So You Want to Drive a Tractor

The joy of all inner four year olds (and the bane of all motorists) tractors continue to be the quintessential icon of farming for generations of children, and children that never grew up.  With their great big wheels and powerful engines, tractors cross mud, rivers and road alike with impunity.  But being able to drive a tractor isn't just a case of walking down to your local farm machinery dealer and buying one.  Just as with all great big vehicles, there's more to it than turning the key and pressing down on the pedal. 

This article focuses on those in the UK.  However, requirements and restrictions for tractors and agricultural equipment is likely to be similar in other countries.  Check with the authorities in your own country for the equivalents.

 

Getting Licensed. 

An empty grass road stretches onto the distance with a short wire fence to either side

As with most vehicles, you don't need a licence if your tractor never leaves your land or uses a public road. However, for anything more than the most limited uses of public roads (for example, operating hedge trimming equipment bordering your fences or driving between fields, you need to get your vehicle licensed. 

In the UK, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority or DVLA is the government organization responsible for licensing drivers for using their vehicles on public roads including tractors and large agricultural equipment.  The basic driving licence or B category entitles drivers of cars up to 3500Kg to also operate smaller light goods vehicles (LGV's) and Tractor up to the same limit.  This includes the weight of any trailer that might be attached to your vehicle.  

However, if you've serious farming to do, you'll want a serious Tractor.  But in order to operate agricultural vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, you'll need a category C licence.  This will entitle you to drive combinations of vehicles over the 3500 kg limits.  

Young farmers will be disappointed by the news that, with the exception of individuals in the armed forces, the minimum age for eligibility for a class C licence is 21.  

 

Responsible Tractor Driving

A green tractor is in the middle of a field with trees in the background

Despite how it may feel driving slowly behind one in a tail back during the morning rush, tractor drivers do in-fact have responsibilities towards other motorists.  These include for example:

 

Responsibility for Mud on the Roads

Farmers are responsible for the inevitably mess that their vehicles, fresh off the fields can make of roads. Not only this but they are also responsible for any mud or other agricultural detritus that might end up on public highways as a result of any contractors working on their land.  Given that such a mess can result in hazardous driving conditions and accidents, farmers and land owners are well advised to keep their obligations to public roads in mind.  

 

Pulling in to a lay-by to let traffic go by

As frustrating as it can be to be stuck behind a slow moving tractor, they are legally obliged to pull in to a suitable lay-by if one is available to avoid the inevitable clogging up of traffic that forms behind any tractor out on public roads.  That said not all lay-bys are suitable for long trains of tractors and trailers and even if they are a tractor driver may not be able to pull into one if, for example somebody else is already parked there. 

 

A Maximum Speed Limit of 20Mph

It's not necessarily that the tractor driver derives any sense of satisfaction from causing huge delays to people stuck behind them, they're legally not permitted to drive their vehicles any faster than 20mph.  So try not to be too upset when you get stuck behind one that feels like its going slower than a snail stuck in molasses – it's not them, it's the law.

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