Farmers’ leaders welcome trailer consultation

Former NFU Suffolk chairman John Collen with transport minister, Robert Goodwill, and farmer Grant P

Former NFU Suffolk chairman John Collen with transport minister, Robert Goodwill, and farmer Grant Perry at Ongar, Essex - Credit: Archant

A government consultation examining trailer weights and speeds is to be carried out following years of lobbying by farmers.

It will seek comments on increasing the weight and speed limits for agricultural vehicles which will enable farmers to transport produce more efficiently.

Views will also be sought on whether to increase the speed limit to 25mph and whether the weight limit for tractors and trailers should be increased to 31tonnes or up to 33tonnes or 37tonnes (for a tri-axle trailer with road friendly suspension). In order to qualify for the increased weights a voluntary industry-led test is proposed.

The consultation also seeks views on other policy options which could be considered.

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) vice president Adam Quinney said: “We welcome this consultation as part of the Government’s commitment to cut red tape and bureaucracy. But it also recognises the hard work that our farmers carry out every day of the year to put food on the table.

“The NFU has been campaigning for the weight and speed limits for agricultural tractor and trailers to be examined for many years. The current regulations, which were set decades ago, do not reflect the technological capabilities and carrying capacity of modern tractors and trailers.

“While other farm equipment has got larger over time the restrictions on 21st century tractors and trailers has prevented the efficient transport of crops from the field. This inefficiency not only leaves us at a competitive disadvantage compared to other member states with higher limits, but also, we believe has a corresponding negative impact on the environment and road safety.

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“We note the proposal for a voluntary industry-led test for those wishing to make use of the proposed higher weight limits. The NFU along with other stakeholders submitted a proposal to the Department for Transport (DfT) in January last year with an outline scheme and proposed weights. Any test carried out needs to be proportionate to both the risk and the benefit in terms of the weight to be gained. It should also be at a cost that is not prohibitive.

“We will be responding in due course, but would encourage farmers to make their own response to the consultation.”

The consultations will run until January 30, 2014.

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) president Harry Cotterell said: “It is hugely encouraging to see a government department looking at ways in which it can remove red tape and burdens to agricultural businesses.

“The scale and sophistication of agricultural machinery has increased significantly over the past decade but the law has changed little since the 1980s.

“The proposed changes will more appropriately reflect the capabilities of modern agricultural machinery, allowing the UK’s farmers to carry on with their businesses more efficiently.”