Opening the road to more workers
A $51 million benefit is seen in Government plans to relax the rules for farm vehicle use, Ali Tocker reports
Farmers and farm workers will be able to drive for longer hours in certain circumstances to meet farming realities, under new rules proposed by the Government.
In other proposed changes, more people would qualify to drive more types of farm vehicles on the road, increasing the pool of available workers.
And farm vehicles travelling slower than 40kmh on the road would be exempt from a warrant of fitness, while those going faster than 40kmh would need a warrant only once a year rather than every six months.
Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges has announced a raft of proposed law changes for the use of agricultural vehicles on the road, saying the changes would reduce compliance costs and bring greater flexibility while still ensuring safety.
“Farmers and contractors sometimes work long and irregular hours; for instance, crops need to be harvested when they are ready and when the weather is right,’’ he said.
‘‘The laws on the use of agricultural vehicles need to be fit for purpose and the proposed changes better reflect the needs of this very important industry.”
The Transport Ministry estimates the proposed changes should bring benefits worth $51 million over 25 years.
Under the changes, most drivers of agricultural vehicles travelling under 40kmh would be exempt from the workdriving-hours restrictions, which were introduced into law in New Zealand to guard against driver fatigue.
The ministry said fatigue had not featured much in reports for crashes involving agricultural vehicles, with only one such crash in 13 years listing fatigue as a contributing factor.
Employers would still have to ensure the health and safety of their staff, and workers would still be entitled to their statutory breaks under the new rules.
Agricultural vehicles travelling slower than 40kmh on the road would be exempt from warrant of fitness requirements but must be roadworthy.
Holders of a restricted car licence can drive these vehicles.
Agricultural vehicles travelling faster than 40kmh on the road would need an annual warrant of fitness, rather than sixmonthly, and could be driven by holders of a class 2 licence or agricultural endorsement.
Car licence holders with an agricultural endorsement would also be able to drive a greater range of agricultural vehicles once they proved they had the skills to do so.
Other changes would improve and simplify the rules around pilot vehicles, hazard identification and vehicle visibility.
‘‘Safety remains a key factor,’’ Mr Bridges said.
Newly-registered agriculture vehicles would have to use a flashing amber beacon, visible from the front and rear at distances of at least 100 metres.
The ministry said crash statistics showed a leading cause of crashes involving agricultural vehicles was a lack of warning to other road users about slow-moving agricultural vehicles on narrow and winding rural roads.
The proposals follow a Government-led review of the law for on-road agricultural vehicles, requested by the industry to ensure rules more closely matched reality.
Federated Farmers was involved in the review and welcomed the proposed changes, saying they were common sense and would simplify compliance.
“While farmers and contractors wanted to reduce compliance costs and red tape, nobody wanted this review to compromise road safety. Federated Farmers believes this has been achieved,” the group’s transport spokesman, Ian Mackenzie, said.
“With these rules the public can be confident that agricultural vehicles are safe on the road.’’
The public would have the opportunity to have a say on the proposed changes through submissions, because the land transport law had to be changed before the new rules would apply.
Final changes were expected to come into force early next year. Details of proposed changes are on the ministry website.