“New tractors are everything and more when it comes to technology but still pose the same level of risk when not respected,” that was the message that Sean Gorman, area sales manager with Fendt Ireland, wanted to get across to the students of St Michaels College, Listowel, Co Kerry.

The students present were winners of a recent Safe Family Farms competition. They were selected from three finalists for ideas they submitted to make family farms in Ireland safer.

Fendt sponsored the ESB Networks and Irish Farmers Journal Safe Family Farms partnership event which was recently held at Munster agricultural society showgrounds.

The competition was focused on farm safety but the event pinpointed tractor safety. The prize was an opportunity for the students to drive a brand new Fendt Vario 718 courtesy of local dealer Atkins, through the Fendt tractor driving experience.

The tractor was fitted with the most up-to-date technology, which included GPS steering. Every student got to experience this under the direction of Sean Gorman.

Respect machinery

I spoke with Sean and asked him what the key safety messages for new modern tractors were.

“Tractors and machinery are getting bigger all the time. Modern tractors are more powerful, can travel faster and are bigger in size compared to those of previous generations."

The key message I want to get across to students today is to respect machinery. Even with all the new technology and safety devices, these tractors can still be dangerous in the wrong hands. Young people need to remember this when they get behind the wheel.”

Fendt and safety

Having experienced the VarioGuide track guidance on the curved course, Sean had set up a couple of obstacles. The Irish Farmers Journal asked Sean how important safety was to Fendt.

“Safety is extremely important to Fendt. Unfortunately, on-farm fatalities are still a serious issue in Ireland and a lot of these are related to farm machinery. Fendt have put particular emphasis on ensuring their tractors are safe. This also comes from making them as comfortable as possible for the operator.

“The more comfortable a tractor, the more alert and refreshed the operator is at the end of the day, meaning he is more alert to potential safety issues. Systems like VarioGuide Trac make the drivers life a lot easier as they don’t have to concentrate for hours on end to maintain a straight or curved line when working in a field.”

Students in the cab

Watching the students taking their turn in the cab to experience the tractor being guided around the course by the GPS system showed just how much technology has come on. Sean sat in the passenger seat all the times with the students as they took their turn in the driver seat. He said: “They thoroughly enjoyed it. A lot are from farming backgrounds and were really amazed with what the tractor could do with little or no input from them.”

Safety lighting and mirrors

Sean pointed out a number of features which are often taken as a given, but which are all part of making tractors safer for operators and bystanders.

“Lighting is now a lot better on these tractors. This is not just beneficial for working at night but also for visibility to other road users.

“Even working in farmyards at night is now safer as more of the area around the tractor is better lit up. LED lights are brighter and standout better at night-time. Mirrors are now larger and fewer blindspots are present thanks to dual mirrors on both sides. A large mirror is fitted for a better rear view and a second mirror allows a clear view of the area beside the rear wheel which would have been previously out of view.”

When sitting in the cab this is clearly evident. The farmer in me couldn’t help but surmise it could also prevent a tyre getting damaged in a tight gap on a sharp stone. “Reversing cameras are also an option on this tractor with the feed displayed on the Vario terminal when reverse is selected. These are getting more common as the camera can be on the rear of the tractor or the implement with a number of cameras feeding into the one screen.

“Some tractors are even fitted with a reversing buzzer to warn unsuspecting bystanders of the tractor. Air brakes are standard on these tractors and they are also air-actuated. The big benefit here is the speed of response when the pedal is depressed – it’s instant.”

Improved suspension

Looking to the cab, Sean pointed out the pneumatic cab suspension featured on the Fendt.

“This has a number of benefits. Comfort is the obvious one, but safety is a big part of this as the operator can travel in a more controlled fashion and not get thrown about as much if he hits an unexpected bump in the road or in the field. Also, at the end of the day, he won’t be as tired compared to a tractor without this feature”.