A former chair of the union’s Legal and Technical committee Smart has been pushing farmers to improve both the legal compliance and the safety of their agricultural vehicles and machines for over 15 years.
And over the past ten years, he has overseen the union’s agricultural vehicle roadshows which have taken place in conjunction with DVSA and Police Scotland to promote a better understanding of the rules around driving agricultural vehicles on public roads.
As part of this he has been trying to get farmers, and their staff, to recognise the important role which they must play in road safety - and to think of the dangers involved.
“As a breed we farmer can sometimes get so tied up with getting the job done – but it’s crucial to remember our own safety and that of other road users,” stated Smart.
He advised that one of the most important factors was to have a walk round the tractor and equipment first thing every day and carry out a number of safety checks.
This included making sure that windows and mirrors were clean, washer bottles were full, that lights and indicators could be seen by other drivers and that there were no signs of damage or loose bolts on any of the equipment and that all couplings were in good order and that there were no leaks or chafes to hoses, especially those powering trailer brakes.
Ensuring that tractor brakes were in working order – as were those of any trailers or other towed equipment - was another crucial consideration:
“If trailer brakes are not working efficiently, not only will this put extra stress on the tractor brakes - leading to a bigger repair bill – but it also dramatically reduces braking efficiency and can lead to the very real risk of tractor and trailer jack-knifing with disastrous consequences.”
While Smart warned that tractor drivers shouldn’t be using their phones on the road, when used properly mobile phones had a big role to play in safety, especially for lone workers:
“And on that front, while it is sensible to have a phone in the tractor cab, it is a good idea to stick it in your pocket if you have to get out for any reason – as a phone only a few feet away which you can’t reach is no use in an emergency.”
He also said that having the “What3Words”app installed on the mobile was extremely useful if the emergency services had to be called in at any time – and he gave a useful tip:
“While all the emergency services can key into “What3Words” to identify exactly where an incident has taken place, it is useful to give the neighbouring set of coordinates as well as a cross check – as a miss-hearing of one word could conceivably send the responders to a location some distance away.”