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The Associate Minister of Transport, Michael Woodhouse, has signed the following amendment Rules that apply to vehicles used for agricultural purposes:
The changes will ensure that legislation affecting the primary production sector is fit for purpose and does not impose unnecessary costs or restrictions.
Industry representatives raised concerns that the current requirements were not appropriate for the conditions faced by agricultural vehicle operators. For example, contractors and farmers need to harvest crops when they are ready, and the weather is right. Sometimes this may mean working long and irregular hours.
A review of agricultural transport legislation considered which changes could be made to allow greater flexibility for agricultural operations while maintaining safety for operators and other road users.
The Ministry of Transport estimates that changes arising from the agricultural vehicles review should result in a net benefit of $51 million over 25 years. Other benefits include greater compliance, a larger labour force to draw on and greater operational flexibility for the owners of agricultural vehicles.
A review team led by the Ministry of Transport, that included Police, the NZ Transport Agency and the Department of Labour looked at whether the current requirements for agricultural vehicles properly took account of the realities facing the industry and how they compared to those in other developed countries. Discussions were held with industry groups as well as others affected by these requirements and, as a result, the Ministry sought public feedback on a position paper setting out potential changes. The Government considered this feedback as well as research and analysis and decided to progress a number of actions to improve regulation of agricultural vehicles.
With one exception, the changes will come into force on 1 June 2013. The change from a six-monthly to a 12-monthly frequency for warrant of fitness inspections for agricultural vehicles that operate at speeds exceeding 40 km/h will come into force on 11 November 2013. Until the changes come into force, the existing Rule requirements will continue to apply.
(Amendments to the Land Transport (Driver Licensing) Rule 1999 and Land Transport Rule: Work Time and Logbooks 2007)
As with the current 30 km/h speed restriction, this will apply to tractors up to 18 tonnes, or 25 tonnes in combination. Other specialised agricultural vehicles will require a wheels (W) endorsement (see 3 below).
The new 40 km/h limit is not considered to pose a safety risk. Agricultural vehicles that did not require a WoF, or were being driven by a driver with a Class 1 licence, were allowed to travel only at a maximum speed of 30 km/h on the road. The speed difference this creates between these vehicles and other traffic travelling at open road speeds increases the risk of rear-end crashes. Raising the permitted speed should help reduce this difference and reduce this risk.
The low speed requirement and nature of agricultural work means that the majority of agricultural vehicles that travel at 40 km/h or less will be making only short trips on the road. In addition, the changes will be monitored to ensure they work as intended.
This regime will make enforcement easier. Previously, in addition to operating speed, Police had to take into account factors such as a vehicle’s speed capability, the distance the vehicle has travelled from its home base, and its weight, and the driver’s licence.
Previously, a Class 1 full licence was required to operate agricultural vehicles – and a full licence cannot be obtained until age 18 (or 17½ with an approved course). However, a Class 1 restricted licence can be obtained from age 16½.
This change will significantly increase the number of people able to work in the agricultural sector – it is estimated that there are 45,000 restricted licence holders in rural areas.
This change will also bring New Zealand’s age requirements for driving agricultural vehicles much closer to those in other jurisdictions, eg the United Kingdom, where a tractor licence can be obtained at age 16.
Recent changes to the driver licensing tests mean that restricted drivers will have much more driving experience and have a greater ability at driving in a wider variety of situations. In addition, the age at which a person can apply for a restricted licence has been raised to 16½.
Under this change, restricted licence holders will still need to meet the conditions of their licence when operating a tractor on the road. Also, it is important to note that this change will only allow them to operate tractors on the road at speeds of 40 km/h or less.
Employers are also required to provide machine-type specific training under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.
Previously, any person who drove a tractor faster than 30 km/h had to hold a Class 2 driver licence.
The aim of this change is to provide for the wider use of the special-type vehicle endorsement on the Class 1 (car) licence. The types of vehicle that will be able to be operated under this change currently require a Class 2 (truck) licence.
Allowing a wider range of vehicles to be driven with a Class 1 driver licence will make it easier for the agricultural sector to recruit employees with the required driving qualifications. A ‘W’ endorsement is already held by many drivers within the sector, and it takes less time (and cost) to acquire than a Class 2 licence.
Raising the speed limit for Class 1 licence drivers will reduce the difference in speed between agricultural vehicles and other vehicles on the road, thereby reducing the risk of crashes.
New Zealand law does not currently recognise agricultural vehicle licences from countries such as the United Kingdom and Ireland. These licences have similar requirements to those in New Zealand and industry representatives have commented that recognising overseas tractor licences would improve their ability to recruit seasonal workers. Rural Contractors New Zealand estimate that up to 30 percent of their workers are from overseas countries.
The sector faces difficulties in recruiting overseas workers currently, as the time taken for seasonal workers to graduate to a Class 1 full New Zealand licence provides a disincentive if the worker is here for a year or less.
Note: a UK tractor licence requires a practical test on a tractor. It is available to drivers there earlier than a car licence.
Anyone who drives a tractor or agricultural vehicle requiring a Class 1 licence is not subject to work time limits. The changes to the Driver Licensing Rule allow a greater number of vehicles to be operated on a Class 1 licence. This will significantly reduce the numbers of persons subject to the Work Time and Logbook Rule. It should help contractors and farmers who often need to work long or irregular hours during harvest, and who also need to work around the weather. It should be noted that vehicles requiring a Class 2 licence to drive remain subject to work time limits. In general, the removal of work time limits only applies to larger vehicles when they are operated at speeds not exceeding 40 km/h.
Employers of drivers not subject to work time limits are still required to manage risk by meeting the general duties of the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. The risk management approach provided for by this Act is considered to offer a better approach than the Rule for managing fatigue among agricultural vehicle operators.
Under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, where a significant hazard such as fatigue is identified, the employer must take all practicable steps to eliminate the hazard, isolate the hazard (when elimination is impracticable), or minimise the hazard (when elimination and isolation is impracticable).
Section 17 of the Health and Safety in Employment Act places a duty on self-employed persons to take all practicable steps to ensure that they do not put themselves or others at risk of harm. A similar duty (section 19) applies to employees. As well, there is a specific duty to ensure that employees are properly trained in the operation of vehicles or machinery.
Fatigue has not featured much in the reports for crashes involving agricultural vehicles. The review team looked at all crash reports involving agricultural vehicles from 1997 to 2010. Only one crash listed fatigue as a contributing factor.
Research commissioned by the Ministry of Transport found that New Zealand law was more restrictive than that in nearly all the other jurisdictions surveyed. Most of the other countries exempted the agriculture sector in some way from work time restrictions.
No. This new flexibility will be balanced by the ongoing requirement for rural employers under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to effectively manage worker fatigue. This means that agricultural vehicle operators will not be able to work unlimited hours for extended periods of time.
In addition, the Employment Relations Act 2000 provides that employees are entitled to:
These requirements begin over again if an employee’s work period is more than eight hours.
This allows operators a variation of work time hours in order to allow them to complete agricultural tasks where time is an issue, such as harvesting. An allowance is also made for tasks such as preparing for planting or spraying a crop.
This provides flexibility for an operator to set up and be bound by an alternative scheme for managing fatigue to the work time restrictions that are contained in the Rule, which may be more appropriate for their operation.
Operators have expressed concern that the application process is too complicated and that the benefits offered by the option of an alternative scheme are not sufficient to justify the amount of time involved.
(Amendments to Land Transport Rule: Heavy Vehicles 2004 and Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Dimensions and Mass 2002)
Guidance on best practice for addressing the risks from the decoupling of trailers and towed implements from tractors has been provided in the NZ Transport Agency’s Agricultural Vehicle Guide 2009.
The guidelines simplified the Rule requirements, which were seen by industry as being too complex and costly, and have encouraged compliance. The guidelines have now been included in the Rule.
Previously, the Rule stated that if the distance measured from the foremost point of a vehicle to the front edge of the driver’s seat was more than three metres, the vehicle should be treated as an overdimension vehicle. However, agricultural tractors are now longer with most exceeding three metres. The Rule has been updated by increasing the front overhang threshold to a maximum length of four metres.
To help reduce any potential risk from an increased front overhang, one or more amber beacons will have to be fitted to agricultural motor vehicles registered from 1 June 2013.
Protruding parts that overhang the front of vehicles (by more than four metres in front of the driver’s seat) must be appropriately marked, eg a tractor with a front bucket fitted must either fit hazard panels to the bucket or paint it with high visibility paint.
All vehicles that exceed standard width must be fitted with approved hazard panels to indicate the dimensions of the vehicle to other road users approaching from the front and rear. The Rule now allows more flexibility in complying with this requirement by providing for variations in the design of hazard panel to be approved.
Concerns have been raised that the existing hazard panel is difficult to fit because of the design of some tractors and other large agricultural motor vehicles, and can impede visibility. The alternative configuration could be used where it is not practicable to fit the panel currently prescribed by the Rule, or when better warning could be achieved by using a different configuration.
Requiring a pilot for each agricultural vehicle in a convoy is seen as unnecessarily costly. Improved hazard panelling will maintain safety without adding unnecessary compliance costs.
A convoy of three agricultural vehicles and two pilot vehicles equates to five vehicles. Any more than five vehicles would significantly obstruct other road traffic and increase the risk for other vehicles attempting to pass the convoy.
Yes. Land Transport Rule: External Projections 2001 already provides that a vehicle may be fitted with a protruding ornamental or functional object or fitting. However, the protruding ornamental object or fitting must:
There is a common misconception by operators of agricultural vehicles that they are required to remove tractor forks if this can be done within 30 minutes. The Rule now makes it clear that, in ensuring that their vehicle does not present a safety risk to the driver or other road users, operators must comply with the relevant safety requirements in the External Projections Rule.
Yes, provided operators comply with the best practice for managing the risk, outlined in the Agricultural Vehicles Guide 2009(due to be updated later in 2013 when all changes have been introduced.)
(Amendments to the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 and Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Lighting 2004.)
Crash statistics show that a lack of forward warning to other road users about the presence of a slow moving agricultural vehicle on narrow and winding rural roads is a leading cause of crashes involving agricultural vehicles. Displaying an amber beacon will help prevent crashes by improving the forward and rear visibility of agricultural vehicles and will be more effective than displaying additional hazard panels.
The Ministry of Transport, NZ Transport Agency, Police Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit, Federated Farmers of New Zealand, Rural Contractors New Zealand and the Tractor and Machinery Association all supported making amber beacons mandatory.
This change will not apply retrospectively. Only agricultural vehicles registered on or after 1 June 2013 will need to have an amber beacon. Agricultural vehicles registered prior to the implementation date will be allowed to have an amber beacon but it will not be mandatory.
The majority of new agricultural vehicles come equipped with amber beacons. For the few new agricultural vehicles that do not have amber beacons, the cost of purchasing and fitting a beacon is estimated to be between $155 and $210 a vehicle. This cost will vary depending on the ability of the vehicle owner to fit the beacon themselves.
Most other jurisdictions do not require fitting of amber beacons. However, most manufacturers fit amber beacons to agricultural vehicles before they leave the factory. The Ministry of Transport estimates that 30 percent of the current agricultural vehicle fleet has an amber beacon fitted.
(Amendments to Land Transport Rule: Vehicle Standards Compliance 2002)
Previously, agricultural vehicles that operated below 30 km/h were exempt from vehicle inspection obligations, but were required to be roadworthy and not pose a danger to other road users under the Land Transport Act 1998 and the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.
Vehicles that opt to operate up to 40 km/h will remain subject to the roadworthiness requirement. A simplified WoF standard will provide guidance for operators of these vehicles and the Police on the applicable standard expected for these vehicles.
Police roadside inspections will demonstrate a low tolerance for non-compliance. The Ministry of Transport intends to review the impact of the changes in the 2016/17 financial year.
Agricultural vehicles are covered under a separate WoF structure to other vehicles and therefore will not be affected by the changes being proposed as part of the government’s vehicle licensing reforms.
Crash reports from 1997 to 2010 suggest that low compliance with the inspection regime has not resulted in serious safety problems. Crash reports listed non-compliance with core mechanical standards for agricultural vehicles as a contributing factor in 2 percent of crashes involving agricultural vehicles.
Vehicle owners will still be required to keep vehicles maintained to a roadworthy condition under the Land Transport Act 1998 and the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.
The introduction of mandatory amber beacons for agricultural vehicles should also help improve road safety.
Agricultural trailers and implements will continue to be exempted from WoF, licensing and road user charges requirements. However, owners must maintain their agricultural trailers and implements to a roadworthy condition.
Yes, it is planned to replace the current (2009) Agricultural Vehicle Guide by the end of 2013, once all sections of the package are in place.
Section 152 of the Land Transport Act 1998 sets out the Minister’s general power to make Land Transport Rules. The Minister’s powers to make Rules on specific aspects of land transport (for example, vehicle standards) are contained in sections 153 to 159 of the Act.
Copies of all Land Transport Rules can be purchased from selected bookshops that sell legislation and most are also available from Wickliffe Solutions, telephone (06) 354 6337. The Driver Licensing and Road User Rules are available from Legislation Direct, telephone (04) 568 0005.
Rules may also be inspected, free of charge, at the National Office and regional offices of the NZ Transport Agency.
Further information about the Rule amendment is available from the NZTA Contact Centre, freephone 0800 699 000 (for driver licensing enquiries, call 0800 822 422). As required, the NZ Transport Agency will update relevant Factsheets and other information relating to motor vehicles used for agricultural purposes.