WEIGHT AND speed limits on agricultural tractors and trailers travelling on public roads are once again under scrutiny.
The National Association of Agricultural Contractors this week voiced its frustration at the Department for Transport’s decision not to proceed with the promised ‘Phase 2’ roll-out of increases to the combination weight limits of road-going agricultural vehicles.
Phase 1 of the reforms, introduced in March 2015, saw the maximum combination weight of a tractor and single trailer increased from 24.39 tonnes to 31 tonnes. However, the maximum laden weight of trailers remained unchanged at 18.29 tonnes. The NAAC has been involved in negotiations and consultation for over eight years, working towards further trailer weight increases as part of ‘Phase 2’ – however the DfT has now announced that it will not proceed further with regulatory change.
NAAC chairman, Martin Hays, said: “The contracting sector are an integral and professional part of UK agriculture and we feel very let down that the Government has chosen to hold back our sector. The current legislation on trailer weights is thirty years old and has not kept up with current machinery and the pressures that the farming industry face. 
“Brexit will add further challenges to compete on a world market and it is essential that contractors and farmers have the tools available to work efficiently and safely. This means higher trailer capacities to keep vehicle movements on the road to a minimum, whilst keeping up with larger harvesting machinery in field.
“The NAAC has continued to support the need to run safe and well-maintained kit on the roads, accepting that the industry would need road worthiness testing and possibly changes to driver testing to move to higher weights,” said Mr Hays. “This was all welcomed by the contracting industry to ensure that we could run to the higher train weights.”
Also commenting on the change, NFUS legal and technical committee chair, Jamie Smart, said: “NFUS are both disappointed and frustrated that we were promised weight increases, subject to restrictions, but that that seems to be off the table now.
“As much as anything, we were keen to see the road safety aspect increase, so we had been openly looking at testing and restriction options that could have helped that. Machinery has moved on since previous rulings were put in place, and the weight increases could have recognised that, and larger vehicles could have ultimately meant less vehicles on the roads,” said Mr Smart. “To be told that further trailer weight increases will now not take place is a severe blow.”