Agricultural vehicles and the law

There are a number of legal issues which arise when agricultural vehicles are used and this article looks at the main ones.

Driving licences

A licence is required to drive most agricultural vehicles on the road. Certain large vehicles can be driven in certain circumstances where the licence holder only holds a category B driving licence (the normal category of driving licence). The common categories for agricultural vehicles are as follows:

Tractors

A category F driving licence is required to drive an agricultural tractor.

A person must normally be at least 17 years old before they can hold a category F driving licence. A person of the age of 16 can drive a tractor less than 2.45 metres wide and can do so pulling a trailer as long as the trailer is also less than 2.45 metres wide and has 2 wheels or 4 close-coupled wheels.

Medium sized vehicles

A category C1 driving licence is required to drive a vehicle of between 3,500 kilograms and 7,500 kilograms.

Where a trailer is used under category C1 the trailer must not exceed 750 kilograms in weight. If it exceeds that weight but the total weight of the vehicle and the trailer weigh no more than 12,000 kilograms a category C1+E licence is required.

When calculating the weight of a vehicle the maximum load that the vehicle, and any trailer used, can carry is taken into account for the purpose of the calculation.

A person must normally be at least 18 years old before they can hold a category C1 driving licence and normally at least 21 years old before they can hold a category C1+E driving licence.

Large sized vehicles

A category C driving licence is required to drive a vehicle over 7,500 kilograms.

Where a trailer is used under category C the trailer must not exceed 750 kilograms in weight. If it exceeds that weight but the total weight of the vehicle and the trailer weigh no more than 12,000 kilograms a category C+E licence is required.

When calculating the weight of a vehicle the maximum load that the vehicle, and any trailer used, can carry is taken into account for the purpose of the calculation.

A person must normally be at least 21 years old before they can hold a category C or category C+E driving licence.

Mowing machines

A category K driving licence is required to drive a mowing machine or vehicle, which is controlled by a pedestrian.

A person must be at least 16 years old before they can hold a category K driving licence.

Quad bikes

A category B1 driving licence is required to drive a quad bike where the unladen weight does not exceed 550 kilograms.

A person must normally be at least 17 years old before they can hold a category B1 driving licence.

Tax

Vehicles used solely for the purpose of agriculture are exempt from vehicle tax, although a valid tax disc, which is free to obtain, must still be displayed.

“Historic vehicles” (i.e. those constructed before 1 January 1973) are exempt from vehicle tax. Again a valid tax disc must be displayed.

Mowing machines do need to be taxed, under the mowing machine tax class.

Quad bikes

Quad bikes are required to be registered with DVLA before they can be used on public roads.

They can only be used for short distances on public roads and must have a number plate, be fitted with lamps and reflectors if they are to be used on public roads before sunrise or after sunset. They should also be fitted with indicators and a hazard warning light if they are capable of travelling above 15 miles per hour. If they are capable of travelling above 20 miles per hour a horn and a speedometer should also be fitted. If they are capable of travelling above 25 miles per hour a fog light should also be fitted.

The rider should make hand signals when changing direction or slowing down if the quad bike is not fitted with indicators and brake lights.

It is not permitted to carry passengers on a quad bike.

Red diesel

The use of red diesel (also known as “rebated fuel”) is only permitted in certain circumstances. These include the following circumstances:

  • where the vehicle is not used on a public road and does not have a licence;
  • where the vehicle is a tractor and it is designed and constructed primarily for off-road use and its use on a public road is for agricultural purposes;
  • where the vehicle is a “light agricultural vehicle” (which includes quad bikes) and its use on a public road is for agricultural purposes;
  • where the vehicle qualifies as an “agricultural material handler” and its use on a public road is for agricultural purposes;
  • where the vehicle is classed as an “agricultural engine” (which includes combine harvesters and crop sprayers) and it is travelling to or from the place where the vehicle is or has been used;
  • where the vehicle is classed as an “agricultural processing vehicle” (which includes mobile feed milling machines) and it is travelling to or from the place where the vehicle is or has been used;
  • where a vehicle is used only for agricultural purposes and it is travelling to or from different pieces of land occupied by the same person and the pieces of land are not more than 1.5 kilometres apart;
  • where the vehicle is a mowing machine;
  • where the vehicle is being used to clear snow from public roads or when it is travelling to and from the place at which it is used to clear snow.

There are stiff penalties for using red diesel illegally.