The current legislation states that a tractor is not supposed to exceed 32kph (20mph) and the legal weight limit for agricultural vehicles is 24.39t for the tractor, trailer and the trailer’s contents (known as the Gross Train Weight or GTW).
Bodies such as the NFU are of the belief that the legislation creating such limits is outdated and in urgent need of amendment. By way of example, the average tractor in 2013 has 150-250hp under the bonnet and a top speed of 50kph. Both tractor and the trailer are heavier, as is the weight of what’s in the trailer, so many farmers are unwittingly driving tractors and trailers that exceed the current limits.
Raising the maximum speed limit to a still-modest 25mph (40kph) is one change being proposed. Raising the GTW from 24.39t to 31 or 33t (depending on how many axles you have and the wheel spacing) is the other.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has done its own studies into the pros and cons of these changes and has now put the proposed changes out for comment from anyone who has an interest in the subject.
The consultation ends on 30 January 2014. That isn’t the end of the process, though, as civil servants have to establish whether the changes are workable and which ones will pass into the legislation.
We’re not likely to know the answer until the consultation period is over. The hoped for changes in speed limits are probably fairly straightforward, since they involve a very modest change from 32kph to 40kph (20mph to 25mph).
Though most farmers will not welcome it, a test of some sort does look on the cards if this new legislation is adopted. The favoured option is a two-tier system that would involve some form of voluntary roadworthiness testing.
For those not wanting to have their tractors and trailers tested, the situation would remain as it currently stands – a 20mph (32kph) top speed and 24.39t gross train weight.
However, operators willing to put their machinery through an annual test would be able to travel at more than 20mph and run at higher train weights.
Gepp & Sons have a dedicated team of lawyers advising and defending private and agricultural clients on all aspects of motoring law. For further information or advice please contact Peter Butterfield on 01245 493939
The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.