COMPULSORY TRACTOR MOTs could become a reality unless the farming industry embraces a voluntary annual inspection scheme, safety experts have warned.

The Health and Safety Executive has set up a working group to develop a voluntary strategy on inspections because of concerns that the poor condition of some tractors is leading to fatal accidents.

The group will meet for the first time in October.

Tony Mitchell, health and safety inspector, said the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 made it clear that farmers needed to adequately maintain machinery.

But the HSE and Department for Transport both felt there was a need for standards to be raised – particularly for vehicles like high-speed tractors.

The department has said that 40% of tractors involved in traffic accidents are not up to the required standards.

“There is a disparity between what the public is required to do [ie MOTs] and what farmers need to do,” said Mr Mitchell.

“We are only one major accident away from having a compulsory MOT.”

Mr Mitchell said the HSE was keen to work with the industry to develop a voluntary scheme that works for everyone and meets existing legislation.

This would help to stave off a compulsory scheme, he said.

Lisa Wise, NFU transport adviser, said she had been invited to join the working group with representatives from the Agricultural Engineers Association and the British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Association.

Farmers were not happy about the idea of annual inspections, but the NFU would seek to make sure that the requirements were not too onerous, she added.

“We want to know farmers will be able to do the inspection themselves in their workshops.

“We don‘t want to see them having to take each tractor to a main dealer and fork out £200 for something they could do on farm.”

A spokesman for the AEA said the idea of annual inspections had been discussed for years, although he admitted there did seem to be fresh impetus on the subject.

“The HSE is concerned and is looking at all the options. The issue that is important is that if farmers are using public roads they need to meet the minimum legal requirements.”

BAGMA already runs a voluntary vehicle health check scheme which was set up in conjunction with other interested parties in 2000.

The association provides health check sheets which can be used by farmers as they inspect vehicles and trailed appliances.