On the road to safe manoeuvring of outsized loads

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As COMBINES, balers and other farm machinery hurry to make the most of any dry weather during this year’s “stop-start” harvest, the Scottish NFU has issued a reminder for the need to comply with regulations surrounding the transport of wide and awkward machinery on public roads.

In a bid to help drivers stay on the straight and narrow – and on the right side of the law – at this crucial and often hectic time of year, an updated set of easily digestible information notes has been drawn together by the union with the help of former legal and technical committee convener, and road transport specialist, Jamie Smart.

“When the harvest rush is on, sometimes the regulatory requirements for travelling on roads might not be at the top of a grower’s agenda,” said Smart. “Most folk know there are rules and regulations but they might not be sure exactly how these apply to their own machinery. It’s a sensible move to assess just how they affect your own combines, drillers, ploughs and other implements before you have to take them on to the road.”

He said that most farmers knew that they had to take steps to comply with the rules for the movement of wide loads but he added that similar restrictions applied to mounted machinery that had a big overhang – such as mounted ploughs and even tractor loaders.

The latter type of vehicles often showed a considerable amount of tail or nose swing which might not be anticipated by other drivers.

“Three of the union’s factsheets have been updated to let farmers know what’s required – one on vehicle and implement widths, one on the requirements for escort vehicles and a third which looks at the requirements for vehicles with front and rear projections,” added Smart.

He said that police notification was required when any piece of machinery more than three metres wide was being moved on the road more than five miles or through any area with a speed limit of below 40mph: “And although, in theory, notification should be made every time a movement like this is made on a public road, it might be easier to apply for a dispensation which can last for up to a year,” he said.

He added that, although there had been some uncertainty over where to apply after the change to a single Scottish police force, farmers should contact the police on 101 to make notifications or to apply for a dispensation – and his own experience had been that they were extremely helpful. Speed restrictions and the requirements for marker boards and lights are also outlined in the factsheet.

Smart said that the requirements for escort vehicles to drive in front of machinery more than 3.5m wide were fairly well known but he added that they were also necessary for those with a front or rear projection of more than 6m.

And he said: “It’s important to remember that parties acting as an escort should not be carrying out any other duties like transporting the combine header – and the farm pick-up or 4x4 with a beacon is probably the best way to warn on-coming motorists.

“Whoever is doing this job should be aware of any risks or dangers involved, and be able to see the escorted vehicle at all times – and it’s often a good idea to have even a cheap set of walkie talkies to stay in contact, provided these are used safely.”

He added that the full factsheets were available on the union’s website and anyone needing further information should contact the union.