How to be sure foreign workers can stay road legal in the UK

A tractor on the road

© Tim Scrivener

Contractors and farmers are increasingly in need of foreign workers for jobs from vegetable picking to sheep shearing, but employers can find themselves in hot water and with invalid insurance if it turns out their staff are not road legal.

What are you looking for?

A community licence is a driving licence issued by another EEA member state, which includes the other 27 EU countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

The Community licence allows them to drive a class F vehicle – an agricultural or forestry tractor – in Britain, provided they are authorised to drive either a class B (with no specific mention of agricultural vehicles) or the equivalent of our class F.

See also: 7 ways to drive your farm vehicle safely and legally

Put simply, if the licence allows them to drive a car in Britain, then they will legally be allowed to drive a tractor. Likewise, if the licence specifies an equivalent category that allows them to drive a tractor in their home country then they will also be legally allowed to drive tractors here.

Non-EEA countries

The situation is subtly different for tractor drivers from non-EEA countries who are temporary residents in the UK for a period of up to 12 months.

Such operators may drive tractors in Britain if this is permitted by their foreign licence. For example, if a foreign student was authorised by their licence to drive a tractor in the country of issue, then they may lawfully drive a tractor when in Britain. 

It’s important to note that countries have different conventions on the classification of agricultural vehicles. Some, like Britain, have a specific category – for us it’s F, which is granted with the equivalent car licence but not explicitly stated on the licence.

In other places it might be granted through a certificate of competence. In that case, you must find out exactly what your non-EEA employee can, or can’t, legally drive in the issuing country.   

Foreign drivers that are resident in the UK may also be able to exchange their licence for a British version.

What do the category letters mean in Britain?

Category B =        car (and automatically gives you an F).  You can drive vehicles up to 3,500kg maximum authorised mass (MAM) with up to 8 passenger seats (with a trailer up to 750kg).

Category F =         Agricultural tractor (an F can be obtained by passing a tractor test or it comes automatically with a B licence).

Category B auto =   a category B vehicle – but only an automatic one.         

Category B+E =   a vehicle with a MAM of 3,500kg with a trailer. The size of the trailer depends on when you passed your test. If you passed your test:

  • before 19 January 2013 you can tow any size trailer
  • on or after 19 January 2013 you can tow a trailer with a MAM of up to 3,500kg

Category C1 =     vehicles weighing between 3,500 and 7,500kg (with a trailer up to 750kg)

Category C  =       vehicles over 3,500kg (with a trailer up to 750kg)

Category C+E =   category C vehicles with a trailer over 750kg

Category H =        Tracked machine

Category K =        Mowing machine or pedestrian-controlled vehicle

Category AM =   Two- or three-wheeled vehicles with a maximum design speed of over 25km/h (15.5mph) but not more than 45km/h (28mph). Also includes light quad bikes with:

  • unladen mass of not more than 350kg
  • maximum design speed of over 25km/h (15.5mph) but not more than 45km/h (28mph)

Category Q =       Two-wheeled vehicles with:

  • an engine size not more than 50cc
  • a maximum design speed of no more than 25km/h (15.5mph)