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Agricultural Tractors and Trailers (Weight and Speed Limit)

Volume 586: debated on Friday 17 October 2014

Today I will be announcing my intention, following public consultation and the recommendations from the farming task force, to increase the weight and speed limits of agricultural tractors and trailers and to develop detailed proposals for a roadworthiness test for these vehicles. These changes will apply to Great Britain and will be introduced in two distinct phases from spring 2015. I intend to update these regulations to better reflect the capabilities of modern machinery, improve the efficiency of the farming sector and help to boost the economy.

The regulations governing tractors and trailers are outdated and the limits were set in the 1980s and do not reflect the significant advances in technology that have been made in this sector. As well as having improved braking systems today’s tractors are heavier.

Current weight restrictions to the total combined weight of tractors and trailers offer farmers a perverse incentive to use smaller tractors to pull large trailers, in order to maximise the amount of produce that they can carry within the maximum weight allowed. Larger tractors pulling trailers laden to the same weight will tend to be better matched to the loads. There would also be fewer journeys and hence less risk of incidents.

Initial changes to weights and speed limits will be introduced by March 2015 through amendments to the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations. I expect these changes to generate almost £62 million in deregulatory benefits to farmers per year and bring our farmers more in line with their international counterparts.

I intend to increase the maximum combination weight limit for tractors and trailers from 24.39 ton to 31 ton. This will allow farmers to have more flexibility in sizing their combinations, allow larger tractors to haul the same maximum loads that smaller ones do already and will offer some farmers a modest increase in the amount of produce they can carry in each journey. The maximum laden weight of trailers will remain unchanged (at 18.29 ton) and the maximum axle weights for tractors and trailers will not change.

An effective speed limit of 25mph will be applied for conventional tractors. Modern tractors are designed to safely travel at speeds of up to, or over 25mph, but current regulations restrict their speed to 20mph, lower than many other EU countries. We are therefore unnecessarily restricting our farmers, adding time and cost on to their operations. Those tractors allowed to exceed 25mph will continue to be subject to tighter design and regulatory requirements.

Phase 2 is planned for introduction before harvest 2016 and it includes the consideration of further increases in weights and speeds, including maximum laden trailer weight limits and a roadworthiness test for some agricultural tractors and trailers.

I am also publishing today the summary of responses for the consultations into examining the maximum weights of agricultural trailers and combinations and examining the maximum speed limit of tractors on public road, as well as the Government’s response and the impact assessment which cover both measures. I shall ensure copies are placed in the Libraries of both Houses.