Farmers transporting heavy loads of silage this summer have been warned off motorways, and to move over on the road when cars begin to pile up behind them, by the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

Anyone tempted to drive along the hard shoulder of a motorway was cautioned against the offence, which would incur one penalty point on payment (of a fine) or three penalty points on conviction. They would also face a fixed charge of €80, if paid within 28 days, or €120 if paid in the next 28 days.

All tractors and trailers or interchangeable towed equipment must be in roadworthy condition before setting off, the RSA said. Particular attention should be paid to regulations for agricultural vehicles in relation to braking, lighting and visibility – as well as weights, dimensions and plating – introduced in 2016.

Drivers were advised to ensure their loads were properly secured using an “appropriate restraint method”, and to be aware of low bridges and overhead power lines. Where necessary, wheels should also be hosed down to prevent mud and stones from building up on the roads.

The RSA spokesman said: “The RSA advises tractor drivers that if a situation arises where traffic builds up behind them, they should pull in when it is safe to do so and let the traffic pass.

“It is important to point out that a motorist must not enter a motorway if the vehicle they are driving cannot travel at a speed of at least 50kph. This ensures that the vehicle/tractor is powerful enough to maintain a constant speed of 50kph or greater when carrying heavier loads.”

The silage season got off to an early start this year, with Dunphys Agricultural Contractors previously revealing it had cut between 250ac and 300ac by the end of April. It also said some farmers in its areas of south Tipperary, Kilkenny and Waterford were going for three cuts over two.