Get licensed: Ready for your tractor test?

For those of you who are about to be (or have already turned) 16, there’s bound to be a couple of things on your mind.

One of them involves something we wouldn’t dream of mentioning in a family magazine. The other is… finally being allowed to drive a tractor on the road.

For young people who’ve been around tractors for years, the driving test sounds like it ought be a doddle.

Don’t be so sure, though. Power Farming gets lots of questions on this subject from young readers and their parents, so we thought we’d take a look at what’s involved.

This isn’t exhaustive, and it’s worth getting in touch with your local Driving Standards Agency for more information, too.

What age can you drive a tractor on the road?

You can drive a tractor on the road at 16, but only if you’ve passed the DSA Tractor Driving Test. You can drive a tractor to and from the driving test appointment, but you can’t practise on the road.

At 17, however, you can drive any tractor unaccompanied on the road as long as you display L-plates.

Do you have to have a provisional car licence?

Yes. Apply for a D1 application form from the DVLA ordering service or pick one up from your local Post Office. You will also need to enclose original documentation confirming your identity, a passport-style colour photograph and a fee of £50.

How do you practise if you’re not allowed on the road other than to and from the test centre?

If you have a neighbour or friend who is a farmer, it’s a good idea to have a few practice sessions on their farm before even applying for your test. You may also be able to visit a training site to practise, too.

They may be willing to lend you a tractor to do your test in, but you’ll have to check it’s roadworthy and you’re insured.

How far ahead should you book? Is there a long waiting time?

You can book the test from one month before your 16th birthday onwards. Waiting times vary depending in which area you’re in, so it’s worth giving the DSA a ring to check.

How much does it cost?

The weekday cost of a test is £56.50 and the weekend rate is £67.

Do certain maintenance standards have to be met?

Yes. The tractor has to be in a roadworthy condition. That means clean lights, windows and mirrors.

Does the owner need to tell their insurance company that a 16-year-old is driving their tractors?

The insurance company should be informed of any person the owner is allowing to drive their tractors.

Do you have to sign a form to say that the tractor is taxed and insured?

Before you turn up for your test, make sure the tractor is legally roadworthy and fully insured, as you’ll need to sign a form to that effect.

The tractor needs to have a valid tax disc (if you don’t have one – you’ll fail automatically) and have L-plates clearly displayed. You also need to take along both parts of your driving licence as form of idenification.

How do you book?

You can book online, by visiting www.direct.gov.uk/drivingtest, where you can also find your nearest test centre.

Alternatively, you can call the DSA booking line, 0300 200 1122. If you’re in Northern Ireland, you need to speak to the DVA on 0845 600 6700.

Where can I find more information?

There’s a handy book on the subject called: The Official DSA Guide to Tractor and Specialist Vehicle Driving Tests published by the Driving Standards Agency for £11.99, which gives you loads of information.

There are also special training courses to get you up to speed on what the test asks of you. To find out where your nearest one is, visit the Lantra website

It’s worth noting that the tractor driving test isn’t the same as the “Certificate of Competence” run by the NPTC.

Tractor check list

  • L-plates clearly displayed
  • All lights should be working and clean
  • Mirrors fitted and positioned for clear vision
  • Clean number plate, firmly fixed
  • No trailer or attachment
  • Clean enough not to drop mud or debris on the road
  • Tax disc clearly displayed

Where do the tests usually take place?

Because it’s defined as a “home test”, the application will go to your nearest test centre, and the examiner will get in touch with you to arrange a suitable place. It’s worth working out the quietest route to the test venue before leaving the farm.

Can you take it in any tractor? Would some be too large?

At 16, the maximum width of a tractor you are allowed to drive is 2.45m. So, bear in mind you need to measure your tractor to make sure it fits the requirements.

How long does it take?

Depending on the location and examiner, it can take from 20 minutes to an hour to complete your test. Make sure you book enough time off school.

Does the examiner always stay outside the vehicle?

Even if the tractor is fitted with a passenger seat, the examiner generally stands outside and observes.

He will usually give you instructions at the side of the road and will watch how you drive as you go round both left and right circuits.

Do you have to do a theory test?

No. But you will be expected to have a good knowledge of the Highway Code, so take it with you to bed and read it from cover to cover.

Do many people fail?

Out of the 2,144 tractor tests taken in 2007-2008, 80% passed. That still leaves 415 that failed, though.

What does the test involve?

  • An eyesight test – you need to be able to read a number plate at a distance of more than 20.5m
  • You need to know how to check things like tyres, brakes, oils and lights, so get accustomed to the tractor you’re doing the test on
  • Adjust the seat and mirrors, make sure the handbrake is on and make sure it’s in neutral before you start the engine. The hand throttle shouldn’t be used during the test
  • Make sure the independent brakes are locked together, as you may be asked to perform an emergency stop
  • You will be asked to move off from the side of the road or behind another vehicle, so make sure you use your mirror and check all your blind spots, then signal before moving. For rear observation, you need to look in your mirrors and turn and look round so the examiner recognises you’ve checked the way is clear
  • Pay attention to road signs, as you’ll need to react accordingly
  • For the emergency stop, you’ll need to stop as quickly and safely as possible and under full control
  • When you’re asked to reverse round a corner, checking mirrors and looking behind is extremely important, and watch you don’t end up on the kerb. Also, bear in mind the tractor nose swings out in the road, so watch out for oncoming traffic
  • You need to be able to park safely at a curb or in a parking position. Again, watch out for pedestrians, cyclists or any hazards
  • The examiner may ask you to turn in the road. If you are asked to do this, you’ll need to complete it in as few moves as possible and also keep a close eye on other road users throughout
  • Because there are lots of hazards on country roads like cyclists and horseriders, you’ll be expected to know how to deal with them. Always use the mirror, signal, manoeuvre (MSM) routine and travel at a suitable speed
  • At road junctions and roundabouts, the examiner will expect you to know the correct procedure. Because tractors are larger than normal vehicles, make sure you’re in the correct lane and not taking up any of the other side of the road and MSM. As you will need to creep slowly forwards from a junction, look both ways several times before edging out
  • If you really need to overtake, make sure you have enough space and time to get round the hazard without squeezing them off the road or cutting them up
  • When you meet and pass other vehicles, get a good look of what’s up ahead and don’t think your tractor can squeeze through a gap that a Mini would struggle with
  • If you have to cross the path of oncoming traffic, make sure you MSM, keep as close to the centre of the road as possible and judge how far oncoming traffic is away before committing to turning. Make sure you get the speed right, too
  • Because of the height of a tractor, you’ll get a good view of what’s up ahead. But make sure you don’t intimidate people by trying to get in their boot
  • Tractors can be scary to small children, so if you have to wait at a pedestrian crossing, give them time to cross and don’t stop too near
  • When it’s time to stop, make sure it’s not in a place that will obstruct the road, cause a hazard, or obstruct a pavement.

Assuming you’ve passed, what restrictions are there on 16 year olds?

If you pass, you’ll be able to drive any tractor up to 2.45m in width, provided it’s not tracked.

Can you tow any weight of trailer even if you’re 16?

You can only tow a two-wheeled or close-coupled four-wheel trailer under 2.45m in width.

Is there a special speed limit for 16 year olds?

No, the standard tractor speed limit is 20mph whatever age you are.