With potato and veg harvesting, ploughing, planting and muck spreading still ongoing across Scotland, the National Farmers' Union Scotland (NFUS) has issued a timely reminder to farmers and crofters on the need to keep roads free from mud and muck for the safety of other road users.
This is a busy period in the farming calendar, but the wetter weather, deteriorating soil conditions and lower light levels can make even it more difficult to manage the volume of dirt being taken from fields to the road.
However, farmers and crofters have a legal responsibility under Section 95 of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 to keep the roads clear from any materials deposited from tractors, trailers or implements.
Follow the ABCD
To ensure the road is safe for other users, preventing material being deposited on the road is best. However, where muck and mud being carried onto the road, NFUS urges members to remember ‘ABCD’:
Agree who is tasked with cleaning up the material before work starts. It is the responsibility of the driver and the person instructing the work to ensure the road is kept clean. If you use a contractor, take the time to agree who will clean the road.
Be prepared to clear up. Planning the clear up ahead of time will ensure you have the right equipment to do the job efficiently and to a good standard.
Ensure the team clearing the deposits have the right safety equipment in place (for example, hi-vis, safety gear and slow signs), alongside enough time to safely clear up the road.
Clearly signpost any mud on the road. Use authorised ‘slippery road’ signs with a ‘mud on road’ sub plate to alert other road users.
Place the signs at the extremities of any mud or muck on the road and, where signs are on ‘A’ roads, ensure they are fitted with a flashing beacon.
Document your decision making. Going through your risk assessments and documenting your clear up process will help you plan and can evidence the steps you are taking to mitigate and manage mud on the road.
If the road is not clear of deposits after use, the roads authority can recover the costs of cleaning the road from the person responsible. Furthermore, failure to comply with regulations could result in the prosecution of the driver or operator and, in the event of an accident, could lead to a claim for compensation.
Lanarkshire farmer Tom French, chair of NFUS’s Legal and Technical Committee, said:
"At this time of the year, when the weather is changing and so much is still happening on farms, keeping roads free from mud and muck is a real challenge.
Aside from the legislative requirement to keep the road clear of material, it is necessary for the very important reason: To protect the safety of all road users.
"Planning ahead and taking the time to prevent material from initially being transferred from the field to the road is the best approach to limiting the risk mud can pose to other road users as well as reducing the clean-up work later.
"Where mud and material are deposited on the roadway, it is important that there is a process and procedure in place to remove this hazard as swiftly and as soon as possible, and all to a sufficient standard.
"We would also ask that all road users assist in making both country and major roads as safe as possible, by driving appropriately for road conditions, keeping to the speed limits and bearing in mind that many of the nation’s farmers and crofters are still working hard harvesting this year’s crops or getting ready for 2021," he concluded.