New increases to the weight limit of tractor trailers have been ruled out by the Government over concerns that any further changes would see cash-strapped local authorities incur £25m in road maintenance costs.
The decision, announced by the Department for Transport (DfT), has left farmers disappointed. The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) claims the current weight limits put England’s food producers at an unfair disadvantage to their international rivals who can transport far greater volumes.
The Government committed to examine the case for higher weight limits in March 2015, when it announced the last weight increase for a tractor and trailer combination - from 24.39 tonnes to 31 tonnes.
The speed limit for tractors also rose, from 20mph to 25mph.
But the DfT has now ruled that current limits strike the right cost-benefit balance, saying: “To further increase the permitted trailer weights would be expected to lead to significant additional wear on road surfaces, costing around £25m per year.
“The Government is conscious of the effect that such an outcome would have on rural road users and the burden it would place on authorities responsible for road maintenance and as such has decided not to proceed further with regulatory change in this instance.”
The NFU is adamant that the stance hinders farm efficiency and competitiveness.
Mike Hambly, the union’s crops board chairman, said: “Farmers across the country are being held back by regulation that does not reflect the capabilities of modern machinery and does not allow farmers to use it to its full efficiency.
“Weight restrictions for tractors and trailers in other countries far surpass our own 31 tonne limit. We’re put at a competitive disadvantage to countries like Germany and France who benefit from 40 and 38 tonne limits respectively.”
The NFU said it wanted the DfT “to engage transparently with the farming industry on the next steps for this important issue” and Mr Hambly vowed to keep up the pressure on government to cut burdensome regulation.