As harvest season winds down and farmers begin to take their grain to its final location, accidents on the road should be a high priority for producers to guard against, a Purdue safety expert said.
Many truck accidents are caused by human error, Bill Field said. Drugs, alcohol and tiredness also make up a significant number of farm-related truck accidents.
"It all starts with the driver," he said. "Even though there are certain situations where farms are exempt from requiring a commercial driver's license, my suggestion is that farm owners require all their drivers be CDL-licensed. This helps screen drivers and also means that the owner always knows who is driving."
Weight is a key legal issue for drivers. Field said they should be familiar with state and local guidelines for weight restrictions. There are different weight limits during peak harvest season.
"Most of the weigh stations in the state say 'Closed,' but farmers still need to know the regulations," Field said. "Farmers can ask at any state trooper post to find out that information. The bottom line is that if they get stopped for any reason, ignorance of the law is not an excuse; they will get a ticket."
Farmers can also protect themselves by making sure the truck is in good working condition. Field recommended that they check lights, tires and brakes often.
"Usually, troopers don't stop trucks because they look heavy; they will pull them over because they have lights covered with dirt or tires that look bald," Field said.
Some owners establish limited liability corporations to help protect their farms in case of trucking accidents; however, that can eliminate certain farm exemptions for the operation.
More information about farm safety can be found on the Indiana Rural Safety and Health Council website, http://www.farmsafety.org
"Whenever you're traveling, grain spills on the highway can cause other drivers to have an accident," Field said. "All around, it's important to be a good neighbor."