The Department of Environment in Northern Ireland has opened a six-week public consultation on the feasibility of increasing the weight and speed limits for agricultural tractors and trailers on public roads.

In March this year, the Department for Transport in Britain introduced legislation, which increased the speed limits for tractors. Previously restricted to 32km/hr, an agricultural tractor can now travel at 40km/hr in that jurisdiction.

Further to this, the maximum combination weight of an agricultural tractor towing an agricultural trailer increased to 31t from 24.39t in Britain.

The consultation considers whether the North’s Environment Minister Mark H Durkan should introduce similar changes.

“Increasing the speed of tractors on our roads and their permitted weights would undoubtedly be beneficial for the agricultural community, which is a vital component of our economy,” said Durkan

“I am constantly seeking ways to support our key industries and that is why I am seeking to introduce the British legislation.

“I must, however, be mindful of any potential impacts on road safety.”

Commenting on this matter an Ulster Farmers’ Union spokesperson said that steps have already been taken across in GB to increase tractor speeds and weight limits.

“This is something the UFU is interested in looking into further. We will be taking the proposals to our policy committees for discussion and will respond in full to the consultation.”

Meanwhile, in the Republic of Ireland, January 1, 2016 will see all new agricultural tractors, self-propelled agricultural machines, agricultural trailers, and interchangeable towed equipment  fitted with a speed disc showing their maximum design speed.

In addition, all existing agricultural tractors, self-propelled agricultural machinery, agricultural trailers and interchangeable towed equipment, which are capable by design of either being driven or drawn at speeds over 40km/hr, must also be fitted with a speed disc.