The CLA in the Midlands is reminding the industry that tractor drivers’ behaviour on public roads can significantly affect the public’s perception of farming. It also says that this is an opportunity to generate goodwill with the public.
CLA Midlands regional director Caroline Bedell believes that just being legal is not enough. Consideration for other road users can have a tremendous effect on farmers’ relationships with their local community as well as the general public.
Mrs Bedell said: “As soon as a tractor leaves the field and sets out on a public road, it is a different world. As well as being subject to the complex laws of the highway, a tractor becomes the public face of farming.”
“The rush to complete work in dwindling daylight is understandable, but we should not cut corners at the expense of safety, nor common courtesy. The time saved is insignificant compared with the damage to the perception of our industry, or the increasing likelihood of breaking the law, facing fines, litigation or having to live with the consequences of causing a serious accident.
The Association says that the most common complaints from the public are:
- Mud on roads: A number of serious accidents have recently been attributed to mud. It is your responsibility to do everything possible to prevent mud being deposited on the road, including cleaning mud from vehicles, as far as practicable, before they are taken onto the highway.
- Pulling over: If you don’t pull over when you have a long queue of traffic behind you could lead to an offence of inconsiderate driving, punishable by up to 9 points on your licence and a fine of up to £5,000. Pulling over when possible will not delay you significantly, and is much appreciated by the drivers behind, turning frustration into appreciation.
- Hedge trimming: Section 148 of the Highways Act 1980 says you mustensure the highway, including the footway and drainage features, is left clear of debris from cutting operations. Doing so will also limit any liability for consequent damage, such as punctures or damage to other vehicles.
- Overloading: While the current weight limits for tractors and trailers on the road is under review it must be remembered that it is not simply about complying with the law – unsafe loads are unsafe even if they fall within the weight limit. Use common sense, and remembers that wide loads can cause damage as much as tall loads with a high centre of gravity.
- Lights: In anything other than good visibility in daylight you need lights on the road.That’s not just the law, it can save lives.
Mrs Bedell added: “This is not negative, it is an opportunity for farmers to reinforce the goodwill that exists for the industry. All I am asking is that every time you take a farm vehicle onto a public road, remember that you are an ambassador for farming. You can make the most of that opportunity.”