Rural contracting rules in transition
Rural contractors are being urged to keep up to date with changes to regulations governing work hours and use of public highways in order to avoid falling foul of the law.
New regulations started coming into force from June 1, but all the changes will not be in place until late 2014, according to Rural Contractors New Zealand board member Diane Pankhurst.
‘‘ It is quite confusing at the moment for contractors and farmers as some of the old regulations still apply, so there is mix of old and new at present,’’ she said.
Ms Pankhurst advises farmers and contractors who are unsure of the changes and which regulations have been changed and which have yet to change to visit ruralcontractors.org.nz.
One of the most important changes which has come into force relates to how tractors are registered.
‘‘Tractor owners have to decide if they want to register their tractors as being able to travel at over 40kmh on public roads or not. If you opt for the former, then in effect your vehicle has to comply with rules and regulations which apply to other road legal vehicles and require the new simplified warrant of fitness for tractors. Drivers will also need a wheels endorsement on their driver’s licence.’’
Ms Pankhurst notes previously some heavier tractors needed to have a certificate of fitness, whereas now they just need a simplified warrant of fitness tailored for tractors.
Despite the state of flux at present, she says in general contractors are welcoming the overall changes and the thinking behind them.
‘‘It will make it easier for contractors to get the likes of hay and silage cut and baled in as timely fashion as possible.’’
She added the greater flexibility in work hours is particularly welcome.
‘‘Contractors and farmers will no longer face the situation of a contractor having to stop work because they have exceeded their work hours for the day, when perhaps the job could be completed in another hour.
‘‘The contractor will no longer have to come back the next day or the next day when the weather is suitable.’’
With the recent damaging wind storms, Ms Pankhurst said farmers who are engaging contractors need to make sure paddocks to be cut for hay and silage are not strewn with storm debris such as irrigation system parts which could damage contractors’ equipment.
‘‘If a mower hits something it could easily cause thousands of dollars worth of damage and of course will delay the mowing of the paddock for the farmer. We advise farmers to identify hazards in paddocks if possible so the contractor is aware where they are and can avoid those areas.’’
Ms Pankhurst said farmers should at the very least contact the contractor to advise them of possible problems before they arrive to cut and bale hay or silage.
She said although at present farmers are not liable for any damage which may occur to a contractor’s equipment while operating on their property, insurance companies are becoming increasingly stringent in terms of paying out on claims and could in the future seek liability.
Another issue farmers need to be aware of is access to their properties for modern farm machinery.
‘‘With modern farm machinery such as square balers getting bigger we are finding 10-foot-wide gates are often too narrow to accommodate our gear. We say to farmers that if they are installing new gates they should aim for a minimum of 14 feet wide, so all farm machinery can be moved into and out of paddocks.’’
‘‘It is also important farmers keep pathways clear of overhanging trees or other obstacles too,’’ she added.
‘‘Contractors don’t like having equipment damaged just getting to and from paddocks.’’
Another possible fallout from the wind storms which contractors and farmers should be aware of is the need to ensure buildings which house machinery are fit for purpose.
Ms Pankhurst said while modern buildings have to meet the current building code as regards to snow loading or ability to cope with high winds, much older buildings may not be up to the task.‘‘It may be worthwhile for farmers and contractors with such structures to get them strengthened to avoid possible damage to valuable machinery in the future.’’