Tractor drivers may have to take HGV licence test in ‘overly tough’ proposal

MOVES ARE afoot to bring the licence requirements for driving a tractor on the road in line with the heavy goods vehicles regime. Proposals within a UK Government consultation include moving the licence requirement for agricultural tractors from a category F to a category C. If this were to be put in place, tractor drivers could face training and additional tests which currently costs lorry drivers thousands of pounds and can take months to complete the entire process.

The Department for Transport stated: “There are some concerns that people using the category F driving licence (which is granted concurrently with a category B licence) are taking unfair advantage of the rules to drive very large tractors with very heavy loads. “It is believed this is not in the spirit of the legislation. Category F is to help farmers and other agricultural and forestry workers drive short distances with heavy equipment for off-road work.

“When larger tractors are used on the road for longer periods towing heavy loads, some stakeholders maintain that this should fall into the category C regime, and not the category F regime.” The DfT continued: “With the advances in technology, vehicle types and the shift in emissions and load carrying capacity, we believe it is time to review the way this testing (and the associated training) is carried out. We are seeking views on whether consideration of changes to the current regime is appropriate.”

NFU Scotland’s transport adviser Jamie Smart said: “My initial take on this online consultation is that it is an overreaction that would make it extremely difficult to attract and maintain the workforce required by the agricultural industry were all tractor drivers to require an HGV licence to drive a tractor. “I believe these proposals have more to do with addressing competition with the haulage industry rather than road safety around the use of tractors. “Existing rules, if sensibly enforced by the relevant authorities, already prevent competition with the road haulage industry.

“I believe that would take away concerns over competition rather than require the need for overly tough licensing arrangements for tractor drivers. “I can understand concerns around tractors on road safety grounds, but these proposals go too far for those driving vehicles that don’t go faster than 40mph and only travel over short distances. “It is already a challenge for people to get a tractor or car driving test and any additional requirements would make it increasingly difficult for young people in rural areas to qualify.

“That is a worry when we are already short of numbers for a skilled, trained workforce.

“Given changes to the agricultural tractor fleet and different farming practices, NFUS accepts that proportionate changes, agreed in discussion with the Department for Transport, may be appropriate.

We are in consultation with fellow farming unions, and this will be on the agenda when NFU Scotland’s Legal and Technical committee meets next month.”