Agricultural contractors have welcomed the roll back by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport on proposed tractor testing measures.

Following a stakeholder meeting yesterday, it was revealed that the department would start from scratch relating to the road-worthiness testing of tractors and begin a consultation process with relevant stakeholders.

Yesterday’s meeting was attended by various farm organisations, including the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI).

It welcomed the opportunity to take part in the upcoming consultation process – in advance of the implementation of any road-worthiness test for agricultural tractors in May 2018.

Also Read: Department set to roll back on ‘fast’ tractor testing measures

At a meeting organised by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) in October, it was revealed that the Minister for Transport Shane Ross had signed a Statutory Instrument (SI) to enforce regulations relating to the road-worthiness testing of ‘fast’ tractors (those with a maximum design speed exceeding 40kph).

However, the department – this week – did admit to not honouring the commitment for consultation between various farm organisations prior to drafting any regulations.

The FCI is prepared to negotiate with the minister and his department to ensure that agricultural contractors’ tractors – that have a maximum design speed in excess of 40kph – will be exempt from testing, on a number of conditions, according to the association’s chairman Richard White.

White argued that ‘fast’ tractors should be exempt from testing if they are involved in the transport of:
  • Agricultural produce;
  • Crops, forage and biomass crops – such as hay, silage and straw bales;
  • Woodchip and biomass materials;
  • Low-value animal feeds derived from a distilling or brewing process;
  • Sludge waste materials being used for land spreading – directly to a farm, or from a farm to a farm, or from a farm to processing area.

“Most farm and forestry contractors are not involved in commercial haulage, while the nature of the contracting business is to provide a valuable and cost-effective machinery service to farmers – for reward.

“FCI members who are involved in commercial haulage activities alongside their farm and forestry contracting operations are aware of their legal obligations and are prepared to have tractors – rated at more than 40kph – tested for road-worthiness, but we need a fair and agreed test to begin with,” White said.

Significant costs

The national chairman of the FCI fears that the current SI could 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.

Meanwhile, the FCI is “particularly concerned” with how the SI was signed by the minister without an opportunity for consultation.

White added: “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.

“We are now seeking that this SI 413 of 2017 be rescinded. We are confident that – with proper consultations – we can work together to formulate a practical and workable sensible definition of the use of contractor-operated agricultural tractors for agricultural activities on Irish roads.”

The FCI has encouraged its 1,100-strong membership base to contact their local TDs in order to seek a change to this SI – to prevent unnecessary costs on Irish farmers for the transport of agricultural produce across reasonable distances, in keeping with traditional and fragmented Irish farming structure.