New regulations keep agricultural vehicles in line with key road safety considerations.

This time of year is very busy time for farmers, with silage cutting and grain harvesting under way.

Over the summer months, as farm machinery increases on the road, there have been cases reported in the media of agricultural vehicles being stopped by the Gardaí for breaches of road traffic legislation.

Since January 1, 2016, new regulations have come into force, in an effort to address the significant changes in agricultural technology, and keep agricultural vehicles in line with key road safety considerations.

There were many changes; some of which related to braking, lighting and visibility and speed discs.

I will outline some of the changes.

Braking

The regulations require more advanced braking systems for agricultural vehicles and their trailers, especially if they are travelling at speeds in excess of 40km/hour.

The new standards apply not just to agricultural trailers, but also to slurry tankers, fertiliser or manure spreaders, and grain chaser bins.

The newly devised regulations stipulate that if an agricultural trailer has the ability to carry three or more times its unladen weight, then the new regulations would apply for towing vehicle travel at speeds in excess of 40km/hour.

Lighting and Visibility

Agricultural tractors and self-propelled agricultural machines must now be equipped with full lighting systems at all times.

However, an exemption is provided from this requirement for agricultural tractors and self-propelled agricultural machines manufactured or first registered prior to January 1, 1980, and also for any agricultural trailer, fully mounted agricultural equipment, or piece of interchangeable, towed equipment, being drawn by or attached to them — provided such a vehicle or combination of vehicles are being used during daylight hours only.

Furthermore, it is necessary that they are fitted with a working flashing amber beacon, which must be lit when the tractor is in operation in public places, whether it is day or night, unless they are vintage agricultural tractors taking place in vintage rallies.

The rules require all towed equipment to be equipped with side lamps, rear lamps, stop lamps, indicators and lights on number plates.

If an agricultural trailer is coupled with an agricultural vehicle such as a tractor, and the overall length of the combination is 10 metres, it is now a requirement that the towed piece of equipment be fitted with a marker lamp on their right hand side.

All agricultural vehicles with a design gross vehicle weight over 3,500kg must be fitted with reflective rear markings.

Additional markings are required for combinations of agricultural vehicles that are more than 10 metres in length, and they must have reflective side markings.

Where you have a combination that is more than 13 metres in length a rear “long vehicle” sign must be fitted.

However, the “long vehicle” sign requirement is not necessary on slurry tankers, fertilisers, manure spreaders and grain chaser bins.

Penalties

The fixed charge driving offences system which we normally associate with speeding and cars is also applicable to agricultural vehicles.

If you fail to pay the fixed penalty notice within the prescribed time limits, you will be served with a summons to court, and if convicted, you could receive a fine not exceeding €2,500, or be given a prison sentence, or both.

With the exception of where it can be shown that the use of the vehicle is unauthorised, both the owner of the vehicle and whoever is driving it when the offence is recorded can be fined.

Most correctly maintained tractors already in use in Ireland comply with the revised standards introduced.

It is important to ensure that any new vehicle being purchased complies with the regulations and, in the case of an older vehicle, it is advisable to have it inspected by a suitably qualified expert.

Those that do not comply are likely to need only minor remedial works.

Only a few of the regulations are included in this article, the regulations are available to view on the www.rsa.ie website.


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