Tractor safety on hills can’t be emphasized too much. Tractor rollovers are some of the most common and most deadly tractor accidents.
Now, most of us who run small tractors have to deal with hills because those of us who “homestead” in the country get the hilly ground, left over after fulltime farmers work the rich flat ground.
But slopes and tractors don’t go well together. And whether you just bought your first tractor or you grew up farming, you can never be too careful when operating on slopes.
Today I give you ten ways to avoid a rollover.
Before You Get To the Field
The first four things revolve around how to prevent a rollover before you even get to the field.
- Have a tractor that is properly ballasted. Ballast can come in the form of a non-corrosive fluid in the tires or weights added somewhere on the tractor. I like tire fluid as the first option. But if that’s not enough, hang some weights on the tires, or on the front of the tractor. You want about a 50/50 front to back weight distribution and as much weight low to the ground as you can get.
- Widen your tires and wheels. On many tractors, you have an offset solid rim dish. You can widen the footprint by swapping sides with the tires. Others have a rim that’s bolted to the center section, giving you have multiple options for tread width. Consult your owner’s manual for your options.
- Proper maintenance. Make sure the brakes work and the 4wd engages (if equipped). Especially make sure that the tires have adequate tread.
- Fasten your seat belt and keep the roll bar in the upright position. If you’ll do those two things, your chances of surviving when the tractor turns over are better than 99%. Those odds go way down without those two safety devices.
Tractor Operation Precautions
And these six tips are reminders about caution while working on the slopes.
- Go slow on slopes. One of the biggest contributors to tractor rollover is speed, so take it easy when you’re on hills.
- Know your terrain. Drop a tractor tire in a hill, or run over a big rock on a slope and you can tip over. Try to fill in big holes and remove all obstructions in your fields.
- Always keep your load low. When operating a front end loader, the position of the weight in the bucket can drastically alter your center of gravity. The lower the load, the greater the stability on hills.
- Back up and down hills. Forget driving across them – it’s just not as safe. And while it takes longer to finish brush hogging backing up and down, it can be a lot safer.
- Take car of yourself. Fatigue, distraction and impairment are huge contributors to farm accidents. Many of us have jobs in town. When we get out to the property to work, we may be tired, and/or thinking about the day. Combine that with a couple of beers and you have a recipe for disaster.
- Pay attention to weather conditions. As it turns out, weather conditions can greatly contribute to rollovers. Try not to get the tractor out when it’s wet or really windy. If you’re feeding round bales in the winter you may have no choice. But if you’re brush hogging – not a job that has to be done any particular time – it’s not worth the risk of an accident. Also, be especially careful about driving across newly-mowed wet grass which can set the tractor into an uncontrollable slide quicker than anything.
Obviously, I don’t want to scare anyone away from using their tractors. But I did want to remind you to have a healthy respect for the dangers of slopes, and take proper precautions. That way, you’ll avoid tipping the tractor over.
Stay safe, my friends!