Farmers advised to keep mud off roads in busy autumn harvest

Farmers have been reminded to do all they can to help keep mud off the roads this autumn as the maize, sugar beet and late-cut silage harvest begins.

During a busy time on the roads, NFU Mutual has advised farmers to plan ahead to avoid any risk of prosecution if other road users skid and have an accident.

See also: Tractors on the road: Rights, wrongs, rules and regulations

The rural insurer suggests farmers have measures in place to prevent mud getting onto roads and contingency plans so any mud can be cleared quickly.

Evita Van Gestel, of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services, said: “For large-scale activities, such as sugar beet or maize harvesting, it may be necessary to have a wheel washer by field entrances and a mechanical road sweeper on stand-by, while for small farms, a brush-and-shovel approach may be enough to clear up after one tractor.

“If mud is left on the roads, the law is clear: it’s the responsibility of the farmer to clean it up.

“Clear warning signs should be put up to warn other road users, but that doesn’t mean the mud can be left. It’s still the farmer’s responsibility to remove it as quickly as possible.”

A range of powers are available to the police, primarily the Highways Act 1980 and the Road Traffic Act 1988.

The law says it is an offence to obstruct free passage along a highway and that the highway authorities can order a person to remove anything on the road that is a nuisance or dangerous, including mud.

In one past case, a farmer’s insurance company had to pay £10,000 in compensation to a motorcyclist who suffered a broken collar bone and concussion, following a skid on mud.

Mud on roads safety checklist

  • Do everything possible to prevent mud being deposited on the road. This includes cleaning mud from vehicles, as far as practicable, before they are taken onto the road
  • Buy – or be prepared to hire in – equipment to clean up accidentally deposited mud
  • Keep to your own farm roads and minor roads whenever possible
  • Keep to low speeds especially when travelling short distances to help retain mud on the vehicle
  • Keep a written record of your decisions on whether or not to deploy signs and/or to clean the road
  • If there is a danger of mud being accidentally deposited on roads, use “slippery road” signs with a “mud on road” sub plate to alert other road users
  • Make sure signs are positioned to give maximum visibility and warning to other road users, especially on approaches to sharp corners and blind summits
  • Clean the road surface as necessary during the working day and always at the end of the working day
  • You must assess the risks to working on the road in each location to make sure that the work can be done safely
  • Ensure that staff and equipment are available (including high visibility clothing for operatives working on the highway) and suitable for the soil and weather conditions present
  • If staff are working on the road, additional “men at work” signs should be used in each direction
  • If a contractor is used, ensure that prior agreement is reached on who is responsible for mud on road issues including use of signage and clean-up

Source: NFU Mutual Risk Management Services