Tractors and dump trailers seized: What does the law say?

A regular AgriLand reader – an Irish agricultural contractor – sent us a Facebook post that he was alerted to by colleagues in the UK.

The Facebook post was on NWP (North Wales Police) Roads Policing Unit’s page.

It depicts two tractors – a fourth-generation Valtra T Series and an R Series John Deere – and dump trailers. The post stated that the equipment had been seized on February 9 with “help from colleagues from the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency)”.

Image source: North Wales Police Twitter page
The reason for the seizure was due to the vehicles “being used with the incorrect category of license”. The post also stated: “For general haulage, you need an operator’s license, tachograph, HGV driving license, general haulage road tax and diesel that isn’t red.”

Many readers will know that agricultural (or rebated) diesel in the UK is dyed red, whereas it’s ‘green’ in the Republic of Ireland.

While North Wales Police and the DVSA are presumably implementing the legislation as it stands (in the UK), the seizure of tractors (in incidents such as this) does have a particular resonance for agricultural (and especially plant/construction) contractors here in Ireland.

This is amidst the ongoing confusion over the definition of “commercial haulage” here in Ireland – and whether or not ‘fast tractors’ owned and operated by agricultural contractors will fall under the remit of proposed tractor road-worthiness tests.

Also Read: ‘Grave concerns’ over the role of agri contractors following tractor testing meeting

Comments beneath the NWP Roads Policing Unit’s post were varied. Some were supportive of the enforcement action.

For example, one poster stated: “About time this was cracked down on. It does haulage firms out of work and most, if not all, of these law breakers don’t have the right licence. What gives them the right to break the rules everyone else has to follow ? [We] need a lot more enforcement like this.”

Others were clearly calling such regulations (or enforcement actions) into question. One wrote: “Joke; coming down on guys just trying to make an honest living.”

The NWP Roads Policing Unit also posted about the incident on its Twitter page; it attracted several responses. One read as follows: “‏Should be crushed, as today won’t be the first time they’ve been on the road using red derv.”

Another simply said: “Well done.”

Of course, the exact context is not clear from these posts (and replies). Were these tractors owned by plant and construction companies and being used solely for such duties?

Or, alternatively, were these tractors owned by farmers or agricultural contractors and being used only for occasional construction-related activities? Indeed, were they being used for such activities at all?

It does beg a further question; if a particular tractor is used (even very infrequently) for what might be deemed “commercial haulage” does it effectively fall into the category of a HGV?

What is ‘commercial haulage’?

Meanwhile, FCI (Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland) is pushing hard to establish that work carried out by its members effectively exempts such tractors from testing – on the basis that such vehicles are not “haulage tractors”.

Image source: Shane Casey
The FCI stated: “The work of land-based agricultural contractors in Ireland is very clear. Our work activity:
  1. Is carried out by a person engaged in an agricultural, horticultural, forestry, farming or fisheries undertaking;
  2. Is for the purpose only of that agricultural, horticultural, forestry, farming or fisheries undertaking; and
  3. Is ancillary to, as the case may be, the agricultural, horticultural, forestry, farming or fisheries activities of that undertaking.”

The FCI says that, in such scenarios, its members’ ‘fast tractors’ (where ‘fast’ means in excess of 40kph) are “used solely for the transport and transfer of agricultural crops from the field to the farm or for the transfer of farm-waste from the farmyard to the field and other agricultural activities”.

Certainly, such a case can be made for tractors involved in, say, silage harvesting activities.

Image source: Shane Casey

But if a ‘fast tractor’ is – on the other hand – towing a dump trailer to or from a construction site (or hauling a low-loader with, say, a tracked excavator on board), it is difficult to see how such a vehicle would not be considered to be engaged in “commercial haulage”.

Watch this space…