Read about the finalised changes to agricultural vehicles rules.

Read questions and answers on the finalised changes to agricultural vehicle rules on the NZ Transport Agency website(external link).

Why are these changes needed?

Industry representatives raised concerns that the current rules 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 has considered what changes could be made to allow greater flexibility while maintaining safety for operators and other road users. Following consultation, the government has decided to progress several actions for achieving this.

What are the benefits of the changes?

The Ministry estimates that proposals arising from the agricultural vehicles review should result in 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.

How were these changes developed?

A review team led by the Ministry of Transport, that included Police, the New Zealand Transport Agency and the Department of Labour looked at whether the current rules for agricultural vehicles properly take account of the realities facing the industry and how they compare to those in other developed countries. Discussions were held with industry groups as well as others affected by these rules and as a result the Ministry sought feedback on a position paper setting out potential changes. The government has considered this feedback as well as research and analysis and decided to progress a number of actions to improve regulation of agricultural vehicles.

When will changes be made?

These actions will require changes to land transport rules and there will be an opportunity for industry and the public to provide their views on these actions as part of this process. Following this, it is expected that any changes would come into force in the first half of 2013. 

What are the changes for agricultural vehicles?

The government has agreed to align driver licensing, work time restrictions and vehicle inspection requirements for agricultural vehicles used on road to a two tier system based on a 40km/h operating speed.

Agricultural vehicles not exceeding 40 km/h would be exempt from warrant of fitness requirements, but would still need to be maintained in a roadworthy condition. These vehicles could be driven by holders of a restricted car licence.

Agricultural vehicles that exceed 40 km/h would need to obtain an annual warrant of fitness, and would need to be driven by the holder of a wheels endorsement or Class 2 licence.

Car licence holders with a wheels endorsement will be able to drive a greater range of agricultural vehicles once they prove they have the skills to do so.

Other changes would improve and simplify the rules around pilot vehicles, hazard identification and vehicle visibility. Introducing these will require changes to land transport rules, and there will be an opportunity to make submissions on these at this time.

Some changes affecting agricultural vehicles have also been made as part of Road User Charges regulation changes.

A full list of the proposed changes is below:

Driver licensing and the work time rule

  1. Increase the speed restrictions for Class 1 licensed tractor drivers from 30 km/h to 40 km/h
  2. Permit drivers with a Class 1 (car) restricted license to operate these tractors
  3. Enable the holder of an overseas tractor or combine harvester licence to drive an equivalent agricultural vehicle permitted to be driven on a New Zealand Class 1 (car) licence
  4. Create a new agricultural vehicle endorsement on the Class 1 (car) licence. Holders of this endorsement would be permitted to operate certain vehicles that currently require a Class 2 (heavy vehicle) licence
  5. Simplify and improve the application process for alternative fatigue management schemes and incorporate the features of the current NZ Transport Agency Work Time Variation for Critical Agricultural Operations into the Work Time and Logbooks Rule. These changes will mean that most agricultural vehicles under 18 tonnes, or 25 tonnes in combination, will be exempt from the work time rule

    Warrant of fitness, licensing, and registration

  6. Exempt agricultural vehicles that do not exceed 40km/h from warrant of fitness provided they are maintained in road worthy condition
  7. Permit agricultural vehicles that exceed 40 km/h to obtain a warrant of fitness annually, rather than six monthly
  8. Exempt agricultural trailers and implements from warrant of fitness, licensing and road user charges provided they are maintained in a road worthy condition
  9. Require agricultural vehicles to display and operate an amber beacon that is visible from the front and rear at distances of at least 100 metres

    Road User Charges

  10. Changes have already been made to road user charges requirements for agricultural vehicles to remove the current system of time licences

    Overweight and over dimension vehicle requirements

  11. Allow that agricultural vehicles travelling in a convoy do not need to have a pilot vehicle for each agricultural vehicle as long as they have a pilot vehicle at the front and rear of the convoy
  12. Permit a new alternative configuration for over dimension hazard panels
  13. Allow the NZ Transport Agency to approve alternative hazard panel configurations
  14. Require that parts of agricultural vehicles such as attachments and implements that overhang the vehicle by more than four metres (measured from the driver’s seat) be painted with high visibility paint or marked with an approved hazard panel
  15. Clarify that agricultural vehicles are not required to remove forks or other equipment fitted to the front when operating on the road provided that the operator complies with other standards for external projections

Driver licensing and the work time rule

1. Increase the speed restrictions for restricted Class 1 licensed tractor drivers from 30 km/h to 40 km/h

Who would this apply to?

As with the current 30 km/h speed restriction, this would apply to tractors up to 18 tonnes, or 25 tonnes in combination.

Does this pose a safety risks?

The proposed 40 km/h limit is considered to have safety benefits. Currently agricultural vehicles without a warrant of fitness, or being driven by a Class 1 driver, are only permitted to only travel at 30 km/h on the road. The speed difference this creates between these vehicles and other traffic travelling at open road speeds can increase the risk of rear-end crashes. Raising this could help reduce this difference and reduce this risk.

The low speed requirement and nature of agricultural work means that the majority of agricultural vehicles licensed to travel under 40 km/h would be making only short trips on the road. In addition, changes would be monitored to ensure they work as intended.

How would this be enforced?

This regime would make enforcement easier. Currently, in addition to operating speed, Police need to take into account factors such as a vehicle’s speed capability, the distance the vehicle has travelled from its home base, the driver’s licence, and its weight. Police would be able to detect vehicles illegally travelling over 40 km/h with speed cameras.

2. Permit drivers with a Class 1 (car) restricted license to operate these tractors

Why is there a need to allow restricted licence holders to operate these vehicles?

This would 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 would also make New Zealand’s rules for the age that a person can drive a tractor more consistent with those in other jurisdictions. A United Kingdom tractor licence can be obtained at age 16. The minimum age at which someone can sit a restricted driver licensing test in New Zealand is 16 and a half. The proposal to allow UK licence holders to operate tractors would mean people from the UK could operate tractors in New Zealand at a younger age than New Zealanders.

Is it safe for restricted licence holders to drive these vehicles?

Recent changes to the driver licensing test means restricted drivers will have much more driving experience and have a greater ability at driving in a wider variety of situations.

The rise in the driving age has raised the age at which a person can apply for a restricted licence to 16 and a half.

Under this change, restricted licence holders would still need to meet the conditions of their licence when operating an agricultural vehicle on the road.

Employers are also required to provide machine type specific training under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992. It is important to note that this change would only allow them to operate these vehicles on the roads at speeds of under 40 km/h.

3. Enable the holder of an overseas tractor or combine harvester licence to drive an equivalent agricultural vehicle permitted to be driven on a New Zealand Class 1 (car) licence.

Why is there a need to allow for overseas agricultural vehicle licences?

New Zealand law does not currently recognise tractor 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 licenses would improve their ability to recruit seasonal workers with tractor licences (and not class 1 or higher licences).The Rural Contractors New Zealand estimate that 40 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 full Class 1 licence provides a disincentive if the worker is here for a year or less.

4. Create a new agricultural vehicle endorsement on the Class 1 (car) licence. Holders of this endorsement would be permitted to operate certain vehicles that currently require a Class 2 (heavy vehicle) licence.

How is this different from the current regulations?

Currently, any person that drives an agricultural vehicle faster than 30 km/h must hold a Class 2 licence.

The proposed agricultural endorsement for Class 1 licence holders will mean holders of the agricultural endorsement could drive certain vehicles that currently require a Class 2 driver licence.

How would the agricultural endorsement work?

In the interim, the NZ Transport Agency intend to modify the existing Wheels (W) endorsement to enable holders of a W to drive tractors up to 18 tonnes, or 25 tonnes in combination, at speeds greater than 40 km/h and special type vehicles up to 40 km/h.

The test would be based on the existing W test. Drivers that currently hold a W or a Class 2 licence would be able to drive these vehicles.

This interim measure will be in place until Ministry of Transport and the NZ Transport Agency review of driver licensing in 2013, at which point the status of endorsements will be clarified.

How would these changes ensure safety?

Raising the speed limit for Class 1 licence drivers will reduce the difference in speed between agricultural vehicles and other vehicles, reducing the risk of crashes.

Holders of an agricultural endorsement would need to have knowledge of transport law relevant to operating an agricultural vehicle, and provide certification that they are trained in operating them.

5. Simplify and improve the application process for alternative fatigue management schemes and incorporate the features of the current NZ Transport Agency Work Time Variation for Critical Agricultural Operations into the Work Time and Logbooks Rule. These changes will mean that most agricultural vehicles travelling under 40km/h will be exempt from the work time rule.

Who will be exempt from the work time rule?

Any person that drives a tractor or agricultural vehicle requiring a Class 1 licence, or an endorsement. The exemption 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.

Will fewer vehicles subject to work time rules mean there is a greater risk of fatigue crashes?

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 work time rule for managing fatigue of 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 at Section 19 applies to employees.

What is the NZ Transport Agency Work Time Variation for Critical Agricultural Operations?

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.

Download a copy of the NZ Transport Agency Work Time Variation for Critical Agricultural Operations - 20 December 2010 (Revised August 2011)(external link)

How many crashes involving agricultural vehicles have been caused by fatigue?

Fatigue has not featured much in the reports for crashes involving agricultural vehicles. The review team reviewed all crash reports involving agricultural vehicles from 1997 to 2010. Only one crash listed fatigue as a contributing factor.

Do other countries subject operators of agricultural vehicles to work time restrictions?

Research commissioned by the Ministry 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.

Does this mean agricultural vehicle operators can work for as long as they want without taking a break?

No. This new flexibility would 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 would 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:

  • one 10-minute paid rest break if their work period is two hours or more but not more than four hours
  • one 10-minute paid rest break and one unpaid 30-minute meal break if their work period is more than four hours but not more than six hours
  • two 10-minute paid rest breaks and one unpaid 30-minute meal break if their work period is more than six hours but not more than eight hours.

These requirements begin over again if an employee’s work period is more than eight hours. 

Warrant of Fitness, licensing, and registration

Why is the Ministry not proceeding with vehicle licensing proposals?

The Ministry consulted on a proposal to align vehicle licensing, ACC and road user charges around the 40 km/h demarcation to be consistent with the other proposals. Consultation on an agricultural vehicles discussion document showed strong industry support for this.

However this was not proceeded with for three reasons:

  • The Ministry is current conducting a review of the wider vehicle licensing system. It would be inappropriate to reform the licensing of agricultural vehicles prior to the outcomes of that review.
  • The proposed changes would distort the incentives of operators when choosing to operate above or below the 40 km/h threshold. This could create artificial incentives for vehicle owners who would otherwise operate over 40km/h either to not-comply, or comply and be less productive, outcomes that are inconsistent with the Government’s commitment to better and less regulation.
  • Changes to vehicle licensing would require significant system changes and delay the implementation of the proposals.

The Ministry intends to review how annual vehicle licensing applies to agricultural vehicles in early 2013 following the government’s decision on the wider Vehicle Licensing Reform Project and taking into account how many agricultural vehicles pay road user distance charges post 1 August 2012.

Find out more about  the Vehicle Licensing Reform Project.

6. Exempt agricultural vehicles that choose to operate at up to 40km/h from Warrant of Fitness (WoF) provided they are maintained in road worthy condition.

Would allowing agricultural vehicles on the road without a WoF increase safety risks?

Currently, agricultural vehicles that operate below 30 km/h are exempt from vehicle inspection obligations, but are required to be roadworthy and not pose a danger to other road users pursuant to the Land Transport Act 1998 and the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992.

Vehicles that opt to operate up to 40 km/h would remain subject to the roadworthiness requirement. A simplified WoF standard would provide guidance for operators of these vehicles and Police of what the applicable standard expected for these vehicles.

Police roadside inspections will take a low tolerance for non-compliance. The Ministry of Transport intends to review the impact of the changes in the 2016/17 financial year.

How many crashes involving agricultural vehicles have been caused by mechanical failure?

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 mechanical standards for agricultural vehicles as a contributing factor in 20 percent of crashes involving agricultural vehicles. Half of this 20 percent related to non-compliance with lighting and panelling requirements, rather than core mechanical components.

7. Allow agricultural vehicles that operate over 40 km/h to obtain a warrant of fitness annually, rather than six monthly.

Will an annual warrant of fitness be enough to ensure these vehicles are safe?

Vehicle owners will still be required to keep vehicles maintained to a road worthy 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.

8. Allow for agricultural trailers and implements to be exempt from warrant of fitness, licensing and road user charges provided they are maintained in a road worthy condition.

Does this pose any safety risks?

Agricultural trailers and implements are currently exempt from warrant of fitness, licensing and road user charges. The proposal clarifies the requirements. However, owners must maintain their agricultural trailers and implements to a road worthy condition.

9. Require agricultural vehicles to display and operate an amber beacon that is visible from the front and rear at distances of at least 100 metres.

Why is there a need for this beacon?

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. An amber beacon would help prevent crashes by improving the forward and rear visibility of agricultural vehicles. Amber beacons are more effective than other 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 support making amber beacons mandatory.

How much will this cost?

There would be little cost for this as it will not apply retrospectively. This means only tractors registered after a future implementation date will need to have an amber beacon. The majority of new tractors come equiped with amber beacons. Tractors registered prior to the implementation date would be allowed to have an amber beacon but it would not be mandatory.

For the few new tractors that do not have amber beacons, the cost of procuring and fitting a beacon is estimated to be between $155 and $210 per vehicle. This cost will vary depending on the ability of the owner to fit the beacon themselves.

Are beacons fitted on these types of vehicles in other jurisdictions?

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 estimates that 30 percent of the current agricultural vehicle fleet has an amber beacon fitted.

Road User Charges

10. Changes have already been made to road user charges requirements for agricultural vehicles to remove the current system of time licences.

What are the changes?

Most vehicles currently required to purchase time licences will be exempt from paying RUC under section 38 of the RUC Act 2012. A detailed list of exempt vehicles is available here(external link).

Find out more about the RUC changes

Overweight and over dimension vehicle requirements

11. Provide that agricultural vehicles travelling in a convoy of not more than three vehicles do not need to have a pilot vehicle for each agricultural vehicle as long as they have a pilot vehicle at the front and rear of the convoy and there is a reasonable space for passing vehicles within the convoy.

Why is there a need to change this requirement?

Requiring a pilot for each agricultural vehicle in a convoy was seen as unnecessarily costly. Improved hazard panelling and the requirement for an amber beacon will maintain safety without adding unnecessary compliance costs.

Why are only three agricultural vehicles going to be allowed to travel in a convoy?

A convoy of three agricultural vehicles and two pilot vehicles equates to five vehicles. Any more vehicles would significantly obstruct other road traffic and increase the risk for other vehicles attempting to pass the convoy.

12. Create standards for placement and a new configuration for over dimension hazard panels.

How will a new panel configuration be better than the existing one?

Concerns have been raised that the current hazard panel is difficult to fit and can impede visibility. The proposed alternative configuration may be more practical to fit.

13. Allow the NZ Transport Agency to approve alternative hazard panel configurations.

How will this work?

The NZ Transport Agency will confirm these details after a decision has been made about the proposal.

It is likely that a set of criteria would be used to assess alternative hazard panel designs. New hazard panel designs would be approved or recommended on this basis.

Applications would be provided to a nominated contact point at the NZ Transport Agency.

The NZ Transport Agency would publicly notify an approved alternative hazard panel configuration by making its specifications available for viewing on its website.

14. Require that parts of agricultural vehicles such as attachments and implements that overhang the vehicle by more than four metres (measured from the driver’s seat) be painted with high visibility paint or marked with an approved hazard panel.

What are the current rules for parts that overhang the vehicle?

Currently parts that overhang the vehicle by more than three metre must be marked with an approved hazard panel. This change will allow operators greater flexibility in how they mark these hazards while still maintaining safety.

15. Clarify that agricultural vehicles are not required to remove forks or other equipment fitted to the front when operating on the road provided that the operator complies with other standards for external projections.

Is this the current law?

Yes. The Land Transport Rule: External Projections 2001 provides that an agricultural vehicle may be fitted with a protruding ornamental or functional object or fitting. However, the protruding ornamental object or fitting must:

  • not be likely to injure a person
  • be installed so that the risk of the object or fitting causing injury to a person is minimised
  • not adversely affect driver vision or driver control

Why is there a need to clarify this?

There is a common misconception by operators of agricultural vehicles that they are required to remove tractor forks if it can be done within 30 minutes.

Is it safe for agricultural vehicles to operate on the road with forks or other equipment fitted?

Yes, provided operators comply with the best practice for managing the risk, outlined in the Agricultural Vehicles Guide 2009. This is available on the NZ Transport Agency's website(external link).