Don’t put safety on autopilot

Global Positioning System (GPS) technology provides farmers with real-time, accurate location data about a eld. But while GPS can help the driver plant straight rows and maximize potential, it can also give a false sense of security. Slope Electric Cooperative reminds our members not to put safety on autopilot.

When farmers enter the field using GPS, they do an outside round and set the borders and boundaries of the field. Then, they set the angle and straight line, so they know the direction the GPS will take.

If there is a slough, rock pile, fence post or power pole in the middle of the field, they still need to manually drive around the hazard and set a boundary for it, if the system allows. Once set, less focus may be needed on steering — but drivers still need to be aware of navigation issues and human error.

Farming equipment is vulnerable to hitting power lines because of its large size, height and extensions, says Slope Operations Manager Dean Volk. “When drivers set their GPS, that tractor is basically driving itself — and it doesn’t always account for structures in their field. Because the tractor is programmed, drivers may not be paying as much attention as they did years ago. When they rely on technology, it’s a lot easier to hit something that is in their field. Unfortunately, that’s a lot of power poles,” he says.

“Too often, people say they didn’t see the power pole because they were playing a game on their smartphone or reading the newspaper,” Volk continues. “Advanced technology like GPS is great when it works. But it doesn’t eliminate the need to stay alert to possible hazards and changing conditions.”

Volk encourages members to evaluate their fields regularly, looking for low-hanging lines when entering a field, turning in end rows, leaving the field and driving back to the farm.

If your equipment does make contact with a power line, do not leave the cab. Immediately call 911, warn others to stay away, and wait for Slope Electric linemen to de-energize the line.

The only reason to exit equipment that has come into contact with overhead lines is if the equipment is on

fire, which is very rare. However, if this is the case, jump off the equipment with your feet together and without touching the ground and vehicle at the same time. Then, still keeping your feet together, hop to safety as you leave the area.

To report system damage that is not in need of immediate repair, call Slope Electric Cooperative at 1-701-579-4191 or email If you send an email, please include the location, your name and contact information, and a photo if possible.

Members, your safety matters. Working together helps ensure the safety of all!

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