Farmers who looked for the safety and road-legal faults on an elderly tractor and trailer at the Norfolk Show were quick to spot many of the defects. But similar enthusiasm for checking their own equipment is sometimes lacking, the organisers say.
The aim of the fault-finding exercise was to highlight the need for better maintenance standards on equipment used on the road. The tractor and trailer featured a long list of faults, some of them clearly identified by stickers while others were left unmarked for those with sharp eyes and a good knowledge of the regulations to discover.
Chris Thomas of the Norfolk Farm Machinery Club (NORMAC), which organised the display, said the maintenance theme was prompted by a national survey of 245 farm tractors that identified significant safety and road legal faults on 68% of them.
“The survey shows that maintenance is still a major problem, and there are some farms where the standards are not high enough. Obviously safety is the main priority, but some of the faults we are highlighting would also make it illegal to use this tractor and trailer on the road.
The tractor survey that prompted the NORMAC exhibit was carried out by the machinery dealers’ organisation, BAGMA, and they also helped with the fault-finding display. Some faults uncovered in the survey would cost just a few pounds to rectify, but failing to deal with them could lead to a serious accident, says Adam Wyatt, BAGMA’s development manager.
“The police can stop any vehicle on the road if they suspect that it does not comply with the law. If faults are found, the results could include a fine and prosecution for the owner, the driver could have points on his licence and in a serious case the vehicle’s insurance could be affected,” said Mr Wyatt.
On tractors the main problem areas are lights and mirrors, plus faults affecting the hitch that could allow the trailer to uncouple on the road. Trailer maintenance is often neglected, says Mr Wyatt. The easy option is to put the trailer away at the end of the season and forget about it until the following year. Most machinery dealers confirm that they are rarely asked to service trailers and check the brakes and tipping mechanism.
“What is disappointing is when farmers look round the exhibit and then tell us that they are so busy on the farm that they don’t have time to check their own machinery,” says Mr Wyatt. “It has happened several times and it shows how difficult it can be to deal with the maintenance problem.”