A tractor testing course - described as the "first of its kind" - has been launched by the Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT), in conjunction with the Road Safety Authority (RSA).
As part of a new EU directive, 'fast' tractors - defined as those capable of speeds in excess of 40kph - will be required to undergo a special road-worthiness test in certain circumstances.
Earlier this year, it was confirmed that tractors being used for agricultural activities would be exempt from testing.
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The EU directive, which recently came into effect, will require relevant new vehicles to be tested after four years, and every second year after that.
An "intensive four-day programme" has subsequently been developed in response to this directive.
Up until now, tractors haven’t even been on the radar in terms of testing and road safety, according to the head of AIT's Department of Polymer, Mechanical, Civil Engineering and Trades, Joe Lawless.
Under the new EU directive, people who have one of these vehicles, and who use it for commercial use, will be obliged to get the tractor tested before they can take it out on a public road.
Continuing, Lawless added that Ireland’s 650 heavy vehicle testers need to be supplied with adequate training before they can sufficiently test tractors in this manner.
“Our first batch of testers is currently being upskilled here at AIT. To train people how to test and inspect correctly, we had to get in a range of tractors because there is such a wide variety of different ones; I think we had six altogether.
“Each trainee tester is assigned a tractor with a variety of different faults that they will be required to identify.
"Everything is computerised; it’s quite similar to the NCT process in that respect. Our heavy vehicle testers will have a range of equipment at their disposal to test the tractors,” he said.
The inspection process is quite detailed and will require examiners to carry out extensive testing, including a complicated hand-brake procedure that involves the use of a special ramp and adherence to a safety protocol, the course organisers outlined.
Following this, testers will be expected to complete a written exam.
Meeting the demand
As it stands, AIT is the only place in Ireland offering this "specialised" heavy vehicle testing for "commercially-used" tractors.
Because of this, several consecutive courses have reportedly been lined up to meet the demand.
We have heavy vehicle testers coming from all over the country to complete this training programme.
The first set of testers sat exams last week, Lawless added.