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Simplified Overturn Stability Monitoring of Agricultural Tractors

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health. 11(1): 99-108. (doi: 10.13031/2013.17900) @2005
Authors:   C. I. Nichol, H. J. Sommer III, D. J. Murphy
Keywords:   Accident prevention, Agricultural tractor, Tractor operator education, Tractor overturn, Tractor rollover

Agricultural tractors are the most common source of farm work fatalities in the U.S., with overturns the most common type of incident. For the year 2001, there were 15 tractor-related fatalities in Pennsylvania, 9 of which were due to tractor rollover. A new device using low-cost sensors and microcomputers was developed around a simplified mathematical model of an agricultural tractor to inform the operator of potential tractor instability. This device communicates the current rollover potential, along with a recent history of rollover potential, to the operator of the tractor via a simple bar-graph display. The device uses a single-chip accelerometer to sense the current rollover potential and a small microprocessor to analyze the accelerometer data, compensate for variations due to temperature, and then send this information to a visual display. The use of these low-cost “off the shelf” components enabled the fabrication of a very inexpensive sensor system. Because agricultural tractors have a long service life, it was important to make the device low cost and flexible. This could enable it to be sold as an aftermarket add-on for a variety of tractor models. The device is also capable of interfacing with newer on-board tractor systems via a CAN bus to make it more attractive to tractor manufacturers who may want to incorporate this device into new models. Work is continuing on the development of an improved display to inform the tractor operator of possible instability, including display ergonomic studies, investigation of threshold levels for alerting an operator of potential instability, and investigation into audible warning signals.

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