If it stops raining, farmers will harvest more wheat in the coming days. Some hay and straw baling may follow. Soon thereafter, traditional fall harvest will be upon us. A great deal of manure will also be transported from livestock buildings to neighboring farmland in the impending months.
In other words, everyone should expect increased farm traffic between now and when the snow returns in a few months.
The most common identifier of a piece of farm machinery is a slow moving vehicle emblem, or SMV for short. The SMV is a red-orange fluorescent triangle 12 inches across that bears standard dimensions of color separation within the triangle.
The SMV was invented in 1961 by Ohio State Engineer Kenneth A. Harkness. A decade later, the SMV became the standard farm safety identifier nationwide.
In Ohio, an SMV must be attached to the rear of every piece of farm machinery that travels down any road or street. If a farm wagon or other implement that is not self-propelled is transported (unless parked on a trailer or on a truck), that implement must also bear an SMV. Notably, even when a truck travelling at normal highway speed is towing a piece of farm machinery, an SMV must be attached to the rear of the piece of farm machinery being towed.
Floaters, Big A applicators, spray rigs and field gymmys are all considered “farm machinery” requiring the use of an SMV, even though those machines may travel at non-farm roadway speeds. Ohio law does not yet specify that all-terrain vehicles or John Deere gators used in farming require SMVs.
Farm machinery engineered to travel and actually travelling at more than 25 miles per hour must also use SMVs, but the lighting requirements are different than the lighting required for slower farm machinery.
SMVs are limited to use on farm machinery and boat trailers. Attaching an SMV to a golf cart or a bicycle is not allowed in Ohio.
SMVs are bright and easy to see. Therefore, people try to use SMVs for purposes other than farm machinery identification. Some people will place SMVs on otherwise difficult to see chains that prohibit access to drives. Other people will use SMVs as attachments to their mailboxes (especially for congested residential areas on busy roads) so that homeowners can easily locate their particular driveway. These uses of an SMV are clearly and unquestionably illegal under Ohio law.
Sheriffs and their deputies as well as any other law enforcement personnel such as the State Highway Patrol may use the omission of an SMV as a reason to stop any vehicle that should be showing an SMV but is not. The operator of such a vehicle may be arrested immediately.
If an implement that requires an SMV does not include an SMV, and that implement is rear-ended, the implement operator may be held liable for negligence with damages due to the following vehicle, even if the driver of the following vehicle was speeding, distracted or otherwise travelling unlawfully.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-523-5523. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.