Tractor Trailer Consultation

IOSH invites members to contribute to its response on the Government’s consultation on increasing the permitted weights and speeds of agricultural trailers on the road. This is running until 30th January 2014.

This official Consultation is being carried out by Department for Transport (DfT) after many years of discussion and lobbying by the industry and it has been widely advertised in the farming media. Obviously members may respond to the DfTr directly but IOSH would welcome members comments on any aspect of the issues raised in the documents. Please consider the consultation questions and send any comments you may have to by 14 January 2014.

Your views are sought on whether the speed limit should be increased to 25mph and whether the weight limit for tractors and trailers should be increased to 31t, or up to 33t or 37t (for a tri-axle trailer with ‘road-friendly’ suspension).

In order to qualify for the increased weights a voluntary industry-led vehicle test is also proposed. The DfTr’s consultation also seeks views on other policy options which could be considered. 

It is suggested in the supporting documents (which include ‘Impact Assessments’) that increasing the weight and speed limits for agricultural vehicles could enable farmers to transport produce more efficiently.  The NFU points out that the current regulations - which date from 1986 - do not reflect the technological capabilities and carrying capacity of modern tractors and trailers. The NFU is also calling for any vehicle or trailer tests to be proportionate to both the risk and the benefit in terms of the weight to be gained, and also not prohibitively costly.

Before responding, you are also urged to read the useful summary of the current legal position in GB, a comparison with legal requirements and practice in other EU countries, and implications of the possible changes.  However, please note that it has just been reported that the EU proposals aimed at ‘cutting road accident fatalities to zero’ by requiring agricultural vehicles (including tractors and trailers) to be routinely tested may be shelved. This would also have required a new registration system for trailers, and the annual test would have included all agricultural trailers, even livestock trailers.

In addition to other considerations and the specific consultation questions, members may also wish to consider the following:

Driver training: while improving the standards of design and maintenance of agricultural vehicles used on the road will also improve the safety of equipment used off-road (not just on farms, but also estates, in forestry, etc), specific driver training is also required, particularly given that:   

  • The current and proposed speed limits are apparently already exceeded by some. 
  • Many young and inexperienced operators are traditionally employed to carry out transport duties, particularly at harvest time, when they will operate combinations of tractors and trailer weighing the same as HGVs, yet having none of the statutory safeguards applied to the transport industry.

Braking efficiency: previous research into vehicle condition on farms carried out by the British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Association (BAGMA) and their more recent experience of actually testing hundreds of tractor/trailer brakes indicates that a very high proportion of trailers do not comply with current standards in terms of braking efficiency.  This was reported at the recent Machinery Safety Workshop convened by IOSH Rural Industries Group  when it was revealed that 85% of hydraulic brake systems failed to comply and even more (88%) of air brakes did not comply. Many mistakenly believe that pneumatic brake systems are better and infallible.

Members are urged to consider the options and read the related information before forming a view and responding, directly to the Department for Transport, as well as informing IOSH - either by completing our questionnaires via the above links or contacting us by email. IOSH require your comments by 14 January 2014, to enable IOSH to formulate our collective response before the end of the official consultation period at the end of January.