Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) this week introduced the Agricultural Machinery Illumination Safety Act, H.R. 843. This legislation would improve the safety of rural roadways by specifically directing the Secretary of Transportation to promulgate a rule to improve the daytime and nighttime visibility of agricultural equipment that may be operated on a public road.
"My legislation will improve the safety of our rural roads by ensuring the lights and markings on new machinery is standardized and has been scientifically proven as effective in warning other drivers," said Schock. "Fifty-five percent of all traffic fatalities occur on rural 2-lane roads where agricultural equipment is moved from field to field during the dimly-lit periods of dawn and dusk, and proper lighting and marking can enhance visibility and increase the safety of transportation on these roads."
Currently, there are no federal standards for such requirements, and state laws that apply can vary widely, often representing outdated technology which can lead to increased safety concerns. Schock's legislation would put an end to inconsistent regulations that make it more confusing and less safe when driving on rural highways. The Agricultural Machinery Illumination Safety Act will codify minimum lighting and marking standards for farm equipment. These standards would be set no later than two years after the enactment of this legislation by the American Society of Agriculture and Biological Engineers. Additionally, the legislation will grant the Secretary of Transportation the authority to improve these minimum standards as technology improves.
"With safety in mind, I believe setting universal standards in this instance will create a safer environment not only for drivers, but for the farmers operating their equipment on our rural roads," said Schock.
The Illinois Farm Bureau has been among those who have voiced their support for Schock's legislation to ensure safety concerns continue to be addressed. "Illinois Farm Bureau works to enhance the safety of farmers by encouraging them to use and, when necessary, replace safety lighting, markings, and reflective devices that are of extreme importance when used on farm machinery," said President Philip Nelson. "Farm Bureau supports the Agricultural Machinery Illumination Safety Act, which will provide for periodic review and improvement of farm equipment lighting standards without mandating changes to existing equipment."
Joining Schock in this effort is Republican Congressman Sam Graves of Missouri and Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell of Iowa. Both were co-sponsors of similar legislation last Congress.
"This is a move toward increasing safety for both drivers and farmers," said Congressman Graves. "It will provide guidance to equipment manufacturers and comes at no cost to farmers."
"As a farmer myself, I understand firsthand the dangers of dark roads, heavy farm equipment, and harvest time," Congressman Boswell said. "This legislation will improve the safety not only of farmers, but also of motorists, who travel the roads of rural America."
The Agricultural Machinery Illumination Safety Act has been referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure for further consideration.