Help to Deal with Transport Trauma

As harvest in Scotland gets into full swing, NFU Scotland is encouraging all those taking agricultural vehicles, trailers and equipment on the road to make sure they are ‘up to speed’ on the complex and, at times confusing transport rules.

In recent weeks, there have been a number of incidents involving enforcement authorities checking on farmers and contractors transporting goods on public roads.  From reports, it is apparent that there are grey areas in the legislation around what is an agricultural activity, when it is necessary to have an HGV or operators licence, should a vehicle have an MOT and when vehicles should be running on red or white diesel?

NFU Scotland already provides its members with a number of factsheets on transport legislation and has a transport helpline available to its members.   It is also in the process of pulling together guidance for farmers and contractors, based on a range of typical transport scenarios, to outline the requirements needed to be met by those involved in moving goods.  

The Union will also continue to work with the key enforcement authorities - the transport police and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) - to ensure clearer, simpler messages on compliance with transport legislation goes out to the industry.

NFU Scotland President, Jim McLaren said:

“Using agricultural vehicles on the road to move goods or carry out farming operations is central to Scotland’s farming industry but the rules and regulations surrounding that kind of activity are nothing short of a nightmare.   It is an area of legislation that affects virtually every farmer in the land and is desperately in need of simplification and clarification.

“Our recent involvement in a number of cases involving farm produce being moved have only highlighted how easy it is to fall foul of the requirements and be deemed to be breaking the laws on transport.   In one instance, subsequent investigation of the case suggests that the farmer had been working within the rules even though the authorities had charged the tractor driver at the time.  That is symptomatic of the complexities and confusion that surround the legislation.

“At the Union, we are working to provide all our members with the information they need to ensure they operate within the law and a transport telephone helpline is also at their disposal.  As we enter the crucial harvest period, I urge all farmers and contractors involved in road transport to take the time to ensure they are aware of the requirements, that they have the appropriate licence for the activity they are undertaking and that their vehicles are running on the correct fuel.  While that is a lot to take on board at the busiest time of the year, it could be a few minutes well spent should you or a member of your staff be subject to a roadside inspection by the transport authorities.

“The vast majority of tractors on Scottish roads are taking part in legitimate agricultural activities without the need for an operators licence or a Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) licence.   They are entitled to be using red diesel, in most cases do not require an MOT on the vehicle, do not require to comply with drivers hours restrictions and do not need a tachograph in the cab.   However, there are a number of situations where all these requirements would need to be met by those transporting goods by road and those involved in haulage need to make themselves aware of when these very useful exemptions apply and, more importantly, when they don’t.”     

Notes to editors

  • The agriculture industry benefits from a concession in the law, which permits the use of an agricultural tractor on the road without an operator’s licence provided that it is being used for certain purposes.   Where a farmer is using his tractor for undertaking agricultural work he will almost certainly not require an operators licence.   The situation becomes slightly more complicated when a contractor is performing an activity on behalf of a farmer.   If only involved in the haulage of goods (for example potatoes) then an operator licence will probably be required.   However, if the contractor has also been involved with the wider agricultural operations associated with the product for example the lifting of the potatoes) then no operator licence is likely to be required.
  • In terms of using red diesel a farmer can use red diesel if the agricultural machine is being used solely for a purpose relating to agriculture.   The same applies for contractors.
  • NFUS has fact sheets for available related to the following: Operator Licence Requirements; A Guide to the Use of Red Diesel; Vehicle Licensing; Tyre Requirements; Vehicle Dimensions; Vehicle Lighting; Vehicle Weight Requirements; Driver Licence Requirements; Warning Beacons and Drivers hours and Tachograph Rules.   These are available on to members on the NFUS website at Members can also obtain copies of the guides from their local Regional Manager or Group secretary.
  • The NFU Scotland Transport Helpline is 01430 431480


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006



Date Published:

News Article No.: 123/10

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