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Tractor technology doesn't always equal safety

As farmers use more equipment with auto-guidance systems, less focus is needed on steering, which may lead some drivers to think they do not need to be as aware of navigation issues. However, even while using a GPS with auto-steering, farmers need to keep safety in mind and stay focused on their surroundings.

North Dakota’s electric cooperatives have had accident reports from farmers who are trusting their auto-guidance systems blindly and hitting power poles and other infrastructure.

Putting safety first requires alertness, focus and knowledge of potential hazards and safety steps. Varying pass-to-pass accuracy levels and potential issues, such as power poles not being correctly plotted in the system, reinforce the need for drivers to stay focused on the location of the farm equipment while in the field and to be ready to take action if necessary.

Regardless of the technology used on the farm, remember the following electrical safety tips from Burke-Divide Electric Cooperative:

  • Farmers and their equipment should always be 10 feet away from power lines on all sides. Field cultivators and sprayers can often reach as high as 12 feet in the air. Practice extreme caution and use a spotter to make sure you stay far away from power lines when you use tall equipment. Make sure you, your family and employees know the location of overhead power lines, and use routes to avoid the lines when moving equipment.
  • If you have purchased new equipment, be aware of antennas or other attachments that may pose new hazards. A newer, bigger piece of equipment may no longer clear a line. In addition, shifting soil may also affect whether or not machinery avoids power lines from year-to-year.
  • Power lines also may sag over the years. If power lines on your property are sagging, contact your electric cooperative to repair the lines. Never try to move a power line on your own.
  • Overhead power lines are not the only electric hazard on the farm. Pole guy wires, used to stabilize utility poles, are grounded. However, when one of the guy wires is broken, it can become charged with electricity. If you break a guy wire, call the cooperative to fix it. Don’t do it yourself.
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