With a 13-year-old boy stopped by Northern police for driving a tractor under the legal age limit it’s important to remind farmers of the legal position of children driving tractors here in the Republic.

According to Teagasc Health and Safety Officer John McNamara, the age at which children should first be allowed to drive a tractor has been debated numerous times at official level.

He said from a farmer’s point of view the current age limits are fair and many might say they are too strict.

However, he said people from a non-farming background are very concerned about the age limits.

McNamara said Teagasc is encouraging farmers to read the code of practice on Preventing Accidents to Children and Young Persons in Agriculture.

“Farmers should read this in its entirety and work together with their children to ensure safe operation of machinery,” he said.

Driving tractors on the farm

Children under the age of 14 must not be allowed to drive or operate tractors or mechanically propelled machines such as teleporters, jeeps, ATVs etc.

In addition to this, a child or young person aged 14 or over should only be permitted to drive a tractor or mechanically propelled machine on the farm, if:

  • They have attended a formal training course run by a competent training provider, and have received adequate instruction in the safe operation of the particular tractor or mechanically propelled machine they are driving and fully understand the purpose of all the controls and the effect of their improper use;
  • They are closely supervised by a responsible adult;
  • They have the ability to operate the controls with ease;
  • All the controls are conveniently accessible for safe operation by the operator when seated in the driver’s seat;
  • The controls which operate the power take off (PTO) devices, hydraulic devices and engine cut-off are clearly marked to show the effect of their operation;
  • The tractor or mechanically propelled machine is maintained so that it is safe for them to operate;
  • The ground over which the tractor or mechanically propelled machine is driven is free from hazards such as steep slopes or excavations, river banks, lake or pond edges, deep ditches and similar areas.

You must also ensure that:

  • No other child or young person is present on the tractor or mechanically propelled machine;
  • Other than for the purposes of supervision or instruction, no other person is on any trailer or other equipment being towed;
  • In relation to ATV’s that you consider the manufacturers minimum age recommendations;
  • No other person is in the immediate vicinity.

Driving on the Road

To drive a tractor you must have a category W licence, according to the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

The minimum age at which you may apply for a category W licence is 16.

Furthermore the RSA says any vehicle used in a public place must be covered by third party insurance as required by legislation.

A public place includes the public roads, a mart and a factory yard.

Third party insurance cover is also required on all trailers even where the trailer is not being drawn by a tractor, it says.

When did you start driving tractors?

Following this case coming to light Agriland has decided to find out when Irish farmers first start driving tractors.

It’s a commonly held view in the farming community that farmers sons and daughters start driving at a young age.

A straw poll in the Agriland office found ages ranging between 7-16 for a first tractor drive.

Most farmers remember vividly the first time they took control in the cab for the first time usually as a result of incessant nagging for the weeks, months if not years precededing the event.

When did you start:

[poll id=”11″]