Agricultural vehicles and the law

There are various legal implications when agricultural vehicles are used. We consider the main issues that may apply to you.

Driving licences

Firstly, a category F driving licence is required before most agricultural vehicles can be driven on a public road. Some large vehicles can be driven in certain circumstances where the licence holder holds a category B driving licence only (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. You must normally be at least 17 years old before you can obtain a category F driving licence. However, a 16-year-old with a full category F driving licence can drive a tractor if it is less than 2.45 metres wide, and can do so pulling a trailer, so long as the trailer is less than 2.45 metres wide and has 2 wheels (or 4 close-coupled wheels). However, a 16-year-old can only do so if this is in the course of agricultural operations.

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) can carry is taken into account for the purpose of the calculation.

You must normally be at least 18 years old before you can hold a category C1 driving licence, and at least 21 before you 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) can carry is taken into account for the purpose of the calculation.

You must normally be at least 21 years old before you 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. You must be at least 16 years old to 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.

You must normally be at least 17 years old before you can hold a category B1 driving licence.

Quad bikes must be registered with the DVLA before they can be used on public roads. Once registered, they can only be used for short distances on public roads. They must have a number plate, and be fitted with lamps and reflectors if used on public roads before sunrise or after sunset.

They should also be fitted with indicators and a hazard warning light if 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; and if they are capable of travelling above 25 miles per hour – a fog light should also be fitted.

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

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

Tax

Vehicles used solely for agricultural purposesare exempt from vehicle tax.

‘Historic vehicles’ (ie. constructed before 1 January 1973) are also exempt from vehicle tax.

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

Red diesel

The use of red diesel (also known as ‘rebated fuel’) is only permitted in certain circumstances, including:

  • 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’ (including 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. The owner of any vehicle illegally using red diesel will be liable to pay VAT and duty on the total fuel tank capacity – not the quantity of red diesel remaining.