New standards for farm equipment visibility

Tractor lighting and visibility
New lighting and marking requirements, set by the U.S. Department of Transportation, sets a standard for any equipment manufactured after June 22, 2017. (Farm and Dairy file photo)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Transportation published a final rule standardizing lighting and agricultural equipment on highways, June 22, that incorporates two American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers standards.

Rule mandated

Formation of the rule was mandated in the 2012 highway bill. That legislation required the DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to establish a federal rule regarding lighting and marking for agricultural equipment.

Level playing field

Prior to the ruling, NHTSA has not regulated the manufacture of most agricultural equipment because it did not have specific authority to do so. Because of this, most states adapted their own regulations for agricultural equipment, which created a varied landscape of regulations.

Scott Cedarquist, director of standards and technical activities at American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, said the ruling was designed to level the standards across the board. “For a lot of larger manufacturers, it won’t matter. Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan already require S279,” he said, referring to the society’s standard Lighting and Marking of Agricultural Equipment on Highways.

The focus of this ruling will mostly be geared toward new equipment, explained Cedarquist. “Old equipment is not required to update and manufactures have a year to comply with the standards (until June 22, 2017),” he said.


Some of the requirements in the new ruling include, for tractors and self-propelled equipment:

  • Two head lamps, two red tail lamps and at least two flashing amber warning lights must be mounted at the same height and spaced laterally as wide as possible.
  • At least two flashing amber warning lights visible from both front and rear must be used when the machine is at least 3.7 meters wide.
  • Turn signals must be provided.
  • One slow moving vehicle (SMV) identification emblem must be installed on the machine.

For non self-propelled equipment:

  • Equipment that obscures the SMV emblem of the propelling machine must be equipped with an additional visible SMV emblem.
  • Equipment that extends past the sides of the propelling machine must have strips of reflective material visible from the front and back depending on the length of projection.
  • Equipment that obscures tail lamps, flashing warning lamps or turn signals, must be fitted with appropriate lighting to take place of those obscured lamps or signals.

A detailed list of standards can be found at


“For farmers, it just increases safety,” said Cedarquist. He advises farmers with old equipment to consider making even the simplest of upgrades to make sure their tractor and equipment is visible at all times. “If they have an old, bent or cracked SMV sign, it is a small amount of money to get a new sign or sticker to put over the old one. It’s remarkable how much easier it is to see from a distance versus the old one,” he said.

Related: Slow Moving Vehicle sign saving lives for 50 years

Definition of equipment

In addition to lighting and marking requirements, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is incorporating American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers’ definition of “agricultural field equipment,” which includes tractors, self-propelled machines and implements.

The definition will apply to new agricultural equipment operated on a public road, specifically defined as ‘‘any road or street under the jurisdiction of and maintained by a public authority and open to public travel.’’ Personal equipment used primarily by homeowners, such as lawn tractors, and lawn mowers, is not included in this ruling.

Spreading the word

Right now, Cedarquist said it is just a matter of getting the word out to many of the smaller dealers who may not be aware of it. “There are a lot of entrepreneurs in agriculture trying to make things better. Having these standards will make a level and balanced guide for manufacturers to follow.”


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Catie Noyes lives in Ashland County and earned a bachelor's degree in agriculture communications from The Ohio State University. She enjoys photography, softball and sharing stories about agriculture. Formerly a reporter for the Farm and Dairy, Catie is now pursuing her master's degree in education.


  1. I can wholeheartedly agree with Scott Cedarquist that a good-shape SMV emblem can do a world of good on the back of slow-moving equipment, whether it’s farm machinery or an Amish buggy. Some of the examples of bad-shape triangles that I’ve given Scott for his “junkyard” collection are pathetic and ineffective, including the pictures of even more of them in all manner of poor condition and disrepair. So many farmers (and Amish and others) think that once a triangle is first put on equipment, that’s the end of it… like a license or a badge. Fluorescence is effective, much more so than regular colors, but the dyes in it are sacrificial and eventually wear out from ultraviolet exposure, necessitating a triangle’s replacement. Modern materials, such as highway sign materials from good sources, are much more resistant to fading than what had been used in the past.
    Brian McLaughlin
    An entrepreneur in agriculture trying to make things better


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