The use of vehicles in agricultural businesses is very diverse – from abnormal loads to low-loaders to harvesters to cattle transporters and horseboxes, or from bulk haulage of crops to small tractors operating predominantly on private land.

The regulation of operators, drivers and vehicles in the agricultural sector is more complex than those in passenger or traditional transport businesses. Maintaining compliance is particularly challenging due to the many different types of vehicles and trailers operated by agricultural businesses and their specific uses. Whether a regulation does or does not apply in a certain set of circumstances can be very subtle or complex.

Factors to consider include:

  • there are numerous types of vehicle and trailer which all have specific driver licensing, annual testing and construction and use (C&U) requirements and there are some important changes being introduced in May 2018
  • driver’s hours are defined by the size, nature and use of the vehicle – this will determine whether a tachograph is required under EU-rules. The use of tachographs normally brings drivers into road transport working times rules. If a tachograph is not required, drivers will normally still be subject to the GB domestic driver’s hours. The rules governing driver’s hours and working time often do not sit easily with the needs of an agricultural business, such as during a harvest where long hours and intense periods of work and driving are common
  • the Driver CPC qualification may be necessary depending on the vehicle driven and its use (this is the requirement for all passenger and goods drivers to complete five-yearly cycles of 35 hours training). In this sector, drivers may drive different types of vehicles in numerous contexts that may or may not require Driver CPC
  • some vehicles will be subject to operator licensing due to their size, nature and use
  • whether vehicles are only used on private land or how much they operate on the public highway
  • the permitted use of rebated fuel often referred to as ‘red diesel’ is often misunderstood
  • other sector-specific regulations affecting vehicle use include animal movement rules covering journey times, welfare and strict cleanliness, etc.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) carry out roadside enforcement to ensure businesses are operating safely and fairly. In this sector, this activity focusses on operator licencing, correct driver licensing, safe loads, excess weight, absence of or incorrect use of tachographs and roadworthiness standards resulting in vehicle prohibitions or prosecutions for poor standards.

Early advice is essential to be able to deal with investigations of any kind in the best way. These may start at the roadside and/or take place at your farm, office or operating centre. Often prosecutions occur where businesses believe they do not require a certain licence or think they are exempt from certain regulations. For example, there are a number of exemptions from the use of tachographs for certain agriculture activities but they are a very specific in scope so only apply if all criteria are met – otherwise the drivers’ hours rules must be fully complied with.

We can help advice with regard to:

  • operator licensing (including operating centre objections
  • driver licensing (including Driver CPC)
  • EU and GB drivers’ hours rules / exemptions
  • construction and use regulations (C & U)
  • rebated fuel (including HMRC investigations)
  • investigations/ prosecutions brought by DVSA, police, HSE etc.

Examples of the type of questions often posed, with which we can help you, are:

  • do we have to comply with any drivers’ hours rules and are there any exemptions we can use?
  • what type of driving licence is required?
  • is Driver CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) required?
  • do we need an operator’s licence? If so, can you help us with the application process? Are there exemptions that would avoid the need for one?
  • one of our vehicles has been stopped by the police/ DVSA and our business is being investigated. Can you assist?
  • can we use rebated fuel for this activity (‘red diesel’)?
  • do the road transport working time rules apply to our business?
  • what are the road tax and testing rules for our vehicles and trailers?
  • I run an equestrian business that involves a transport element – what rules do I need to comply with?

Please contact Tim Ridyard in our Road Transport and Regulatory Team for advice.


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