Driving vintage tractors on public roads: Do you know the rules?


Whether it be for tractor runs or just the usual rough and tumble of daily farm work, the sight of a vintage tractor rumbling along public roads is commonplace around the country.

However, according to the Road Safety Authority (RSA), various rules apply when taking these veteran vehicles out for a spin onto the main road – some well-known, others less so.

Here we examine these very rules and regulations.

Vintage tractor definition

First off, it’s important to understand what is meant by the term “vintage tractor”. According to the RSA, the legal definition of a “vintage agricultural tractor” is a “tractor that is over 30 years old”.

Vintage agricultural tractors must be roadworthiness tested if they are being used for commercial purposes, the authority notes.

Turning to braking, it is noted:“Vintage tractors which are rated at 40kph or less need a service brake with 25% braking efficiency and a parking brake with 16% braking efficiency

Interestingly, while all tractors and self-propelled machines are required to be fitted with a flashing amber beacon, “only vintage tractors taking part in vintage rallies or displays are exempt from this requirement”, the authority says.

Towing trailers

Turning to the matter of towing trailers with a vintage tractor, the RSA says: “If either your tractor or trailer is un-plated, the maximum you can tow is three times the tractor’s unladen weight.

It was added as an example “if the unladen weight of your tractor is 1.4t, you are limited to towing a trailer with a laden weight not exceeding 4.2t”.

If it is not plated, to find the unladen weight of one’s vintage tractor, you should contact the original manufacturer or authorised distributor.

However, if they are no longer in service you could try contacting an existing tractor manufacturer near you to enquire if they will assist you in this matter, it was added.

If a vintage tractor was never equipped with or has no way of powering brakes, the RSA gives two answers, firstly saying:“If your tractor is designed to travel at speeds of 40kph or less, you can draw a trailer with a laden weight of 5t or less without brakes, providing the laden weight of the trailer does not exceed three times the tractor’s unladen weight.”

“If your tractor is designed to travel at speeds over 40kph, you can only draw a
trailer with a laden weight of 3.5t without brakes,” the authority adds.


Finally, the RSA warns that roll over protection systems are required on vintage tractors:“Under S.I. No. 138 of 1969 all tractors shall be fitted with a safety frame or roll over protection system while used in a public place, irrespective of age or how it is being used.”

The Health and Safety Authority has responsibility for this area, the RSA concludes.


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