Tractor contest rolls

August 03, 1999

By GREG SIMMONS / Staff Writer

photo: YVETTE MAY / staff photographer

Excerpts from a 50-question written exam on tractor driving:

Question No. 6: If a machine travels at 5 miles per hour and covers a 6-foot swath, assuming no lost time during turning, what is the field capacity?

A. 3.6 acres

B. 5.8 acres

C. 7.2 acres

Question No. 14: (True or False) The power take-off shaft from the tractor to the driven machine should not be operated unless all shields are in place.


If you answered "A" and "true," you may have what it takes to become a tractor driving contest winner.

Tractor racesFive contestants hopped on tractors and drove them through an obstacle course Tuesday at the Washington County Ag Expo. Then the 4-H and Future Farmers of America club members performed a safety inspection on a tractor, and once finished, they took a 50-question written exam.

Driving a tractor is not like driving a car, said Jeremiah Weddle, 16, the winner of the contest. Tractors are heavier and bulkier. They turn more sharply and have more torque, he said.

Weddle and Justin Malott, 16, who took second place, will compete in the state 4-H/FFA tractor competition at the Maryland State Fair in Timonium later this month.

Weddle said parking the tractor with a wagon was the hardest part of the contest. The drivers had eight minutes to back into a "barn" with a 20-foot-long wagon hitched to the John Deere 6400. The drivers had three inches of clearance on either side of the trailer with which to maneuver the trailer.

If a driver turns the steering wheel one inch in the wrong direction, the trailer can go several feet off course.

Mark Heavner, a 4-H adviser from Boonsboro High School said starting off straight is the key to winning because it is nearly impossible to straighten out once the trailer is off course.

Another part of the driving course included backing a two-wheeled manure spreader for 50 feet. The smaller New Holland 2120 and two-wheeled trailer made that part of the test easier, Heavner said.

Terrie Shank, a teacher and FFA adviser at Clear Spring High School, teaches the power mechanics class in which students get a chance to drive tractors during the school year. Shank was one of the officials at the competition.

She said John Deere provides a safe operation and service manual, which is where most of the questions for the written exam come from.

During the safety inspection exam, the five entrants searched for missing dipsticks and loose fuel lines. Lance Long, who provided the tractor and administered the test, said that part of the exam was important.

Long said missing a slow-moving vehicle sign or leaving the throttle open may seem like little things, "but little things can make a big difference."

The Ag Expo will continue through Friday at the Washington County Agricultural Education Center on the Sharpsburg Pike, 10 miles south of Hagerstown.

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