Arable – Lesson 4: Safe and Legal on the Road

This lesson provides all the information you need to keep on the right side of the law. You will learn about licence requirements and trailer tests as well as width and speed limits, weight limits, roadworthiness and what you need to do to comply with health and safety law. It also provides advice on driving courteously and spells out what will happen if you are caught using mobile phones while driving. There are also full details of emergency procedures you need to follow.

What licence do I need?

Machines such as telehandlers and self-propelled sprayers are officially classed as agricultural motor vehicles and require a driver to have passed a Category B driving test to be legal on road.

Holding a Category B test does not, however, give a person aged 17 the ability to drive all agricultural motor vehicles, such as sprayers or combines. There are age-based restrictions to consider up to the age of 21 years old.

Vehicle gross weights and age requirements are:
3.5t gross weight limit between ages 17 and 18 years old
7.5t gross weight limit between ages 18 and 21 years old

Vehicles over 7.5t gross weight can only be driven legally on the road by holders of a category B licence if they are aged 21 years or over.

It is important to check the weights of vehicles younger drivers are asked to drive to make sure that operators are at the correct age for the weight of the vehicle driven.

What licence do I need to drive a sprayer towed by a tractor?

There are two options as regards licence qualification to drive tractors on road.

Option 1:

Under current rules a 16 year old can obtain a provisional Category F driving licence and if the F Tractor Driving Test is passed, legally drive an agricultural tractor and trailer on the road. However, there are restrictions on type of the tractor and trailer a 16 year old can drive on the road. Important points to remember are:

  • A Category F licence will only allow the holder to drive an agricultural tractor and trailer on the road. A Category F licence does not allow the holder to drive any other type of vehicle e.g. telehandler, that is not type-approved as a tractor on the road.
  • At age 16 a person with a Category F licence is restricted to driving an agricultural tractor with a maximum width of 2.45m. This width restriction applies to both the tractor and the trailer.
  • A 16 year old can tow either a two-wheeled trailer or a four-wheeled, close-coupled (tandem-axle) trailer, on which the axle centres are spaced no more than 840mm apart.
  • A 16 year old with a provisional F Category licence is not permitted to practice on the road. The only time a person with a provisional F Category licence can go on the road at 16 years old is either when they are travelling to or from the place where the Category F test is held.

If a 16 year old is caught driving a tractor and trailer wider than 2.45m they could be prosecuted and given up to six penalty points and a £1,000 fine.

Once the holder of a category F licence reaches 17 years and above the width restrictions on driving tractors and trailers no longer apply.

Option 2:

The entitlement to drive a tractor is automatically awarded to holders of a Category B (car) licence – in other words the ability to drive an agricultural tractor (Category F) included when a Category B test is passed.

Do I need a trailer test?

Agricultural tractors and agricultural trailers are treated as one unit. This means the entitlement to drive a tractor automatically allows the holder drive a tractor and trailer combination. No additional testing or licence qualifications are needed.

Other agricultural machines e.g. self-propelled sprayers
The general rule is that a Category B driving licence allows holders to drive agricultural motor vehicles and a towed trailer weighing a maximum of 750kgs laden weight. To tow a trailer over 750kg behind an agricultural motor vehicle, which is not classified as a tractor, an additional licence qualification is needed (Category E).

Anyone who obtained their Category B  (car) licence before 01/01/97 automatically gained a Category E entitlement. However, since that date, an additional (trailer) driving test must be taken and passed in order to gain a Category E  licence entitlement.

Quick Quiz: Can I see your licence please?

Let’s see what type of driving licence you need when driving on the road.


Watch your speed!

The speed limit for agricultural vehicles varies according to the vehicle type and the width of the vehicle.

Tractor type:Width of vehicle:Speed:
High specification tractor –
e.g. Fastrac and Unimog
Up to 2.55m40mph
High specification tractor –
e.g. Fastrac and Unimog
Over 2.55m up to 3.5m20mph
High specification tractor –
e.g. Fastrac and Unimog
Over 3.5m12mph
All other tractorsUp to 2.55m25mph (40km/h)
All other tractorsOver 2.55m up to 3.5m20mph
All other tractorsOver 3.5m12mph
All other agricultural motor vehicles
e.g. telehandler, sprayer, combine
Up to 2.55m40mph*
(see note below)
All other agricultural motor vehicles
e.g. telehandler, sprayer, combine
Over 2.55m up to 3.5m20mph
All other agricultural motor vehicles
e.g. telehandler, sprayer, combine
Over 3.5m12mph
  • Note for ‘All other agricultural motor vehicles up to 40mph’ – Agricultural motor vehicles (up to 2.55m wide) can only be driven at speeds above 20mph IF they are fitted with front & rear axle suspension, a high-performance braking system (including ABS), a speedometer, additional mirrors and numerous other features. Even if fitted with these features, if the vehicle’s width exceeds 2.55m, it is restricted to 20mph.  If it is over 3.5m wide, it is restricted to 12 mph.

Quick Quiz: Watch your speed!

Without referring to the table above, see if you can answer these speed-related questions correctly (don’t cheat!):


Watch your weight

  • The maximum weight limit for an agricultural tractor and trailer combination is 31t.
  • Within the overall weight limit of 31t, the weight of a laden agricultural trailer can be no more than 18.29t.
  • The maximum weight limit for an agricultural motor vehicle and trailer combination is 24.39t

Trailed sprayers on the road

Trailed sprayers are classed as an agricultural trailed appliance (ATA) up to a laden weight of 14.23t. Trailed sprayers are treated in the same way as agricultural trailers if they over that weight limit OR if their laden weight is more than double their unladen weight. Overall, this means the maximum permitted weight of a tractor and sprayer combination on road is 31t and the weight of the sprayer can be no more than 18.29t.

Important note: Trailed appliances (i.e. trailed sprayers) up to 14.23t laden weight must be fitted with high-performance braking systems if used above 20mph. BUT, if these machines are agricultural trailers, they need not be fitted with high-performance brakes until they are used above 25mph or 40km/h.

Quick Quiz: Trailed sprayers

Let’s check you understand the rules of the road for a trailed sprayer:


Roadworthy condition

Agricultural vehicles, which primary purpose is to work in fields, do not require an MOT. But the law requires all agricultural vehicles must be safe and roadworthy every time they are used e.g. brakes must work, lights must work etc.

Drivers who take unroadworthy vehicles on road can face enforcement action and be sanctioned with penalty points, fines, and imprisonment for serious offences. Persons who cause or permit unroadworthy vehicles on road can face similar sanctions.

Health and safety law

Employers have a duty under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment regulations (PUWER). By law they must:

Ensure that equipment provided for work is suitable for the purpose intended
Persons using equipment are trained and competent
Equipment is well maintained.

Mobile phones

The use of mobile phones while driving is banned. Offences attract fines of £200 and 6 penalty points for each offence and 12 penalty points results in the loss of a driving licence.

Newly qualified drivers are in a probationary period for the first two years of qualification. Anybody who acquires 6 points in that probationary period will lose their full licence and revert back to learner status with the need to retake a driving test.

Learner status drivers can only go on the road if L plates are displayed and they are accompanied by a qualified driver.

Take care to be courteous

Courtesy doesn’t cost a penny. Agricultural machines are highly visible on the road and it’s essential to establish good relationships with other users of rural roads and local residents.

Points to remember:

  • Adjust speed to the road conditions at the time. A speed limit is not a target that must be reached at all times but something to comply with if the conditions are right.
  • Do not use mobile phones as these are a cause of driver distraction and given the high visibility of drivers in agricultural vehicles noticed quickly by other road users.
  • Take care to protect the road environment by not driving on kerbs or banks of ditches etc.

Quick Quiz: Did you know…?

The following questions should make you stop and think before you take a tractor or sprayer out on the road, or indeed permit someone else to do so:


Emergency procedures

Nobody sets out to have an accident, but it’s important to always prepare for the worst.

Chemical spills can present personal health and safety risks and, of course, cause long-term environmental contamination.

Action plan

The code of practice for using plant protection products states: ‘Anyone who uses pesticides professionally must be trained in emergency procedures and must have, and understand, their own action plans. These emergency action plans should be kept up to date to cover new equipment or new ways of working.’

Many product labels will have specific advice on what to do if you are contaminated or there is a spillage or fire. This information is always on the manufacturer’s material safety data sheet (MSDS), which you can get when you buy the product.

It’s vital chemical spills are dealt with quickly and efficiently to avoid risk of injury and possible legal action.

Details of the Emergency Procedures in the code of practice for using plant protection products can be downloaded here:

The Voluntary Initiative’s Emergency Procedures Best Practice Guide includes a useful Emergency Information Sheet, which includes national contact numbers and space for your own local numbers and locations. You can download it here:

Prepare for the worst

A spill kit in the store and carried on the sprayer could help prevent an accident or other spillage turning into a major incident.

  • Your spill kit should be able to deal with the full range of pesticides likely to be encountered on the farm
  • In must be able to cope with all situations. A spill could be a concentrate or dilute liquid. It could also be a powder or granules.
  • Serious spills that risk water pollution must be immediately reported to the appropriate environmental agency hotline:
    England, Scotland and Northern Ireland: 0800 80 70 60 
    Natural Resources Wales: 0300 065 3000 

Spill kit contents

  • PPE – Coverall, face shield, nitrile gloves, overshoes, respirator FFP3 
  • Absorbent materials – paper towels, spill pads, spill socks, granules
  • Drip tray
  • Disposable bags with tape or twist ties
  • Shovel and polypropylene broom
  • Labelled and secure container for waste.

Always wear the appropriate PPE, including a respirator, when clearing up dry spills. Dry spills such as powders and granules will be easier to clean up and, in some cases, may be suitable to be saved and applied as required.

Disposal of any waste materials which have been collected must always be dealt with by a reputable Licenced Waste Disposal Contractor. Always ask for a Waste Transfer Note as your proof of legitimate disposal. You can download a copy here:

You can also download the full Code of Practice for using plant protection products here:

Well done, you have reached the end of Lesson 4 and the end of the ATC Arable Course and you now need to complete the final test. You will need 80% to pass. You can re-sit the test as many times as it takes to pass.

To start the test, click on ATC: Arable: End of Course and Final Test (Compulsory) below: