Contractors: ‘Young tractor drivers have an important role to play’

“Many older farmers, rather than young tractor drivers, are the tragic victims of fatal farm accidents” according to the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI), which added that young tractor drivers “have an important role to play” in Irish agri contracting.

The FCI said it welcomed the call by Fine Gael senator Tim Lombard to review the situation with regard to tractor driving licences.

The association’s national chairman Richard White said: “FCI has already sought a meeting with Minister for State for Farm Safety, Martin Heydon, and we would also welcome the opportunity to discuss these important issues with senator Lombard.”

White highlighted that FCI, as part of the European farm contractor group CEETTAR, has called for a European tractor driving licence.

This licence, he said, would “improve safety standards as well as allowing young people with tractor skills to avail of equal employment opportunities and experiences across farm contracting business throughout Europe”.

Continuing, the chairman said:

“FCI believes that young tractor drivers have an important role to play in the farm contractor sector in Ireland where they bring skills, energy and enthusiasm to a €700 million per annum farm contracting service that drives Irish agriculture through the use of modern and efficient mechanisation systems.

“Farm contractors in Ireland have invested in modern and safe tractors and machinery while working to nurture the skills of young people so that they become safe and responsible users of farm machinery,” he added.

While the latest farm fatality statistics are indeed alarming and remain a cause for national concern, the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) evidence clearly shows that unfortunately many older farmers, rather than young tractor drivers, are the tragic victims of fatal farm accidents.

“At FCI we have worked with the Road Safety Authority and the Garda Road Traffic Corps to help improve standards of road safety when it comes to operating agricultural tractors and machinery on the public roads,” the chairman said.

“It is disappointing that senator Lombard has targeted young people working in rural-based farm contracting operations with his comments.

“The road accident reports, other than social media comment, show that the relatively low levels of tractor-related road accidents confirm that the farm contractor sector is one that accepts its responsibility when it comes to training young drivers, who start their careers with a learner permit,” White concluded.