Getting ready for harvest - are your tractors and trailers safe to go?

Health and safety event near Ely_55184

Here are some points to consider to help keep tractors and trailers safe on road during harvest. See the links at the end of the page for more advice, covering towing and the safe loading of hay and straw.


Make sure the tractor is up to the job. Check:

  • All the lights work.
  • Windscreen wipers work.
  • Brake, hydraulic and lighting couplings work.


  1. Ring hitch

Check the trailer ring hitch for wear. Trailer rings that have been overloaded or operated at high speeds on rough ground can suffer more wear.

  1.  Wheels
  1. Check that all trailer wheel nuts are tight.
  2. Check that the tyre condition on the thread surface and both sidewalls is sound.
  3. Check that tyre pressures are set correctly to match the load and speed requirements of the trailer.
  1. Trailer lighting

Couple up the tractor and trailer:

  1. Check the condition of the lighting plug and cable.
  2. Check that all tail and indicator lights work.
  3. Replace any broken reflectors, blown bulbs or cracked lenses.
  1. Suspension

Check that the trailer’s suspension components are in good condition. Replace bushes and other wearing parts if needed.

  1. Brakes

Check the condition of the brakes. Ensure that the braking system works as it should when the trailer is empty and when the trailer is loaded.

  1. Sheet systems

If sheet systems are fitted check that they work properly and are undamaged

  1. Trailer seals

Check that trailer seals are undamaged so that grain does not leak on to the road

  1. Trailer pitch

Trailers should be nose high so that when the brakes are applied the trailer becomes level and the braking load is distributed evenly through the four trailer wheels

  1. Driver training

Make sure all drivers are trained.

Under health and safety law employers have a duty to ensure that drivers are trained and competent to use any machine provided for their use at work. It is vital that all drivers know the characteristics, capacities and capabilities of the tractors and tractors they will use. Some important points to remember are:

  1. Overloading will seriously affect the handing capabilities of a tractor and trailer combination.
  2. Trailers need to be matched to an appropriately sized tractor. Never undersize the tractor
  3. A speed limit is not a target that must always be reached every time a tractor goes on road. Speed travelled on road needs to be adjusted to the road conditions encountered
  4. Mobile phones are a proven cause of driver distraction and must not be used whilst driving. Best practice is to lock a mobile in the glove compartment and only check it when a vehicle is fully stationary.

Further help and advice from the NFU:

More help on keeping farm vehicles safe to use off road and on road is available in the NFU Farm Vehicle Health Guide and Checklist.

What are the rules for towing header trailers?

Safe loading of haw and straw - reduce the risk of accidents (member briefing).

Information on driver licensing and minimum ages for driving farm equipment is available in NFU Business 131.