5 point Q&A to help you with licence plate rules for agricultural machinery

The law covering licence or registration plates for agricultural machinery can be pretty baffling. So here are five answers to common questions.

How many licence plates do you need on a tractor?

According to the small print in the regs, you need to have one on both sides at the front of the tractor, as well as at the back of the cab. However, almost all tractors just have a rear one, which suggests that there is something of gap out there between theory and practice.

Do the plates on the tractor and trailer need to match?

If the machine is towing a trailer then the plate fixed to the trailer can display another number plate of any other agricultural machine as long as it is registered to the keeper of the towing vehicle.

What’s the situation with pickup trucks and 4x4s?

Clearly, you need a licence plate front and rear for these vehicles.  Also, any 4×4 vehicle with full road tax towing a trailer must have the same licence plate on number plate of the towing vehicle.

Many farm businesses have more than one road-taxed vehicle that is used for towing so you need to be alert.  

What about maximum speeds?

Doublecab pickups are now very popular on farms and almost certainly outnumber singlecab types. However the exact status of these vehicles has always been a bit murky.

Normally they’re classified as a dual-purpose vehicle with the same top speed as a car. However quite a few farmers have been stopped by police who say they should be driven at a lower speed limit.

The NFU points out that there is no specific definition in the legislation of a dual purpose vehicle which weighs between 2,040kg and 3,005kg unladen weight. So vehicles that don’t come into this category may fall into the light goods class of vehicle.

So where’s the problem?

Light goods vehicles can only legally drive at 50mph on single carriageways and 60mph on dual carriageways. If you are towing a trailer, the limit for motorways drops to 60mph. Bear that in mind when you spot a police car behind you.

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