FTA members have expressed safety fears over the government’s decision to allow heavier, faster agricultural vehicles on UK roads.

Following a consultation, the DfT last week gave the go-ahead to increase the maximum combination weight for tractors and trailers from 24.9 tonnes to 31 tonnes, while simultaneously raising the speed limit for conventional tractors from 20mph to 25mph.

This government says changes were needed to reflect improvements in vehicle technology and to help UK farmers compete more effectively with other European countries.

Changes will be rolled out by March 2015, with the possibility of a further weight and speed increase, alongside the introduction of a roadworthiness test proposed by harvest 2016.

However, James Firth, FTA head of road freight and enforcement policy, said that while its members fully understand the need for the agricultural sector to increase the size of its vehicles, they feel it must be done within a proper regulatory framework.

“We're very concerned that we could now be talking about a 17-year-old who passes their driving test in a Fiesta, who can now drive a 31-tonne combination.”

He added that legislation allowing people to drive tractors on the roads was made when journeys were made between local fields, but now such journeys may well take place on busy trunk roads. “So obviously our members are vey concerned that people will be put in charge of these vehicles with no further training.”

The FTA is supportive of the proposal to introduce roadworthiness testing for larger agricultural vehicles.