Keeping safe when using large agricultural vehicles on the road

The Ulster Farmers’ Union recently produced and published an updated version of the ‘Agriculture and Public Roads’ booklet.

Monday, 14th October 2019, 9:12 am

This guide presents relevant information regarding the use of agricultural vehicles on Northern Ireland’s roads and has proven to be the first point of reference for many farmers and agricultural contractors.

The guide aims to help make Northern Ireland’s roads safer for everyone and provides information on the use of agricultural machines, trailers and towed appliances, tax classification and more. The UFU would encourage all members to take time to read the guide and copies can be obtained from your local Group Office, or by contacting UFU Headquarters on 028 9037 0222. Alternatively, the guide can also be viewed and downloaded from the resource page of the UFU’s website.

Mobile phones

It is illegal to use a handheld phone when behind the wheel of any vehicle with the engine switched on, even when travelling through a field or in the farmyard. The risk of collision with another vehicle, a tree, powerline etc, remains high and could result in serious injury or death for the individual driving or individuals close by, as well as possible damage to the vehicle (s). The maximum fine for use of a mobile phone whilst driving is £1000 and if involved in an accident whilst on the phone when driving, and if someone is injured or killed, the driver could be sent to prison.

Age and licences

It is illegal for any child under the age of 13 to ride in the cab of any agricultural vehicle. It is worth remembering that children between the ages of 13 and 14, are the responsibility of the driver if they choose to ride inside the cab of an agricultural vehicle.

To drive a tractor legally on the public highway the driver must have reached their 16th birthday and have taken a category F tractor test. If successful in passing this test the 16-year-old is permitted to drive a tractor which is no more than 2.45 metres wide and can be coupled with a trailer of the same width with either two or four coupled wheels. At age 17, any driver can take a category B car test and if successful category F is automatically awarded.


Seatbelts where fitted should be worn when using any vehicle on the public highway, this includes tractors with only older tractors that have never had seatbelts fitted being exempt from this legislation. In agricultural vehicles such as tractors, seatbelts serve to prevent the driver being thrown from the vehicle especially when there is a risk of the vehicle overturning.

Red Diesel

When transporting crops or agricultural products such as feed, straw and fertiliser from lands owned by the grower to their farmyard, this can be classed as agricultural use. In this case, there are no distance limitations when using red diesel. Tractors transporting produce from the field to be processed may use red diesel, however, as this activity can be classified as general haulage, if the produce is transported more than 15 miles from the farm white diesel is required.

Mud & debris

Under the Highways Act of 1980, it is an offence to deposit or contaminate a public highway with mud, debris or anything that could endanger other users of the road and this offence carries a maximum fine of £1000. It is also worth remembering if the debris and/or mud causes injury to other road users and/or damage to the affected highway, then the person that deposited that debris and/or mud will be held liable. The safest solution to deal with mud and/or debris which falls onto a road is to return to the road remove the debris/dirt, and use clean up equipment such as a rotary brush.