Information sheet AGRICULTURAL TRACTORS: a brief guide

Information sheet
This information sheet provides an overview of the safety requirements for agricultural tractors used
on the public road and covers the main points that are likely to arise, but for the definitive
requirements, the regulations themselves or a knowledgeable trade association such as NFU, AEA
or BAGMA should be consulted. Details of how to obtain the regulations are in section 4 below.
1. Overview.
An Agricultural tractor in road vehicle legislation is a vehicle that is designed for, and used solely
for, agricultural purposes. If it is a multi-purpose tractor, used partially for Agricultural purposes,
and partially for general haulage, it is no longer an Agricultural tractor and it must meet the
standards applying to standard road-going haulage vehicles. Haulage vehicles are subject to
„plating‟ and annual testing with VOSA, Operators licence, use of tachographs, and use of white
diesel only.
Agricultural purposes is defined more precisely by HMRC on their website and is interpreted
exactly the same way by the Department for Transport.
The following link gives guidance.
Many Agricultural tractors (when new) are subject to type approval (the government inspection of a
vehicle before it is registered). Other categories are exempt. (Consult the manufacturer for details).
All tractors still need to comply with the standards for road use that apply to all vehicles in Britain.
2. Maximum weight, length and width.
The maximum (gross or fully laden) weight of an agricultural tractor is 24,390 kg. The maximum
weight of an agricultural combination (tractor plus trailer) is also 24,390 kg.
The maximum length of an agricultural tractor is 12m. This is unlikely to be exceeded so it is more
useful to list the maximum length of trailer that is allowed. This is normally 12m. In the case of a
“Composite trailer” (semi-trailer and converter dolly) the maximum length is 14.04m. In the case of
an Agricultural trailed appliance, in other words towed equipment (with gross weight less than
double the unladen weight) the maximum length is 15m.
The maximum width of a tractor (or trailer) is 2.55m. Certain essential parts such as lights and
mirrors can be ignored when measurement of width takes place.
Under special circumstances Agricultural vehicles wider than 2.55m are permitted to use public
roads. The Road Vehicles (Authorisation of Special Types) (General) Order 2003 (known as STGO)
permits the road use of Agricultural vehicles that are up to 4.3 metres in width, subject to terms and
conditions. The key ones are as follows:
Width – between 2.55m and 3m: speed must not exceed 20mph.
Width – between 3m and 3.5m: maximum speed 20mph as above, plus if the journey
is over 5 miles or the speed limit in the road is 40mph or lower, (or both), the operator
must notify the Police in advance of the journey.
Width - between 3.5m and 4.3m: the Police must be notified, the maximum speed is
limited to 12 mph and the vehicle(s) must be accompanied by an attendant, who may
ride in a different vehicle but must ensure no danger is caused to the vehicle or other
road users. The police, following notification, may place restrictions on the use of the
vehicle in the interests of road safety or to avoid undue traffic congestion.
For full details on the requirements applicable to agricultural vehicles wider than 2.55m, the
legislation can be found at:
3. Braking requirements
The braking requirements depend on the speed at which the tractor travels, and its age:
Agricultural tractor used at speeds not exceeding 20mph, or which was manufactured before
1986 – braking efficiency of at least 25% is required. In the event of failure of any part, the brakes
must still be capable of bring the vehicle to rest in a reasonable distance. A mechanical parking
brake is required, which can hold the vehicle stationary on a gradient of at least 16%.
Agricultural tractor manufactured since 1986 and used at speeds exceeding 20 mph - braking
in line with ECE Regulation 13 or EEC Directive 71/320/EEC. Consult the manufacturer to check
whether the tractor complied when it was new. Most tractors do not comply with these requirements
so should only be used at speeds up to and not exceeding 20mph.
4. Amber warning beacon
Tractors which are incapable by design of exceeding 25mph, may be fitted with a flashing or
rotating amber warning beacon, which may be used where necessary to warn other traffic.
If such a tractor is used on an unrestricted (i.e. 70mph national speed limit) dual carriageway, other
than crossing it by the quickest manner practicable, an amber beacon must be fitted and must be
kept on.
Any amber warning beacon fitted, whether voluntarily fitted or required by regulation, must be fitted
in compliance with the requirements of Schedule 16 of RVLR. Schedule 16 requires the centre of
the lamp to be not less than 1200 mm above the ground, and the light to be visible from at least one
beacon (but not necessarily the same beacon) from any point at a reasonable distance from the
vehicle (i.e. through a full 360).
5. Other lighting.
Lights are not required on a tractor which is only used on the road during the hours of daylight, in
conditions of good visibility. If this is the case, the driver is required to use hand signals to indicate
changes of direction and when he is slowing down.
Otherwise, lighting is required as in the table, based on the maximum speed of the tractor and also
when it was first used.
Maximum Speed
Types of lamp required to be fitted
Any speed
Front position lamp (side light)
Rear position lamp (tail light)
Rear retro-reflector
As above, and also
Dipped-beam headlamp *
Direction indicator *
Hazard warning flashers (4 way direction indicators) *
All of the above, and also
Main-beam headlamp *
Rear fog lamp *
Stop lamp *
More than 15 mph
More than 25 mph
* - not required on agricultural vehicles first used before 1 April 1986
Direction indicators are not required on agricultural vehicles (e.g. ATVs) with unladen weight less than 255kg.
6. Maintenance of agricultural tractors in a safe condition: Farm vehicle health check scheme
The manufacturers of agricultural tractors must build vehicles which comply with the rules when
they are new, but it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that the tractor is properly serviced and
maintained so that it remains in a safe condition. This is legally required under various Health and
Safety laws.
To help farmers and contractors achieve this, industry partners have prepared guidance in the form
of a Code of Practice, setting out a Farm Vehicle Health Check scheme. This is available on
BAGMA‟s website and sets out what is required in plain language:
7. The Road Vehicle (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, and the Road Vehicles
Lighting Regulations 1989.
These are the two main sets of regulations governing vehicle construction standards. The first set of
regulations (Construction and Use: or C&U) are not available on the internet, and both sets have
been amended several times, particularly C&U, which makes it difficult to piece together the latest
version of these regulations. However these regulations are available in a consolidated format in
most city reference libraries, from companies who publish law. One example is 'Sweet and Maxwell'
who publish the “The Encyclopaedia of Road Traffic Law and Practice”. This publication is
continually updated and Volume 4 contains full versions of the above-mentioned regulations in
consolidated format. Other possible suppliers include InterRegs, who charge around £160 for a fully
consolidated version of the Construction and Use Regulations. This can be obtained from:
8. Other matters – driving licence
It is important to ensure the correct driving licence entitlement is held. More information is here:
Agricultural tractors are class F, if you have this entitlement you can also use your tractor to draw
any (legal) Agricultural trailer although there are some restrictions for young drivers.
The standard car licence (B) gives entitlement to class F automatically. However it is advisable to
undergo some training and practice off the public road, before driving a tractor for the first time on
the public road.
9. Important disclaimer about this Information Sheet
The views expressed in this Information Sheet are based on the Department‟s current understanding of what the law
means and are not definitive. Only the courts may interpret legislation definitively. If you are in any doubt about your
legal obligations, you should take independent legal advice as this Information Sheet is not a substitute for such
independent legal advice.