'Fast' tractors which travel more than 15 miles from their base will not be required to go through the Ministry of Transport (MOT) test inspection unless they are being used for non-agricultural purposes.
AgriLand put several sets of scenarios to the Department for Infrastructure for clarification on what exactly the new rules will mean and who they will affect; the department's answers are detailed below.
The regulations will start off from the position of exempting all agricultural tractors from testing (as is the case at present), except for any tractor which can meet all three of the following conditions:
- Its maximum design speed is in excess of 40kph;
- It is used for hauling a load more than 15 miles from its base;
- And that load is not related to agriculture or horticulture.
If the use of the tractor in question ticks all three of those boxes, then it would cease to be exempt, and would require a goods vehicle certificate.
The legislation has come about as the result of an EU directive affecting all 28 member states.
Originally, it had been feared the directive would apply to all tractors over 40kph regardless of their distance from their base.
A similar law in the Republic could require 'fast' tractors involved in commercial haulage and travelling more than 25km from their base to undergo a road-worthiness test - but the plans are still under revision and may be changed.
In the first scenario, the tractor in question is capable of doing more than 40kph. It’s being used for hauling a load from a location 20 miles from its base, to a location 40 miles from its base. The load is a trailer of silage.
Does it need a test?
In this instance, the first two of the conditions are fulfilled, but the load is related to an agricultural operation - so the vehicle remains exempt.
In the second example, the tractor is capable of doing more than 40kph; it’s being used to haul a load from a location 60 miles away to another location 25 miles away; and the load is a flatbed trailer loaded with bricks.
Does this tractor need a test?
Yes it does, because all three of the boxes can be ticked (the load being unrelated to agriculture) and so the tractor will legally be required to have a goods vehicle test certificate.
In the second instance, the farmer or contractor would be moving outside the arena of agricultural work, and into the area of pure haulage.
According to the department, it would be unfair to require normal hauliers to comply with the necessary regulations (operator licensing, goods vehicle certificates, tachographs, etc) and permit farmers to compete for the same work without having to comply with those regulations.
Our questions to the department
Q: How does this affect agricultural contractors - for example, silage contractors or contractors drawing slurry? Will they be exempt from this as the tractor will be under agricultural use?
A: Any tractor being used for an operation related to agriculture, horticulture or forestry will continue to be exempt from periodic testing.
Q: What is the department counting as agricultural use – and which specific uses are definitely not included?
A: Assessment of what constitutes agricultural use would be done on a case-by-case basis; each individual situation considered on its merits.
For instance, where a tractor is drawing a trailer with timber for use in the construction of a shed on the farmer’s own land, this would be considered an agricultural operation, and thus the tractor would be exempt from testing.
Where the tractor is drawing a trailer with a load of timber which is being carried for payment, that would be considered a commercial operation and so the tractor would not be exempt from testing.
In each case the operator would have to show that the operation in question was related to agriculture, and in the vast majority of cases this would be very simple and straightforward.
Q: Would towing a plough, trailer or bales and livestock, etc. also count for this? Or would this be considered haulage?
A: Again, assessment would be on a case-by-case basis.
If the operation in question can be related to agriculture then the tractor would remain exempt.
However, where a tractor was towing a load of livestock on a commercial basis; for example, he or she is contracted purely to draw the load, and the load is something which could equally be carried by a normal haulage operator, this may be considered commercial haulage and so would require the tractor to be tested.
A good rule of thumb for operators would be to consider whether or not normal haulage operators would offer the same service as that they are considering supplying.
If so, then the tractor would need to have a goods vehicle test.
Q: And what about those who want to take part in tractor runs more than 15 miles away from their base?
A: So long as the operation in question relates to agriculture, the tractor remains exempt.
Where the job is in direct competition with normal hauliers, this could not be said to be an agricultural operation.
Q: When is it expected these rules will be brought into effect in Northern Ireland?
A: The department is aiming to have the new legislation operative by early May 2018. However, this will be subject to the political situation. The legislation will have to be approved by a future minister.