Transport Lawyers for Agricultural Business

transport lawyers agriculture

There is an enormous crossover between agriculture and transport and at Woodfines we have dedicated areas of expertise in both sectors.

The use of vehicles by agricultural undertakings takes place in very different contexts – from bulk haulage of sugar beet or other crops to small tractors operating mainly on private land, or abnormal loads such as harvesters on low-loaders to horseboxes and cattle transporters.

Regulatory compliance in the agricultural sector is particularly challenging as businesses have to deal with compliance on numerous fronts – animal movement, pesticides, health and safety, environmental issues, etc, to name but a few.

Unfortunately, the regulation of vehicles in the agricultural sector is a further challenge and is, if anything, more complex than those in ‘traditional’ goods or passenger operations, since:

  • there are a wide range of types of vehicle and trailer – these all have their own specific driver licencing, MOT testing and C&U (Construction and Use) requirements
  • the size, nature and use of these vehicles determine whether they are subject to operator licensing – they may or not be in-scope or be exempt depending on what they are, what they do, how far they go and/or what they carry
  • Drivers’ hours rules are similarly determined by the nature, size and type of activity of the agricultural vehicle used – this may or may not determine whether a tachograph has to be used under EU-rules. If one is not required, drivers may still be subject to domestic drivers’ hours rules; further, the requirement to use a tachograph will bring drivers (and other crew) into road transport working time rules (from which there is no opt-out). Often, the rules governing driver’s hours and working time rules do not sit comfortably with the needs of an agricultural business, e.g. at harvest when intense driving and long working hours may be required.
  • the Driver CPC qualification regime (the requirement for goods and passenger drivers to undergo 5-yearly cycles of 35 hours’ training) is underway but the agriculture sector is one where it may or may not be required depending on the vehicle driven or the use to which it is put. Drivers in this area may typically drive different types of vehicle in different contexts.
  • there are other sector-specific regulations affecting vehicle use – rules concerning animal movements and journey times, as well as vehicle cleanliness, by way of example.

A large part of enforcement is carried out primarily by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA, formerly VOSA and now merged with the DSA) and this is becoming increasingly targeted to address road safety concerns. In the agricultural sector these include excess weight, poor roadworthiness resulting in vehicle prohibitions, absence of operator’s licences, incorrect diving licence entitlement and incorrect or non-use of tachographs. A recent positive initiative of DVSA has been the production of a ‘Guide for Horsebox and Trailer Owners’.

For further advice and assistance in relation to road transport regulatory issues, please contact Mike Hayward on mhayward@woodfines.co.uk, Michelle O'Garro at mogarro@woodfines.co.uk or Nathan Taylor-Allkins at ntaylor-allkins@woodfines.co.uk