Latest tacho, licence and red diesel rules explained

Tractor hauling hay bales on the road

What is legal on the road is not so much a grey area – it’s more like 50 shades of grey, all which have to be interpreted carefully by farmers and contractors, and none which involve a housewife’s raunchy novel.

From knowing when and if you need to use a tachograph, to what’s legal to carry on a flatbed between jobs or whether you need an operating licence, here are a few pointers.

See also: Dissecting red diesel rules

How have tachograph rules changed?


©Jennifer Jacquemart/Rex

From March 2015 farmers will no longer need a tachograph fitted to vehicles if the distance travelled is less than 100km from the operating base. Before, this distance was 50km.

The base is defined as where the vehicle starts off that morning, following an 11-hour driver rest period.

The new 100km exemption will apply to vehicles or vehicle-and-trailer combinations with a maximum weight of 7,500kg being used to carry materials, equipment or machinery for the driver’s use in a farming capacity, as well as vehicles used to carry live animals to and from local markets and slaughterhouses.

Vehicles will no longer have to be fitted with tachograph reading equipment and drivers will no longer have to comply with EC drivers’ hour rules, instead falling under GB domestic drivers’ rules.

What is an operator’s licence and who needs one?

All heavy goods vehicles over 3.5t gross plated weight, or with an unladen weight of more than 1,525kg, used to transport goods for hire or reward or in connection with a trade or business have to have a goods vehicle operators’ licence.

This is held by the company running the vehicle, whether it’s a one-man band or an Eddie Stobart-esque operation.

Agriculture has an exemption from requiring operator licences if heavy goods vehicles do not travel more than 15 miles from the normal operating base.

How do you know if it’s haulage or agricultural use?

1 April 2015: Introduction of fuel marker dye

UK and Irish governments are to bring in a new product from 1 April to mark red diesel (green diesel in Ireland) in an attempt to help reduce illegal fuel laundering.

The dye will also be used for marking kerosene primarily used for heating purposes.

The new marker will make rebated fuel much harder for fraudsters to launder, or remove the marker from, and sell on at a profit.

Launderers filter the fuel through chemicals or acids to remove the government marker and these chemicals and acids remain in the fuel and can damage fuel pumps in diesel cars.

The marker will be produced by Dow and the government believes the chosen marker has proved to be significantly more resistant to known laundering techniques.

Towing non-agricultural equipment takes transport out of agricultural use and into the realms of general haulage, which involves a whole different set of rules, including the requirement for tachographs to be fitted, goods vehicle taxation and registration rules.

Drivers also have to have the relevant licence to drive a goods vehicle (a C+E) and the owner has to have an operator’s licence.

For farmers, this means that, for example, towing a flatbed with ramps on it for unloading a machine could change the classification from agricultural to haulage. However, if the ramps were on wheels and being towed then it would be legal.

Towing a trailer behind something such as a limespreader to transport a van or car is also deemed “haulage”.

What about using red diesel to haul things such as hardcore?

If the hardcore being hauled is destined for repairing farm tracks or gateways, then it is legitimate to haul using red diesel. However, if it is being carted on the road to a construction site, this is rather more dodgy territory and the job should be done using white diesel.

A simple way of thinking about keeping haulage legal is to ask yourself: Can this job be done with a lorry? If the answer is yes, then it probably should be.

8 June 2015: Abolition of the counterpart driving licence

From 8 June, the paper part that accompanies the photocard driving licence will not be valid and so won’t be issued by the DVLA.

The paper counterpart was issued to display driving licence details that could not be included on the photocard, which has room only for some vehicle categories and any endorsements or penalty points.

While photocards should be retained, paper counterparts can be destroy after 8 June. Paper driving licences issued before the photocard was introduced in 1998 are still valid and should not be destroyed. This does not affect photocard licences issued by DVA in Northern Ireland.

Penalty points and endorsements will no longer be displayed on driving licences, instead this information will be held on the DVLA’s driver record, which can be checked online, by phone or by post.

You can check your driving licence details for free online.

Am I free to haul waste?

As using waste and things such as digestate from anaerobic digester (AD) plants becomes more common, it is worth checking the road transport legalities before assuming it can be done with a tractor and trailer running on red diesel.

Farmyard manure is classed as a soil improver, so it can be hauled with red diesel, however horse manure from a riding stables is considered a waste and so should be carted with white.

The same goes for green waste, compost, sludge and digestate that is not being hauled from a digester on your own farm.

Surely hauling grain back to the yard can be done using red?

If the tractor or vehicle has gone around the field and taken the load before returning to the farm, this qualifies for using red diesel.

The vehicle has to have played an active part in the harvesting process, as most tractor and trailers do, for this exemption to apply.

What about harvesting for AD plants?

There is a crossover at the moment between agriculture and industrial classification for hauling material to and from AD plants.

Hauling maize or grass silage to the digester should be done with the tractor that has taken the load from the harvester and the haulage part of the process ought to be classed as “incidental” in the whole process.

If this is being done more than 15 miles from base then there should be an operator’s licence in place, too.  

How does hauling fuel bowsers stand?

When being towed behind a pickup or Land Rover, a fuel bowser should not be carrying more than 1,000 litres to qualify for a small load exemption. Tanks should be fully bunded and a 2kg fire extinguisher should be carried at all times.

Agricultural Vehicles on the Road seminar

It might not sound like the sexiest subject, but knowing the transport rules and regulations that could affect your business is well worth an afternoon or morning spent at Mike Sumner’s One Ash Training centre at Widnes, Merseyside.

The seminar costs £35 plus VAT and the next one is being held on the 27 April.

Visit the One Ash Training centre website for more information.

What about pesticides?

The transport of crop protection products is governed by regulations on the transport of hazardous goods by road.

Agricultural products should be transported by people who are licensed and in vehicles designed for this purpose, such as self-propelled and trailed sprayers.

If you are transporting small quantities of products, undertake a general check of the condition of the vehicle to ensure that the goods are transported safely.

As long as a tractor-drawn bowser is bunded and road legal, there is no restriction on the amount of liquid that can be carried.

If a tank of pesticide was being towed by a pickup or Land Rover, however, this would require a dual-purpose vehicle licence and would fall under the Dangerous Goods on the Road Act, so it’s better to stick with a tractor and trailer.

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