Five things we learned about the DfT's plans for agricultural tractor testing

Agricultural tractor

 

Agricultural tractors used for commercial freight movements will be required to undergo regular roadworthiness tests from next year, the DfT revealed last week. It also hinted that they may be brought into the O-licensing regime, which would go towards levelling the playing field between their – currently unregulated – operators and hauliers that run trucks for hire and reward.

But what other changes will operators of agricultural tractors see from next year? Here are five things we learnt from the DfT’s response to last year’s consultation.

1. No tractors are currently subject to mandatory testing

Tractors currently do not have to undertake any form of testing – be it an annual roadworthiness test or a periodic inspection to check they are safe to operate.

Although the number of agricultural tractors used for freight movements is believed to be low, the DfT is keen on addressing the potential road safety risks they could pose.

2. Tractors used for ‘incidental’ road haulage are exempt from the plans

The DfT does not want to impose vehicle testing on tractors that make limited freight movements – for example, where a business needs to transport goods between two sites located close together but needs to use the public road to do so.

It used a threshold of 15 miles to determine what can be considered ‘commercial haulage’, which is the limit used in O-licensing legislation.

3. Testing will be carried out at ATFs

The DVSA will identify which ATFs are suitable for testing tractors in the coming months and ensure that testers are trained to conduct tractor tests.

Tractors will be subject to the standard HGV test fees, as well as the pit fee for the use of the ATF.

Braking performance will be tested by decelerometer, as roller brake testers are not suitable for tractors.

Tractor dealers will have to become an ATF if they want to offer tests to their customers.

The DfT estimated that 180 tractors will fall into the scope of the testing requirement and will be able to get tested from January 2018 to allow operators to obtain roadworthiness certificates before the changes take effect.

4. Several Scottish islands are exempt

Both HGVs and tractors operated solely on Arran, Great Cumbrae, Islay, Mull, Tiree and North Uist are exempt from the testing requirement as there is no testing facilities available.

Vehicles on the Isle of Bute will, however, be subject to testing.

5. Agricultural and forestry vehicles are excluded from testing

Tractors used solely for agricultural or forestry operations will not have to be tested, neither will vehicles with a design speed below 25km/h, such as steam-powered vehicles.

Image: Brett Weir.