Driving a quad on the farm: Tips and best practice advice

The use of quad bikes is becoming more and more common on farms – with many farmers viewing their quad as an essential piece of equipment.

However, there have been a number of fatalities involving quads in recent years and the potential for a serious accident when using a quad is high, according to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA).

Looking at the general safe use of quads in agriculture, off the road, the authority offers advice on maintenance, driving and operating with loads.

The HSA firstly stresses that formal professional training is vital – and it is a legal requirement under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and the General Application Regulations 2007.

Under the 2005 Act, an employer must provide such instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure the health and safety of their employees.

In effect this means that the employer (the farmer) must provide adequate training and ensure that quads are only ridden by employees (which may be the farmer himself) who have received appropriate training in their safe use, including the use of any towed equipment or attachments.

Turning to personal protective equipment, the HSA says head protection is vital. Helmets significantly reduce the number and severity of serious head injuries. Operators should always wear an approved helmet.

quads garda accident wicklow

The authority warns that one should never carry a passenger on a quad bike. The long seat is for active riding, operators shifting their body weight backwards and forwards for different slope conditions, and is not for carrying passengers.

The authority advises quad users, over rough terrain, to get to know your own ground and stick to planned routes where possible – walking new routes if needed to check for hidden obstructions or rutting of the ground.

Maintenance

Safety checks and maintenance are important to keep the quad in good working order – and avoid accidents.

Quad users should regularly check:
  • The tyres – ensuring that suitable tyres are used and are at the recommended pressure using a gauge;
  • The brakes and throttle – checking that the brakes give a safe straight stop and the throttle operates smoothly in all steering positions;
  • The controls – ensuring controls for selecting forward, neutral or reverse are in good order and are clearly marked in the rider’s field of vision.

Turning to safe driving methods, the HSA warns that most quads have no differential – meaning when you turn, the quad tries to keep going in a straight line.

Driving

When cornering on a quad with no differential, or with the differential engaged, your body weight needs to be positioned depending on how sharp the corner is and on how fast you are going, the authority says.

quad bike

For slow cornering you should put your body weight on the footrest on the outside of the turn while leaning your upper body into the turn.

This will allow the inside driving wheel to skid slightly, allowing the quad to make the turn properly.

At faster turning speeds the need for weight transfer to the outside of the turn decreases:
  • If your quad has a differential and it is disengaged, when cornering your weight should be transferred to the inside of the turn;
  • When riding across a slope, keep your weight on the uphill side of the quad;
  • When going downhill, slide your weight backwards and select a low gear, reducing the need to use the brakes;
  • When going uphill, move your weight forwards and maintain a steady speed.

These positions can be made more effective for rough ground and higher speeds by “active riding” – standing in a stooped position. This increases the ability to shift weight quickly and maintain stability.

It is important to keep both feet on the footrests at all times, the HSA stresses – and to avoid sudden increases in speed, as this is a common cause of rearward overturning accidents, even from a standing start on flat ground where there is good grip.

Never put your foot onto the ground to stabilise a quad when riding.

Loads

When using trailed equipment or putting loads on the quad, it’s important that all riders know the manufacturer’s recommended towing capacity and drawbar loading limit – and operate within these limits.

Check the weight ratio between your quad and its trailed load. This needs to be assessed for each operation. These loads should be reduced when working on slopes, uneven ground or poor surface conditions.

Loads carried on racks must be well secured, for example with ratchet straps, and be evenly balanced between the front and rear, except where they are deliberately altered to aid stability when going up or down a slope.