that a farm vehicle that pulls to the right side of the road is going to turn right or is letting you pass. Due to the size of some farm implements, the farmer must execute wide left-hand turns. If you are unsure, check the operator’s hand signals and check the left side of the road for gates, driveways or any place a farm vehicle may turn.