March 4, 2004
Cheap Horsepower May Not Be Safe Horsepower
The used tractor market can provide opportunities to purchase horsepower at a lower price, but the reduced price may also mean reduced safety, according to George Maher, North Dakota State University Extension Service safety specialist. “Newer tractors have many safety features as standard equipment but these features are not always present on older tractors. But, safety equipment can be added to older tractors. An older tractor does not have to be dangerous.”
Safety features are divided into four categories:
A Roll Over Protective System (ROPS) is the most effective system to guard against injury from a tractor rollover. It is incorporated in the cabs of all newer, used tractors and can be retrofitted on many older tractors. Most dealers will install a ROPS on an older tractor at a reasonable cost.
Most dealers and Extension Service agents have a reference catalog of ROPS for older tractors. “There is always the temptation to build your own ROPS, but it is never a good idea,” Maher says. “Even with better steel and welding equipment, how would you know it is strong enough? How would you test it to know that it will protect you? The tractor manufacturers use destructive testing to eliminate weak designs.”
Tractor owners should not try bypass-starting a tractor because it can be dangerous. All tractors, new or old, should have a bypass-starting shield to prevent this practice. Farm machinery dealers can install a bypass shield.
“Getting tangled up in a PTO shaft can cause serious injury or even be fatal,” Maher says. “The master shield (part of the tractor) should cover the top and sides of the stub shaft and support the weight of a 265 pound person without bending. No tractor is safe to use without a master shield on the PTO shaft.”
Better field lights can improve safety in the field and reduce operator stress. It is relatively easy to retrofit improved lighting systems on older tractors. Turn signals and hazard flashers as well as reflectors and taillights can be installed to improve safety on the roadway.
“Few tractor operators survive rear collisions without serious injury,” Maher says. Faded Slow Moving Vehicle (SMV) signs do not provide the same protection as the newer ones do. The newer SMV signs are more reflective and are more visible to drivers approaching from behind. A good SMV sign, properly placed, can prevent a rear end collision.
Improper or insufficient ballasting can be dangerous. Consider the weight distribution and ballasting before buying a tractor.
Factors to consider prior to purchasing an older tractor:
“Many farmers complain of a bad back at some time or other,” Maher says. “Often it is caused by poor, worn out seating. Operator comfort is an important feature on a tractor that is used on a daily basis. A comfortable seat, with good support, should be considered a piece of safety equipment and not a luxury item because it can prevent back injuries. Older tractors can almost always be retrofitted with newer seats. Be sure to get the new seatbelt, too.”
Pay very close attention to existing safety equipment when shopping for a used tractor. Safety equipment that comes with a tractor is less costly than adding it later. But, some features can be economically added to a tractor, enhancing its value to the owner.
“If you have to add safety equipment, there is a chance that it won't get done,” Maher says. “Be sure you will actually do it as soon as you purchase the tractor. Preventing accidents and fatalities is well worth the investment.”