Last Wednesday, 22nd March Joint Oireachtas Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport staged a Road Safety Strategy Discussion.
Association of Farm and Forestry Contractors in Ireland, FCI, Chief Executive Officer Mr. Michael Moroney was among one of those present on the day to discuss issues.
Following recent legislation, which includes a limit of a radius of 100 km for tractors from their base of operations, the FCI called for a change to this limit, increasing it to 180km, noting how farmers purchase straw from various locations.
‘Many modern tractors are required to transport farm and forestry machines and farm produce over greater distances, where the use of a truck would not be practical or economical owing to the relatively low value of the goods in transit such as straw.’ Moroney said.
Hassle by local Gardaí
Mr. Moroney highlighted a series of issues on behalf of the FCI, which included an incident where FCI members have been subjected to hassle by local Gardaí, due to issues relating to the understanding of specific regulations as they impact on the use of tractor use on public routes.
The FCI CEO raised the issue surrounding the use of the hard shoulder, posing the question ‘is it illegal to use it to let traffic pass, or is it illegal to create a tailback with a slow moving vehicle?
In order to let traffic pass, members have received two penalty points because they pulled into the hard shoulder, he informed the discussion.
Moroney went on to say how in same cases they were considered to be driving carelessly.
‘We need to have the matter clarified and interpreted locally.’ He said.
‘We seek fairness in the treatment of legal aspects of operating agricultural and forest machinery when travelling to and from work in using public roads.’
L and N Plates
The CEO also said that the use of L and N plates is of ‘significant concern’ for the FCI land based contractors.
‘It is adding more management issues as, in some cases, when trailers are changed between tractors, there is little option in some fleets other than to paste an L and an N plate on every machine.’ He said.
FCI highlighted legislation surrounding driving licenses and fitted passenger seats.
‘Do we want people to go back to having ancient tractors in order not to have a second seat in the cab?’ Moroney asked.
The proposed tractor NCT will add significant costs for land based contractors in Ireland, according to the association.
‘Apart from the strict new proposed compliance costs, there will be huge depreciation costs incurred when there is no specific need for to do so. The FCI is calling for clarity on the proposal and the Minister to invoke the option of seeking an exemption from the proposed testing legislation in the Irish market. The United Kingdom has opted to avail of the exemption.’ Moroney said.
Hedge-cutting on public roads
Mr. Moroney raised the issue of behalf of FCI is looking for an extension of the hedge cutting season on public roads to allow for mid-year maintenance of hedgerows on the ground of road safety.
Stating that the operator of the farm vehicle requires good visibility in all directions, Mr. Moroney highlighted that European research has shown that most on-road accidents involving farm machines happen at crossroads or intersections where a farm vehicle turns right or left or enters the road from the field or under the road.