Best Defense? Be Prepared for Rat Runners

Do you know a rat runner? Many of us have taken shortcuts to get to our destination. But the choice to take a quieter road to avoid tolls or congested main roads has sparked debate in the transportation industry and has garnered the term ‘rat running’.

With the growing use of navigation systems directing traffic – an estimated one billion drivers worldwide – even more drivers are taking to side streets and less common roads to avoid heavy traffic on major roadways, particularly during commute hours. Looking for the fastest way to their destination, drivers follow navigation apps on roads frequently not designed to handle the traffic, particularly at greater speeds. Often these are rural roads where they will encounter slow moving vehicles, exacerbating an already tenuous situation for farmers to safely move equipment from field to field.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 85,002 people lost their lives in crashes on rural roads in the U.S. between 2016 and 2020. While there was a slight decrease for several years, fatalities once again started to climb in 2020.

“Many of North Dakota’s rural roads are highly traveled, especially by farmers taking equipment from field to field throughout the year,” said Shireen Alemadi, North Dakota Soybean Council outreach and education coordinator. “During harvest, the increase in traffic on the rural roads can become problematic. It is important for farmers to be proactive when they take their equipment on the road.”  

Researchers from Texas A&M found that taking a route with an 8% reduction in travel time could increase the risk of being in a crash by 23%. GPS systems may offer a quicker route, but they don’t factor in risks such as blind corners, steep curves, bus stops, left turns, or the potential for wildlife and farm traffic. These road conditions can be more dangerous for drivers unfamiliar with the route.

Transportation agencies are investigating ways to address these new traffic patterns, such as timing patterns of lights, adding speed bumps, and narrowing the appearance of a road with wider paint striping.

If you’re concerned about the traffic coming through your area – whether it be volume or speed –contact your county or state transportation agency and call their attention to the potential dangers.

Selecting to move farm equipment during the slowest time of day, using an escort vehicle, and looking up where navigation apps are sending traffic before driving on the road are also proactive steps farmers can use to improve safely getting to your destination.

“Safety is a priority amidst all the other things we need to think about to get field work done and finish harvest,” commented Chris Brossart, chairman of the North Dakota Soybean Council. “A slow-moving vehicle sign, and lighting on equipment can help make sure us farmers are seen when on rural roads.”

“Thanks to the soybean checkoff, we offer farmers free posters and window clings with safety checklists to make it easier to remember safety steps before hitting the road,” said Alemadi.  

The resources are part of the road safety program supported by the soy checkoff and multiple Qualified State Soybean Boards in an effort to make rural roads safer for all drivers.

Checkoff Investments for Road Safety

We’ve all been there. You’re driving down the road, heading to the farm market or taking a load of soybeans to the elevator, and you hit a pothole and throw off your alignment or kick up some gravel and chip your windshield.

Farmers’ soybeans are working to help solve those problems.


Water, as well as de-icers, salt and chemicals, can get into concrete pores and subsequently cause cracks, chips, gouges and potholes. Once the network of concrete pores is compromised, the strength of the concrete crumbles.

Seeking to address cracking, a new product featuring U.S. soy has hit the pavement, beginning in Indiana.

PoreShield is a soy-based concrete durability enhancer that lengthens the life span of roads and bridges by protecting the pores in concrete from damage caused by salt, ice and water. The product, developed from a soy checkoff research collaboration, reduces maintenance costs for U.S. infrastructure — and because the formula uses soy, it supports demand for U.S. soybeans, too.

The soy checkoff partnered with the Indiana Soybean Alliance on research and market development for soy-based solutions in infrastructure. Now, select Indiana counties have the opportunity to use the new soy-based durability enhancer on their bridges — made possible through farmers’ soy checkoff investment.

Last year, Indiana Public Works applied PoreShield to 330,000 square feet on 77 bridge decks within the state, with goals to expand use in the future. As more locations adopt PoreShield as a solution, the demand for soybeans grows. On average, 200 bushels of soybeans are used for every two-lane mile of concrete highway joint treated with PoreShield.

A recent study from AAA shows that over the past five years, around 16 million drivers across the U.S. have suffered damage from a pothole. The checkoff program is working to decrease that number and make your roadways safer.

Rolling Down the Road with Goodyear®

Just as concrete is made better with PoreShield, the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is increasing performance and sustainability in their tires with U.S. soy.

The checkoff has regularly collaborated with Goodyear over the last decade to learn how to include soybean oil into rubber technology and has made exciting discoveries that lead to including U.S. soy in their tires.

The company’s initial research discovered that soybean oil could not only improve tire flexibility across temperatures but also provide enhanced grip on road surfaces, making it an ideal choice for Goodyear’s all-weather tire line. Goodyear released their Assurance® WeatherReady® consumer tire line in 2017, the Eagle® Enforcer All Weather™ in 2018 and the Eagle Exhilarate™ in 2019, and announced the Goodyear Assurance ComfortDrive™ last year.

With added grip on road surfaces and increased flexibility, the checkoff and Goodyear’s collaboration has not only increased sustainability and performance, but also added options for road safety.

Dust Suppressant

There may be millions of miles of paved roads in the U.S., but there are also 1.3 million miles of unpaved roads. And U.S. soy has taken on that opportunity.

After a farmer sells a load of soybeans, one-half of one percent of the sale is paid into the soy checkoff. You can find the results of that investment on the drive home as soybeans are going to work on paved roads, bridges and even gravel roads.

Dust created by vehicles traveling on these roads equates to about one ton of lost gravel per vehicle per year. Maintenance is a major budget item. In North Dakota, about 66% of local roadway budgets are spent on the state’s 60,000 miles of gravel roads. A single piece of equipment used to blade these roads costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A new soy-based dust suppressant is now available, offering a sustainable choice for communities to improve air quality for people, pets, livestock and crops. All thanks to U.S. soybeans.

Not only does this mean less dust, equating to better economic value in gravel preservation, but it also means opportunity for safer roadways and potentially fewer car accidents because of better visibility.

Road safety starts with what’s under your tires, and the soy checkoff is committed to research and investments to maintain road standards and safety while increasing demand for this renewable and sustainable crop. This program is supported by the soy checkoff and multiple organizations in an effort to make rural roads safer for all drivers.

Insurance on the Farm: Tips for Decreasing Costs with Safe Driving

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Tractors, planters and combines might not have much in common with sedans, coupes and convertibles. But in the glove box, there’s proof of one thing in common: insurance.

“You have to protect your farm at all costs, and insurance is key to help you do that,” says Daniel Berglund, chairman of the Texas Soybean Board and Texas soybean farmer.

Covering your farm and assets like equipment can be a costly line item in your budget, but it’s a necessity on the farm. The Maryland Rural Road Study reported that farm vehicle crashes in the U.S. carried a cost of more than $4.3 billion in 2017, with losses ranging from $10,000 to over $30,000 per incident. Fortunately, there are ways to help maximize your insurance investment and even decrease your cost.

“Your equipment is going to fall under your property coverage, and it falls into basically two parts,” says Kara Argetsinger, a property and liability insurance specialist with Agri-Services Agency. “Liability can protect you in case of accident or injury to others, and then you have your property coverage that covers the actual cash value of insured equipment for the farm in case of damage.”

On the Road

Moving equipment within one property is one thing, but moving your equipment between fields or farms, and sharing roads with other drivers, is a whole other story.

“This spring, we were moving our 11-row soybean planter. It doesn’t fold up like some bigger equipment, so we have a pilot car lead due to some tight turns and guardrails right on the side of the road,” says Berglund. “When I’m the pilot, I try to block traffic where I need to so whoever is driving the tractor can stay alert to what they need to focus on instead of traffic. It’s a whole different ballgame.”

Argetsinger says your farm liability coverage really comes into play when you hit the road with your equipment, and auto liability applies when you are driving your vehicles.

“Auto liability covers you in case of bodily injury or property damage to others in a motor vehicle accident. Your liability is going to cover damage that was caused to another party, and the property portion of your coverage is going to cover the damage to repair or replace your insured equipment,” she says.

Insurance Options with Safe Driving

While insurance is a necessary investment, Argetsinger says there are a few ways farmers can help lower their costs.

One of the options is checking if credits are available for your vehicles.

“Vehicles that you don’t use every day or maybe use every other day may qualify for credits because you don’t have the same exposure as the pickup truck that you drive every day,” she says.

Another option is to keep motor vehicle records on all your farm vehicle drivers. MVRs show that your drivers are capable and competent, and understand the risk in driving vehicles and equipment on the road, says Argetsinger.

“Your drivers are representing you, and you want to make sure that you have people who are capable of driving and understand the risk associated with driving your vehicles,” she says. “It’s just an incredibly helpful thing to do for yourself and your insurance.”

“Insurance is one of those things you need to have but hope you never have to use,” says Berglund. “It can protect you and your farm.”

This program is supported by the soy checkoff and multiple Qualified State Soybean Boards in an effort to make rural roads safer for all drivers.

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Your Road Safety Checklist: Reminders to Help Keep Safety Top of Mind This Harvest Season

Double=check that reflective materials and SMV signage are displayed and clean

That bright orange triangle on the back of equipment is a familiar sight. It gives farmers a chance to warn the traffic around them that they are moving slowly.

Here’s a real-world scenario that puts in perspective just how quickly moving equipment down the road can become an accident: If a car going 60 miles per hour is driving toward a tractor going 20 miles per hour and is 400 feet away, how long will it take for the car to meet the tractor?

Experts at the Ohio State University Extension Agricultural Safety and Health Program say the answer is only 4.5 seconds.

The slow moving vehicle (SMV) emblem must be displayed on equipment traveling 25 mph or less, mounted base down on the rear of the vehicle. If pulling equipment, both the vehicle and the pulled equipment require an emblem displayed. When trailering equipment and traveling at speeds over 25 mph, the SMV emblem should be removed.

“Delaware is seeing a boom in housing, which puts more vehicles on the road,” says Cory Atkins, checkoff farmer-leader and Delaware soybean farmer. “When we have to move equipment between fields, we try to have a vehicle with flashers following us.”

Window clings for cabs show quick safety checklist to follow before driving your SMV on the road. These are available complimentary from the resources tab.

Be visible

It’s easy for drivers to grow impatient with you driving your combine or tractor down the road — and you with them. Just like the frustration goes both ways, so does the responsibility to make safe driving choices. Below are some tips on what you can do to make it home safely this harvest season.

When you’re ready to get your day started, you pour your first cup of hot, black coffee, pull on your work boots and grab your favorite ragged ball cap — it may be hard to pause and check something else off your to-do list. But testing your lights before you hit the road, especially this time of year as the sun sets earlier, can mean the difference between a safe drive and a dangerous situation. 

“Before we hit the road, we do a pre-check to make sure all our lights are working and slow moving vehicle emblems are clean,” commented Craig Biese, checkoff farmer-leader from Virginia. “Being proactive with safety measures is the first step in coming home safely at night.”

While vehicle codes vary from state to state, the U.S. Department of Transportation adopted the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Standard 279.14 for agricultural equipment, which requires tractors and self-propelled equipment to follow minimum lighting standards:

  • Two white head lamps mounted at the same height and spaced as wide apart as possible on the front of the vehicle.
  • Two red tail lamps mounted at the same height and spaced as wide apart as possible on the rear of the vehicle.
  • Two amber flashing warning lamps visible from both front and rear, symmetrically placed and as widely spaced as possible.
  • One white or amber lamp on the farthest left side of the vehicle or towed implement.

Also on the checklist before hitting the road are adjusting mirrors for clear views, locking brake pedals together, and checking tires so that they are at maximum approved inflation with wheel fasteners tight.

“We run all the needed lights and flags on our equipment when we hit the road,” says Belinda Burrier, Maryland farmer-leader and soybean grower. “We don’t leave the farm without those things.”

Make sure road conditions are clear             

Who hasn’t headed to work and been delayed by road maintenance closing one lane of traffic? With farm equipment often wider than the average road lane, this can cause major delays and difficulty getting to the field. Before you move farm equipment, be sure to check your route and decide if an alternate path or time of travel would be better to keep you moving.

  • Check the traffic report
  • Avoid road construction and maintenance
  • Know the width of the roadways with fencing and guardrails
  • Check for height clearance of trees and bridges, particularly if transporting equipment on a trailer
  • Drive with a charged cell phone and full fuel tank, especially during inclement weather
  • Check for height clearance of power lines, trees and bridges, particularly if transporting equipment on a trailer
Safety posters and banners are available for your office, shop or classroom. Order your complimentary copies from the resources tab.

Stay alert and don’t drive while tired

Everyone has been there. It’s harvest time. The days are shorter, you need to take one more load to the elevator or get the combine into the shed. But you’re so tired.

Harvest season means juggling many issues during long days and it is easy to be distracted and tired. The Maryland Rural Road Safety Study found distracted driving to be the leading cause of farm equipment collisions.  

In addition, research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shown that going too long without sleep can impair your ability to drive the same way as drinking too much alcohol does. For example, studies by the CDC have shown being awake for at least 18 hours has the same negative effects as having a blood alcohol content of 0.05%. Driving farm equipment or heavy machinery only adds risk.

Long hours involved in a repetitive task, such as driving a combine down a long field, can be very fatiguing, according to the National Ag Safety Database. NASD encourages farmers to rest when they are tired. Stopping for 10 to 15 minutes every two to two-and-a-half hours can help quell the drowsiness.

“Let’s all think about safety first and getting home to our families,” says Burrier.

This safety education program is supported by the soy checkoff and multiple organizations in an effort to make rural roads safer for all drivers.