Texas Farm Bureau: Dakota Fleming

By Dakota Fleming

The time is fast approaching of hot days when people crowd in pools and lakes. The best movies come out and teenagers flock to see them first. Family vacations are planned and many pictures are taken and memories are made. For farmers and their families, it is the time of long work hours in the heat, harvesting crops. 

Every year I follow my dad’s convoy of farm equipment to the farm that is next in line to be harvested. Let me tell you about our convoy. Up front and leading the line is our John Deere combine and when going down a Farm-to-Market Road, it almost takes both lanes. Next in line is a tractor pulling an 800 bushel grain cart holding corn, which rides on the yellow stripe of the road. Lastly is myself in the dually pickup. In most cases, I pull the combine’s header trailer—an attachment for the combine which grabs the crops and pulls them into the combine. All of this equipment has hazard lights that flash when on the road accompanied by the orange triangle Slow Moving Vehicle signs.  

But with all of the safety lights and signs, it never fails that someone just ignores us. Too impatient to wait for us to pull over to allow them to pass, they just speed up and go on by, leaving our convoy screeching to a halt at times. Well maybe not screeching to a halt as big equipment can’t really stop that fast, but as close as screeching as you can get. I have even seen cars jump into the bar ditch going 60 miles an hour to get by our convoy and lose total control. 

When people pass us with no respect, my blood gets a boiling and there is nothing more that will get me more stirred up unless it is PETA and HSUS. Farmers and ranchers aren’t trying to make you late to your job or movie when we meet on the road, we promise. We are trying to get to our jobsite just like you. We are just trying to maintain a dying lifestyle that for some is generations long. 

Now I said generations long, that means family after family after family have been taking care of the same land and traveling the same roads. As generations develop, the equipment size gets bigger and bulkier but the roads stay the same size. 

As equipment size gets bigger, the amount of impolite car drivers grows, too. This makes it hard for farmers to safely travel to the next field. It is hard enough to stay on the road when you have to move your equipment around like a ballet dancer to miss hitting mailboxes, road signs and telephone poles. Next you add cars to the list and problems really start to occur.  People in too big of a hurry on the road can cause accidents that can not only injure the person driving the vehicle, but can also damage the farm equipment.   

This type of incident happened to my family about three years ago when the convoy was coming back to the shop for fuel and servicing. The convoy was stopped waiting to turn with the blinkers indicating what we were doing. All of the sudden a man in a car came barreling up behind to pass on the left. Unfortunately, we were turning left and he collided into the back end of the grain cart in mid-turn. Thankfully, both the car driver and the tractor driver weren’t hurt but the car and the grain cart had a different story. The car’s hood was crumpled in the man’s face. The grain cart had the PTO shaft, tractor rim, auger, and rear tire damaged beyond repair where the car plowed into it.

To hopefully help prevent any more accidents from occurring, I thought up some safety tips drivers should take when they meet or follow behind any type of farm equipment on the road.

• Slow down as soon as you see farm equipment.  The flashing hazard lights mean slow down.
• Have patience.  We will move over to allow you to pass when it is safe for both car and equipment.
• Mirrors don’t always show everything.  The driver can’t always see you in their mirrors so be cautious.
• Do not stop or pass in tight spaces and expect a safe pass.  Examples of tight spots would be mailboxes, road signs or telephone poles.
• Wait for the equipment to stop and move over to let you pass.  Also, watch for hand signals to indicate for you to wait or pass. Just because they move over some doesn’t mean you can pass. They may be moving over to avoid hitting something on the road.
• Put on your blinker when you pass unexpected. This will allow the driver to stop so you can safely pass.
• When passing don’t crowd the equipment. Move over to allow the equipment adjustment space if necessary.
• Do not speed past the equipment.  Speeding up can create turbulence creating the machinery to become unstable.
• Do not slow down in front of the equipment once passed. The size of the equipment makes it hard for a sudden stop. 
• Watch for hazard lights to turn into a blinker to indicate a turn. When the blinker comes on, be patient as turning takes a lot of space—sometimes even backing up and trying the turn again.

Farmers and ranchers don’t set out to ruin your trip to wherever you are going. It is very stressful driving large equipment down the road—we would much rather be in the field. Agriculture is our livelihood and we love what we do. Please keep it safe when meeting equipment on the road; the driver is special to someone, whether they are a grandpa, a dad, a brother or a sister. 

Who knows? They could even be providing your meal you will eat tonight.

Administrator’s note: Dakota Fleming farms with her family in Bell County. She will be a freshman at Texas A&M University this fall. 

Visit the Texas Farm Bureau website at www.txfb.org.
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2 Responses to “Farm girl observations: On the go but rolling slow”

  1. Billy B. Brown says:

    Excellent piece Dakota, very well expressed. Thanks.

  2. As an advocate for the agricultural industry on farmerpages.com, I had not considered the safety concerns as convoys move from farm to farm. This was a very well expressed and well written article, Dakota. Thank you and travel safely.

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