Contractors call for ‘unworkable’ tractor testing legislation to be scrapped

Unworkable‘ legislation relating to the road-worthiness testing of tractors involved in commercial haulage needs to be rescinded.

This is the view of the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI) following a meeting called by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) in Naas, Co. Kildare, earlier today.

The FCI claims that a Statutory Instrument (SI 214 of 2017) to enforce a regulation relating to the road-worthiness testing of tractors capable of speeds in excess of 40kph (‘fast’ tractors) has already been signed by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross. It specifically relates to tractors being used for “commercial haulage”.

Also Read: Haulage: ‘Fast’ tractors travelling more than 25km from base liable for testing

It is alleged that this SI was signed on Thursday, September 21 – the final day of the National Ploughing Championships in Screggan, Co. Offaly – following no consultation with farming bodies, including the FCI.

FCI
Image source: Lorraine Kirk Photography

Various stakeholders were reportedly made aware of a 25km radius limit regulation for ‘fast’ tractors, involved in the haulage of even agricultural produce, at today’s meeting. The FCI believes this regulation is totally unworkable in Irish farming conditions.

According to the FCI, the SI in question states that tractors with a maximum design speed exceeding 40kph – the use of which takes place on public roads for commercial road haulage purposes – are limited to a distance of 25km from the address at which the owner ordinarily resides or carries out business, unless they undertake a road-worthiness test.

The RSA has reportedly defined commercial road haulage as “to include the delivery of agricultural equipment or produce, where there is a contract relating to a delivery service and that includes the collection and delivery of bales of hay, straw and silage”.

Farmers to suffer ‘significant costs’ as a result

Commenting on the revelation, the national chairman of the FCI, Richard White, said: “The FCI believes that this will add significant costs to farmers, who will be forced to engage road haulage contractors to move bales from many out-farms in Irish winter conditions.

There is huge concern that this rule will force many smaller and older tractors, which are designed for speeds less than 40kph, into duty with added road safety risks – and it will also force other farmers to try and bring trucks down roads for which they were not designed.

“The FCI will be seeking the extension of this limit to 100km from the base of the contractor’s activities, for the haulage of all agricultural produce to include bales of silage, hay and straw, in addition to biomass products and biological fertilisers,” he added.

FCI

‘Broken promises’

The association representing farm and forestry contractors in Ireland is also particularly concerned with the way the SI was reportedly brought into law.

It outlined that it has been requesting – and was promised – meetings with the RSA since the start of this year, on the policy issues around the use of tractors for commercial activities.

Concluding, White said: “We have been told for months that we, along with others, would be consulted in advance of any legislation.

This has not happened and the RSA and the Department of Transport have brought in legislation by stealth. They have broken their promise of consultation, which leaves us suspicious that their motives are not entirely based on road safety concerns.

“We are now seeking that this SI 214 of 2017 be totally and immediately rescinded. We are demanding that proper consultations take place with all stakeholders to formulate working policy directions for the sensible definition of the use of agricultural tractors for commercial activities on Irish roads.”