The warning comes as the nation faces disruption to road transport because of a shortage of lorry drivers which is affecting deliveries to supermarkets, hospitality, the construction trade and agriculture.
The leading rural insurer is providing advice to help farmers make sure that tractors and trailers are correctly matched and maintenance schedules are in place to minimise the risk of accidents.
NFU Mutual is also recommending that all tractor drivers take regular breaks to avoid fatigue and that routes are chosen which avoid congested roads as much as possible.
To help farmers keep safe, NFU Mutual supports the Tilly Your Trailer initiative which enables farmers to get their trailers inspected and get a Tilly Pass which confirms that trailers are safe for road use and comply with safety legislation.
Gwyn Barlow of NFU Mutual Risk Management Services Ltd, said: “Harvest is the toughest time of the year for arable farmers – and this year the nationwide shortage of lorry drivers is adding to the pressures.
“Travelling across rough fields and through muddy gateways takes its toll on farm machinery so we are advising farmers to regularly check that brakes are working correctly, lights and indicators can be seen, and windows and mirrors are clean.
“We’re also asking the public to be patient when driving behind tractors for a few minutes and appreciate the need to get the harvest in to feed the nation.”
Tractor and trailer road safety checklist:
- Make sure tractors and trailers are maintained according to manufacturers’ schedules and records kept
- Check your insurance covers you for additional transport work
- Ensure that tractor and trailer lights are working correctly and are clean
- Ensure cab windows and mirrors are clean and intact
- Regularly check trailer hitch eyes for wear
- Make sure flashing orange beacons are fitted and used when legally required
- Keep trailer loads within manufacturers’ capacity ratings
- Pull in when safe to do so, to let following traffic overtake
- Ensure tractor drivers watch out for impatient following drivers trying to overtake when tractors slow down to turn right into fields and farm tracks
- Plan transport routes carefully to avoid congested roads and peak traffic times when possible
- Make sure tractors are correctly matched to trailer weights and have compatible braking systems and comply with the complex laws governing tractor and trailer weights, distances travelled, axle combinations, braking systems and speed limits
- Provide tractor drivers with training on farm equipment and maintenance schedules
- Make sure tractor seat belts are in good condition and used by drivers
- Make sure drivers take regular breaks to avoid fatigue
- Instruct tractor drivers not to use mobile phones while driving