Partner and Head of Wills & Estate Planning at Andrew & Co Solicitors Helen Newson writes...
New Roadworthiness Rules for Tractors
The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that from next year agricultural tractors capable of more than 40km/h (c 25mph) used to transport commercial goods will be subject to roadworthiness testing from 20th May 2018.
The first test will fall when the tractor is four years old and thereafter it will need to undergo repeat tests every two years.
The DfT has also said that operators of these tractors will also likely need an Operator’s Licence.
This announcement follows on from an earlier announcement that as from 9th March 2017, the allowed combined gross train weight of a tractor and trailer was increased from 24.39 tonnes to 31 tonnes. The maximum trailer weight however was to be kept at 18.29 tonnes.
The reasoning behind this GTW weight increase was to allow for larger and heavier tractors which are more capable of stopping the load and therefore are safer.
At the same time the speed limit for tractors which were restricted under the Road Vehicles (construction and use) Regulations 1986 (as amended) are now allowed to travel at 25mph, an increase from 20mph.
The Road Haulage Association is unhappy with these changes which they say create unfair competition. There is no doubt about that argument because commercial lorries are tested annually with six-weekly safety inspection checks.
Farmers will be able to transport their own goods within a 15-mile radius of their farm without the need for the new test.
However, as soon as farmers start using their tractors for commercial use, for instance carrying another farmer's sugar beet to the factory, the new commercial rules will apply.
The rules on using red or white diesel will also complicate matters. Red diesel can only be used while carrying your own agricultural produce within a 15-mile radius of the farm. Carrying someone else's produce becomes a commercial load and red diesel cannot be used in those circumstances.