8 March 2002

At what age can I drive a…

A full driving licence is not a passport to drive every

vehicle on the farm, particularly when age is taken into

account. Agricultural vehicles consultant Mike Braitwaite

answers some of the most frequently asked questions

Q What are the age limits for driving agricultural tractors and trailers on a road?

A The minimum age to drive an agricultural tractor when used on a road is 16, but there are certain restrictions imposed depending whether they have passed a driving test or not.

A 16-year-old who holds a provisional F Category driving licence can only drive an agricultural tractor on a road if going to a test, during a test or returning from a test should they fail.

Having passed a test, the 16-year-old may drive an agricultural tractor on a road provided the tractor is mounted on wheels, has an overall width of no more than 2.45m (8ft), is licensed as an agricultural motor vehicle and is not drawing a trailer other than a two-wheeled trailer, or a close coupled four-wheeled trailer. In both cases, trailer width must also not exceed 2.45m (8ft).

A 17-year-old may drive any size agricultural tractor and tow a trailer either on a provisional licence or not, provided the vehicle is not tracklaying. For anyone over 21 years there are no restrictions.

Q Is there a difference if a young person wants to drive a combine harvester or pea viner etc.

A Yes. The minimum age limit for any other vehicle not classed as a tractor, such as a combine harvester, pea viner, self-propelled spraying machines, depends on the weight of the vehicle. Weight up to 3.5 tonnes is 17 years, between 3.5 tonnes and 7.5 tonnes is 18 years and over 7.5 tonnes is 21 years.

Should the vehicle be tracklaying, the driver must be 21 years old or over and hold a Category &#42 driving licence.

Q I want to employ some students during the summer months. Is there anything I should be aware of regarding their driving licences?

A Yes. Generally all drivers who have passed a group or category of entitlement before Jan 1, 1997 will retain their national entitlement to tow trailers and drive vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes. Drivers who passed their test after this date will have to pass an additional driving test to gain these entitlements and will be restricted to vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes.

The size of the trailer that can be towed depends on the category of the licence. Category B is for vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes. In this category, a new driver who has passed the additional test may drive a 3.5 tonne vehicle with a 750kg trailer.

Alternatively, they can drive a Category B vehicle with a larger trailer provided the combination does not exceed 3.5 tonnes and the laden weight of the trailer does not exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle.

This means that vehicles with a combined weight of up to 4.25 tonnes may be driven provided the towing vehicle does not exceed 3.5 tonnes and the trailer does not exceed 750kgs.

Larger trailers may be towed provided the laden weight of the trailer is not greater than the unladen weight of the drawing vehicle, the heavier the vehicle, the heavier the trailer subject to the 3.5 tonne limit. This will mean that some animal trailers towed behind Land Rovers or similar vehicles may fall into this category.

I would strongly advise you examine the driving licences of all employees on farms, particularly of young students, to ensure they and yourselves do not fall foul of the law. &#42

&#8226 Mike Braithwaite lectures on the subject of agricultural vehicles on the road. He stresses the answers he has given are based on his interpretation of the law and it must be remembered that reference must be made to the various Acts and regulations dealing with this subject.