Third party motor liability for non-road registered agricultural vehicles

What you need to know

A tractor incident in central Europe two years ago is raising questions in the UK as to the appropriate level of cover for operating a tractor, even if it never leaves the farm grounds or travels on roads. Here, Henry Worthy of farm insurance brokerage Farmers & Mercantile gives his advice to help the smallholder consider the implications.

“This is an issue that is more pertinent to the smallholder than larger farm operations, and should be considered carefully,” explains Mr Worthy.

The incident involved a tractor knocking a worker from a ladder whilst on farm grounds. The tractor had been insured on the general farm policy, as it was not used on public highways and only operated within the farm property.

It was decided however, that as the tractor was operational and in motion and the yard was in effect open to the general public, this constituted a public right of way and the tractor should have been covered by a motor policy for at least the minimum Road Traffic Act cover/third party liability. The incident with the third party was therefore not covered by the farm insurance policy alone.

“There are a number of implications and this will filter through to the UK farming community,” says Mr Worthy. “For example, while technically not on a road, a farm driveway can be considered a roadway in the event of a tractor backing into another vehicle or third party.

“As a smallholder, you may well operate a non-road registered ‘old Grey Fergie’ or equivalent for general operations on the farm only, believing your farm insurance policy would provide adequate cover within the environs of the farm. The law change is currently being reviewed following the incident in Europe, but it looks highly likely that it will come into force in the UK.”

Mr Worthy explains that there is no ‘black and white’ answer to the question, some insurers will be more accommodating, but an increasing number will not cover tractors under a standard farm policy.

“Although the law has not changed yet, one Farm Insurer has already excluded unregistered tractors in the Farm machinery Section and others are reviewing the situation. In order to protect yourself and ensure that you have adequate cover , in the event of such a claim, we at Farmers & Mercantile would strongly recommend that un registered tractors should be covered under a farm motor policy.”

Farmers & Mercantile is an independent insurance broker with a 100 percent focus on farming and smallholders. It operates throughout England, Scotland and Wales through four offices.

This article was first published in the Smallholder Magazine.