All you need to know about the latest developments for the testing of ‘fast’ tractors

News emerged yesterday that ‘fast’ tractors with a maximum design speed of in excess of 40kph being used for “commercial haulage” would be subject to road-worthiness tests if they travel more than 25km from their base.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has confirmed that the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, has already signed the regulations introducing the measure – which will come into effect in May 2018.

A spokesperson for the RSA explained that this measure is not aimed at farmers.

This is only aimed at those who are using fast tractors to conduct commercial haulage business in competition with legitimate commercial haulage business.

The spokesperson also confirmed that the RSA is working on producing guidelines on how the regulations will be implemented in practice. These will be published in the coming weeks.

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

Frequently asked questions

In order to provide clarity on the measures being introduced in relation to the road-worthiness testing of tractors, the RSA has issued a document containing a number of frequently asked questions.

What is a fast tractor?

In terms of the vehicle testing regulations, a ‘fast’ tractor is a wheeled tractor with a maximum design speed exceeding 40kph.

Tractor owners are urged to consult their vehicle manufacturer or one of their authorised Irish distributors if you are unsure of the maximum design speed of your tractor.

Which specific types of ‘fast’ tractors have to be tested?

‘Fast’ tractors – the use of which takes place on public roads for commercial road haulage purposes at a distance exceeding 25km from the address at which the owner ordinarily resides or carries out business – will be required to undergo compulsory road-worthiness testing.

The 25km distance limit is taken as a radial distance (point-to-point distance on a map).

How was the 25km radial distance limit arrived at?

There is an absence of clarity in the new directive (2014/45/EU), in that the phrase “mainly takes place on public roads” is open to interpretation from an enforcement perspective.

Therefore, having regard to the obligation in the directive in respect of introducing compulsory testing for ‘fast’ tractors used for commercial road haulage activities, it has been decided to put a 25km radial distance limit in place to facilitate effective enforcement.

What constitutes commercial road haulage?

Commercial road haulage means carriage of goods or passengers for hire and reward, and carriage of goods by a person in the course of a trade or business carried on by them for the purpose of delivery to a customer in a vehicle owned by that person.

For example, commercial road haulage would include a farmer, agricultural contractor or haulier using a ‘fast’ tractor (and trailer) to provide commercial road haulage services which are not land-based and rely mainly on the public road in delivering the services.

Examples would include delivery of agricultural equipment or produce where there is a contract relating to delivery services – i.e. the collection and delivery of bales of hay, silage, straw etc.

In addition vehicles used for: construction; road building / maintenance; public utility and/or waste collection services; as well as the transportation of plant and machinery will be subject to compulsory testing. It also includes providing delivery services for the local hardware, builder’s provider, co-op or feed merchant etc.

Image source: Kieran Murray Contracting

Commercial businesses such as a quarry, hardware store or creamery/co-op that use a ‘fast’ tractor (and trailer) to deliver their own goods/materials will be in scope of compulsory testing.

Are there any exemptions?

‘Fast’ tractors owned or operated by farmers and agricultural contractors will be exempt in certain circumstances. This is in line with a discretion afforded to member states in the directive.

A farmer driving their ‘fast’ tractor with a trailer / land implement attached between different land holdings of their farm, for the purposes of carrying out agricultural work at such holdings, will be exempted from compulsory testing.

Similarly, an agricultural contractor providing services to farmers – or someone in the horticultural, forestry, farming or fisheries sector – would also be exempted provided the road haulage element of the activity is not the principle objective of the service provided by the contractor.

Examples of exempted activities would include silage and crop harvesting, as the haulage element is secondary to the principle ‘crop harvesting’ activity.
Image source: Galway Agri Videos / Conor Ryan

Where will they be tested?

It is planned that ‘fast’ tractors will be tested by the CVRT (Commercial Vehicle Road-worthiness Test) testing network in (Heavy Commercial Vehicle) HCV test centres.

The RSA is currently working with the CVRT testing network to establish a network of test centres to be authorised to test ‘fast’ tractors, but the expected volume of testing will not justify all HCV CVRT test centres offering this service.

tractors
Image source: Adrian Leech Photography

A list of all CVRT HCV test centres capable of delivering ‘fast’ tractor testing will be published online before the May 2018 implementation date. This will be accompanied by a comprehensive communications plan to notify the relevant stakeholders involved.

From when will it become a legal requirement to test fast tractors?

‘Fast’ tractors used for commercial road haulage purposes will require a test from May 20, 2018. The first test will be due when the vehicle is four years old (from the fourth anniversary of first registration) and thereafter every two years.

What if my tractor is already more than four years old on May 20, 2018 and I am using it for commercial road haulage purposes?

You will need to book it in for a test as soon as possible and the Certificate of Road-worthiness (CRW) that issues following the successful completion of the test will be valid for two years from the date of test.

This is provided that the test is carried out before August 20, 2018. A three-month grace period has been provided for in the regulations.

Vehicle owners/operators who have vehicles which are due a test on May 20, 2018 – due to being more than four years old – but who fail to test them before August 20, 2018 will receive a CRW which is valid for two years from May 20, 2018 until May 20, 2020.

Therefore there will be no advantage in delaying the testing of your vehicle.

‘Fast’ tractors reaching the fourth anniversary of first registration after May 20, 2018 will be due their first test when the fourth anniversary is reached and thereafter every two years.

What about the trailer I am towing behind my tractor that is being used for commercial road haulage purposes. Does it need to be tested too?

No changes are being introduced from May 20, 2018 in terms of the introduction of compulsory road-worthiness testing for trailers being towed by fast tractors.

Only category O3 and O4 trailers (i.e. heavy goods trailers) are currently subject to compulsory testing (when one-year-old and thereafter annually).

Trailers towed by ‘fast’ tractors (category R trailers) can be classified and tested as heavy goods trailers if required, but it is not a legal requirement. However they must be licensed with local authority in which they are ordinarily kept and fitted with a ‘Weights and Dimensions Plate’ before they can be tested.

What is the penalty for using a vehicle without a valid CRW?

Using a vehicle without a valid CRW may result in a mandatory court appearance – whereby, on conviction, a fine (not exceeding €5,000) or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months – or both – may be imposed.

Five penalty points would also apply on conviction.

How much will the test cost?

The test fees are as follows and mirror those applicable to Heavy Commercial Vehicles (HCVs) with a similar Design Gross Vehicle Weight (DGVW).

What will the test entail?

The test will be a maintenance and condition check of the vehicle and it will include a check of items – braking, lighting, steering and suspension systems etc – necessary to assure a minimum standard of road-worthiness of the vehicle.

Essentially it will mirror the test currently carried out on Heavy Commercial Vehicles (HCVs), but it will be modified where necessary to suit the design characteristics of ‘fast’ tractors.

The RSA is preparing a dedicated test manual specific to this vehicle category and this will be publicly available online in advance of the May 2018 implementation date.

Image source: Adrian Leech Photography

It is also intended to consult key stakeholders on the draft text of this manual in the coming months before it is finalised.

I use my tractor for commercial road haulage purposes. Will I be able to tax it without a valid CRW?

It is envisaged that motor tax applications in respect of fast tractors at the general haulage rate will not be able to proceed unless the applicant provides valid CRW details at the application stage for the vehicle concerned.

As such, the RSA will be working with the Driver Vehicle and Computer Services Division of the Deptartment of Transport, Tourism and Sport to have the necessary changes made to the motor tax IT system in time for the May 20, 2018 implementation deadline.