The growing numbers of cyclists on rural roads, particularly in groups at the weekend, is becoming a concern for farm contractors.
Speaking at a hearing of the Oireachtas Transport Committee today, Michael Moroney CEO of the Farm Contractors Association (FCI) said the requirement to allow 1.5 metre space to overtake a cyclist is difficult to achieve with tractors in many N and R grade roads.
"While it is legal to cycle two abreast, in many situations FCI members meet groups of cyclists travelling four abreast with little interest in other road users.
"We have noted that some of these cyclists are moving at speeds in excess of 40km/hr while the proposal is that tractors at these speeds have to undergo an NCT test.
"There is no special licence required, no formal training needed and and no NCT on bicycles that are rated for speeds in excess of 40km/hr.
"There are more accidents with cyclists than with tractors," he said.
Use of hard shoulder by tractors
Farm Contractors also hit out at what it called 'considerable hassle' of members by local Gardai who it said have issues of interpretation of some specific regulations as they impact on tractor use on the public road.
"These include issues around the use of hard shoulder issues, is it illegal or not to use them tolet traffic out or is it illegal to create a tailback with a slow moving vehicle?," Moroney said.
He also said the issue of the practical use of L & N plates is a significant concern for FCI Land-Based contractors.
"This is adding more management as in some cases as trailers are changed between tractors, there is little option in some fleets other than to paste an L & N plate on every machine.
"There is also an issue with regard to driver’s with Learner Permit (provisional) W driving licences.
"The RSA has informed FCI that the driver who holds a Learner Permit is required to be accompanied by a qualified driver if there is a passenger seat fitted. If no second seat is fitted in the tractor cab, the driver is not required to be accompanied by a qualified driver," he said.
Tractor testing exemption
The proposed tractor NCT testing will add significant costs for Land-Base Contractors in Ireland, Moroney also said.
"Apart from the new strict proposed compliance costs, there will be huge depreciation costs incurred at a time when there is no need for this. Research data indicates that tractors are involved in just 1% of all road traffic accidents in Europe.
"We are concerned that there has been no consultation with FCI Land-Based contractors even though the proposed legislation mostly impact on FCI members.
"Contractor owned tractors are not involved in farm accidents to the same extent as farmer owned tractors as contractors need to have their machines in top condition all of the time to ensure that they are working to the maximum hours.
"FCI is calling on the option of the exemption from this proposed testing proposals for the Irish market," he said.