Car overtaking tractor(c) Rex

The maximum speed limit on roads for conventional tractors will rise by 5mph to 25mph (40kph) in March, the government has confirmed.

Meanwhile, the maximum combined weight limit for tractors and trailers will increase from 24.39t to 31t.

Transport minister Claire Perry confirmed the changes in a written ministerial statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday (10 February).

See also: Statistics reveal deadly dangers of rural roads

“This change could increase the amount of produce that some farmers can carry in a journey, resulting in fewer journeys and thus fewer risks of accidents.”
Claire Perry

The changes, which were announced in October, will take effect from 9 March. Until then, existing limits will apply.

In the statement, Ms Perry said: “This change will allow farmers to more appropriately size their combinations as the current outdated weight limit incentivises farmers to use smaller tractors to tow larger trailers.

“This change could also increase the amount of produce that some farmers can carry in a journey, resulting in fewer journeys and thus fewer risks of accidents.”

Ms Perry estimates these increases will create more than £57m a year in deregulatory savings to the farming industry.

She said the regulations will “better reflect modern machinery” and bring British farmers “more in line with their international counterparts”.

The Department for Transport is considering further increases to speed and tractor weight limits, including to the 18.29t trailer weight limit alongside a roadworthiness test for harvest 2016.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) welcomed Ms Perry’s confirmation that the government will consider increasing the speed limit and weight restrictions even further in time for harvest 2016.

CLA president Henry Robinson said: “Tractors are safer and faster than they were when these speed limits were imposed 27 years ago.

“These changes will make our rural roads safer by reducing the amount of overtaking that takes place. 

“We will press for ministers to consider further changes, especially related to the weight limit for heavier trailers. It is time to make sure the law reflects the major advance in technology that has taken place.”

NFU transport spokesperson John Collen said: “The date given for the new speed and weight limits to take effect is helpful for farmers – early March means it’s in time for busy periods such as silage and hay making and harvest. 

“We have lobbied for the implementation of these new limits to be as timely as possible since they were announced in October 2014.

“We are pleased to see that DfT recognises that the current limits are outdated and they are considering further increases, and we welcome the opportunity for continued negotiation of enhanced limits for harvest in 2016.”