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Tuesday 21 November 2017

Advice: Tractor 'NCT' is unlikely to be an issue for most farmers

It is unlikely that tractors used on farms and for farming purposes (as opposed to commercial hauling) will be required to undergo tests
It is unlikely that tractors used on farms and for farming purposes (as opposed to commercial hauling) will be required to undergo tests

Theresa Murphy

Q In the last few weeks there has been a lot of talk about the need to have an NCT or road worthiness test for tractors. I am a part time farmer with a fairly small holding and I do most of the machinery work in an older tractor to avoid the costs of buying a new and expensive tractor. I just cannot justify buying an expensive/newer tractor from the farm income and I am afraid that I will have to upgrade.

A As the busy silage season approaches many farmers will be looking at the condition of the machinery both from a safety and maintenance prospective

The RSA have introduced new regulations since January 2016 relating to braking systems, lighting and weight limits, including:

More powerful braking systems will be required for agricultural vehicles operating at speeds in excess of 40km/h. Most of the correctly maintained tractors which have come into use in the past 30 years already meet these requirements.

Agricultural vehicles will need to be equipped with appropriate lighting systems, flashing amber beacons and reflective markings.

Trailers operating at weights exceeding 19 and 22.5 tonnes for tandem and triaxle trailers respectively, or at speeds exceeding 40 kilometres per hour, will require fitment of both a weights and dimensions plate and a speed disc.

New national weight limits are being introduced. These will enable tractor and trailer combinations which are unplated to continue in use at limits which are safe for such vehicles.

This includes combinations of agricultural tractors and trailers, where either of them is unplated, will have their maximum towable mass capped at three times the tractor's unladen weight.

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Plated tractors and trailer combinations will benefit from being able to operate at higher weight limits of up to 24 and 34 tonnes for tandem and triaxle agricultural trailers respectively that meet certain additional requirements:

- They must be plated

- They must be fitted with a flexible suspension system

- They must be fitted with flotation tyres for operation at 10 tonnes per axle in the case of a tandem axle trailer or 9 tonnes per axle in the case of a triaxle trailer

- They must be fitted with a steered or steering axles if they have an axle spacing of 1.8 metres or greater.

Exemptions from compliance with the revised national weight limits and plating requirements are being provided for certain types of interchangeable towed equipment such as slurry tankers, manure or fertiliser spreaders and grain chaser bins.

The recent debate about the possibility of introducing a requirement for an NCT or roadworthiness test for tractors is due to the introduction of an EU regulation.

The regulation was introduced for the compulsory testing of tractors used for commercial road haulage purposes with a maximum design speed exceeding 40km/hr (fast tractors) and the use of which takes place mainly on a public road.

The main question facing farmers is whether or not their tractor will require testing.

Although the RSA have not yet given full details on what will be meant by 'fast tractors' the EU regulation is clear that the purpose and reason behind these new regulations is to increase safety standards.

This is because tractors (with a maximum design speed exceeding 40 km/h) are being increasingly used to replace trucks in transport activities and for commercial road haulage purposes.

The EU see the risk potential in this activity as comparable to that of trucks which are used mainly on public roads and have decided that they, like trucks, should be subject to roadworthiness testing.

The EU regulations give each member country the power to exclude vehicles used for agricultural, horticultural, forestry, farming or fishery purposes within that country from the need for roadworthiness testing.

The purpose of the legislation is clearly aimed at tractors used for purposes other than agriculture and so the power to exclude agricultural tractors from the requirement lies with the Irish Road Safety Authority.

It is unlikely that tractors used on farms and for farming purposes (as opposed to commercial haulage) will be required to undergo the proposed road worthiness test when it comes into effect in May 2018.

There is a requirement on the owner and/or operator of every vehicle driven on a public road to ensure that they are roadworthy.

Even if the new regulations requiring an NCT type test for agricultural tractors does not apply to farmers, it is in everyone's interest to safely maintain the tractors used.

This article is intended as a general guide only. You should seek professional advice in relation to individual circumstances.

Theresa Murphy is a barrister based in Ardrahan, Co Galway

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