12 January 1996

Fast tractor plans bring cool response

By Andy Collings

PROPOSALS by the Department of Transport for high speed tractors to require plating and annual testing (Machinery, Sept 29) have provoked reaction from a number of interested parties.

Set out in a consultative document, the proposals, if they become law, could bring "fast" tractors closer to legislation covering HGVs.

But although understood to be aimed at the true high-speed tractor – such as the JCB Fastrac and Unimogs – the wording of the proposals suggests legislation could also encompass tractors capable of exceeding 25mph. This would include many modern tractors fitted with 25mph gearboxes.

NFU response is to accept that some form of testing might be appropriate, although not on the scale applied to HGVs.

"An annual test for genuine fast tractors, which would ensure key items such as brakes, lights and steering are in serviceable condition, could be acceptable," says NFU transport specialist, Stephen Smith. "But a full-blown, time-consuming test at a centre miles away from the farm would not be."

It is a view echoed by both the Agricultural Engineers Association and JCB Landpower, the latter pointing out that industrial tractors are already required to have a test every 14 months.

The proposals also cover conventional tractors used for long distance haulage work – although just what constitutes a "long distance" appears open to debate.

"The current radius in which farmers can haul produce without an Operators Licence is 15 miles. If this was to be extended to 50km – a common agricultural exemption distance in European transport legislation – it could become the distance which, if exceeded, would require a tractor to be tested," suggests Mr Smith.

With the industry expressing such views, it is hard to imagine the DoT will not impose a mandatory testing procedure for some agricultural vehicles. It is the scale, frequency and application of such tests which appear to be the points in question. &#42

Slow it might be but we could be moving towards mandatory testing for some agricultural vehicles if the proposals by the Department of Transport become law. Brakes, lights and steering could be the key issues.