Clarifying the rules for young tractor drivers

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Young people are a vital help to family farms in Northern Ireland. Many farm duties involve tractors so it is import to understand the requirements for young tractor drivers and make sure they are legal.

Age 13 years up to 16 years

Although it is not permitted to drive a tractor on the public road below the age of 16, from age 13 a person can drive a tractor (fitted with enclosed, approved safety cabs) during agricultural, horticulture and forestry FIELD operations. However, anyone between the ages of 13-18 must complete a formal LANTRA approved driving assessment. This is a requirement of ‘The Agriculture (Safety of children and young person’s) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006’ and ‘Approved Code of Practice (ACoP)’. For further information regarding course providers please contact LANTRA or CAFRE.

Age 16

When a person reaches 16 years old they can apply for their provisional licence which will include provisional category F entitlement. This allows the person to drive a tractor (not tracked vehicles) on the road but only in the course of agricultural operations or taking, proceeding to or returning from a category F driving test.  However, a provisional category F holder is not allowed to travel within 30mph speed limits at any time.  A provisional category F licence holder is also restricted to driving tractors with an overall width not exceeding 2.45 metres, and is limited to pulling trailers with an overall width not exceeding 2.45 metres.  

A 16 year old provisional licence holder can complete a DVA tractor test (only available at some centres) to gain full category F entitlement.  This would allow the licence holder to drive within 30mph limits. The 2.45 metres overall width restriction (for tractor and trailer) continues to apply until aged 17 years.

Any trailer drawn by a category F licence holder, with either provisional or full entitlement, must be two-wheeled or close-coupled four-wheeled.

Age 17

Once a provisional licence holder successfully completes their driving test, their category F entitlement automatically becomes a full entitlement allowing them to drive within the conditions of all other full category F licence holders.

These regulations all apply to agricultural tractors so it is imperative that your tractor is taxed as an agricultural machine. It must also be noted that tractors must only tow implements or trailers that are compatible and within the legally plated weight limits.

Persons who have passed their driving test after 1st January 1997 must complete a separate trailer test in order to tow a trailer over 750kg (laden) behind a motor vehicle (cars and jeeps). You can complete this test at several DVA testing centres and successful completion will award you the B + E entitlement on your licence. Please note that a trailer test is not required for towing behind tractors.

For further information please request a copy of the UFU’s Agricultural Vehicles on the Road Booklet from your local group office.