Allowing tractors on motorways makes Ireland the laughing stock of Europe, according to the Irish Road Haulage Association.
Verona Murphy, president of the Hauliers Association, told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport last week Ireland is the only country in the EU that allows tractors on motorways.
“They can be driven on motorways in the Republic of Ireland, providing that the tractor is capable of reaching a minimum speed of 50 km/h.
“In fog or inclement weather conditions, coming upon a vehicle of this nature while driving a HGV capable of a speed of 80 km/h, not to mention a car allowed to travel at 120 km/h, is one’s worst nightmare.
“There have been many incidents of late involving tractors on motorways with near-fatal and, in some cases, fatal consequences.
“In Ireland, there is no requirement to undergo formal training to drive such vehicles and the age of the relevant driver leaves a lot to be desired. This practice must be stopped, with no exceptions, if we are serious about road safety.
“We cannot legally overtake on a motorway, except at the discretion of a garda. What is a HGV driver to do when driving at 80 km/h minimum or maximum speed if he arrives up behind a tractor that is supposed to be doing 50 km/h?
"Our experience is that this is the maximum speed for these tractors in many cases.
“There are exceptions, but they are not really agricultural vehicles. Many of the agricultural tractors have a maximum speed of 50 km/h but that is without towing a trailer.
"If the tractor is towing a trailer and comes to an incline, it cannot maintain that speed.
“They are all supposed to have flashing lights. What they are supposed to do and what the practice is are very different.
“We do not have an issue with slow-speed vehicles such as tractors not being allowed on a motorway,”, the Oireachtas debate was told by Michael Moroney, chief executive officer of the Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors (FCI).
“We would agree that tractors travelling below 50 km/h should not be on a motorway.”
He said it became mandatory from January 2016 for every tractor to have a hazard warning light on it when it is being used on public roads, irrespective of its age or size.
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