Guidance

Agricultural vehicle licences and fuel

Find out which licence you need for agricultural vehicles and which tax and operator's licence exemptions might apply to you.

Introduction

If you or your business use agricultural vehicles, they may require a different licence and may even be exempt from vehicle tax. Vehicle driving licences are categorised by type of vehicle and also vary according to the weight of the vehicle. However, most agricultural tractors mounted on wheels can be driven on the public highway by anyone who has passed a car driving test.

This guide provides information on the licensing requirements for agricultural vehicles and explains which vehicles are exempt from tax. It also explains the different legal requirements - including the minimum age requirement for driving agricultural vehicles and type approval for tractors. Finally, there are details on quad bikes, rebated fuel and agricultural vehicles that are exempt from an operator’s licence.

Licensing requirements for farm vehicles

Under special licensing arrangements, you are allowed to drive larger vehicles on your farm without holding a large goods vehicle (LGV) driving licence entitlement.

If you drive a larger vehicle, the maximum authorised mass - ie the total weight of the vehicle plus the maximum load it can carry - will determine which driving licence entitlement you require, for example:

  • 3.5 to 7.5 tonnes requires a category C1 licence
  • more than 7.5 tonnes requires a category C licence

You must be at least 18 years of age to drive a vehicle weighing between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes, and 21 years of age to drive a vehicle over 7.5 tonnes.

Minimum ages to drive agricultural vehicles

There are age restrictions that control the type of vehicle you can legally drive. The tables below provide information on the licence required to drive or ride agricultural vehicles and the minimum age requirements.

Three or 4-wheeled light vehicles

Category Description Minimum age*
B1 Motor tricycles, quadricycles and 3 or 4-wheeled vehicles with an unladen weight no more than 550 kilograms 17*

*Age 16 if you are currently getting Disability Living Allowance at the higher rate - mobility component

Medium-sized vehicles with or without trailers

Category Description Minimum age
C1 Vehicles weighing between 3,500 kilograms and 7,500 kilograms, with or without a trailer - weighing no more than 750 kilograms 18*
C1+E As category C1 but with a trailer weighing more than 750 kilograms. The total weight of the vehicle and the trailer together can’t weigh more than 12,000 kilograms. The weight of the trailer - when fully loaded - can’t weigh more than the unladen weight of the vehicle 21*, **

*Age 17 if you are a member of the armed services

**Age 18 if you got your driving licence before 10 September 2009, and the weight of the vehicle and trailer together is under 7,500 kilograms

Though the minimum age is 21, you can drive C1+E category vehicles at age 18 if you:

  • have passed your driving test and Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) initial qualification
  • are learning to drive or taking a driving test for this category or Driver CPC initial qualification
  • are taking a national vocational training course to get a Driver CPC initial qualification
  • had your driving licence before 10 September 2009 - you must take the CPC periodic training within 5 years of this date

A C1+E category vehicle is the same as a C1 vehicle, except with a trailer over 750 kilograms. For example, a vehicle with an unladen weight of 6,000 kilograms and a maximum weight of 7,500 kilograms pulling a fully loaded trailer with a weight of 4,500 kilograms gives a total weight 12,000 kilograms.

Large vehicles, with or without trailers

Category Description Minimum age
C Vehicles over 3,500 kilograms, with a trailer up to 750 kilograms 21*
C+E As category C but with a trailer over 750 kilograms 21*

*Age 17 if you are a member of the armed services

However, you can drive these vehicles at age 18 if you:

  • have passed your driving test and Driver CPC initial qualification
  • are learning to drive or taking a driving test for this category or Driver CPC initial qualification
  • are taking a national vocational training course to get a Driver CPC initial qualification
  • had your driving licence before 10 September 2009 - you must take the CPC periodic training within 5 years of this date

Other categories

Category Description Minimum age
F Agricultural tractors 17*
G Road rollers 21**
H Tracked vehicles 21***
K Mowing machine or vehicle controlled by a pedestrian 16

*Age 16 for tractors less than 2.45 metres wide, it must only pull trailers less than 2.45 metres wide with 2 wheels, or 4 close-coupled

**Age 17 for small road-rollers with metal or hard rollers, they must not be steam powered, weigh more than 11,690 kilograms or be made for carrying loads

***Age 17 if the maximum authorised mass of the tracked vehicle doesn’t exceed 3,500 kilograms

Exempted large goods vehicles

If you hold a full category B (car) driving licence you can drive a number of large agricultural vehicles:

  • goods vehicles propelled by steam eg large vehicles with coal or wood burning engines
  • works trucks (primarily designed for use in private premises or in the immediate vicinity eg dumper trucks/forklift trucks)
  • industrial tractors (tractors used mainly for haulage work off the public road, the vehicle must not have an unladen weight exceeding 7370kgs and have a design speed not exceeding 20mph)
  • agricultural motor vehicles which are not agricultural or forestry tractors (primarily used off the public road eg crop sprayer/combine harvester)
  • digging machines (vehicles which are limited to travel on public roads only for the purpose of proceeding to/from sites - used for trench digging or any kind of excavating or shovelling work eg vehicles with digging buckets/shovels)
  • goods vehicle which is not used on public roads or, if it is so used during any calendar week: - is used only in passing from land in the occupation of a person keeping the vehicle to other land in the occupation of that person - is not used on public roads for distances exceeding an aggregate of 9.7 kilometres in that calendar week

  • goods vehicles, other than an agricultural motor vehicle, used only for purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or forestry: - is used on roads only in passing between different areas of land occupied by the same person - in passing between any 2 such areas does not travel a distance exceeding 1.5 kilometres on roads

Mobile cranes

You now require a category C1 driving licence to drive a mobile crane weighing between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes. If the weight of the crane is over 7.5 tonnes then you will require a category C licence.

Abandoned and nuisance vehicles

Abandoned vehicles can cause a nuisance, attract anti-social behaviour, or be part of a criminal investigation. Abandoning a vehicle is a crime and can attract a financial penalty or prison sentence.

If you believe a vehicle may have been abandoned on or near your property, you should try to confirm whether the vehicle has been abandoned. You can do this by checking:

  • the vehicle’s tax disc - to see whether it has expired
  • the general state of the car - eg flat tyres, a broken windscreen, or removed parts may suggest that it has been abandoned
  • whether the vehicle has a number plate

If you are sure that the vehicle has been abandoned, you should report it to your local council. You should provide the council with any information you know about the vehicle, for example:

  • vehicle, make, model and colour
  • vehicle registration number - which should also be on the tax disc
  • condition of the vehicle - and any damage to it
  • expiry date on the tax disc - if there is one
  • location of the vehicle - and if it is causing an obstruction
  • how long the vehicle has been abandoned
  • any additional information - eg who was the last person you saw in the vehicle

Vehicle tax exemptions

There are certain types of vehicle that are exempt from vehicle tax. If your vehicle is exempt, you will still need to display a valid tax disc. You will be issued a free tax disc when taxing your vehicle and will need to renew it each year.

Vehicles exempt from tax

If you own a vehicle that is used solely for the purpose of agriculture, horticulture or forestry, it is exempt from vehicle tax.

You can check which agricultural, horticultural and forestry and other vehicles are exempt from vehicle tax.

If you don’t need to pay vehicle tax, you still need to apply for a tax disc and display the ‘nil value disc’ on your vehicle.

Minimum ages to drive agricultural vehicles

There are age restrictions that control the type of vehicle you can legally drive. The tables below provide information on the licence required to drive or ride agricultural vehicles and the minimum age requirements.

Three or 4-wheeled light vehicles

Category Description Minimum age
B1 Motor tricycles, quadricycles and 3 or 4-wheeled vehicles with an unladen weight no more than 550 kilograms 17*

*Age 16 if you are currently getting Disability Living Allowance at the higher rate - mobility component

Medium-sized vehicles with or without trailers

Category Description Minimum age
C1 Vehicles weighing between 3,500 kilograms and 7,500 kilograms, with or without a trailer - weighing no more than 750 kilograms 18*
C1+E As category C1 but with a trailer weighing more than 750 kilograms. The total weight of the vehicle and the trailer together can’t weigh more than 12,000 kilograms. The weight of the trailer - when fully loaded - can’t weigh more than the unladen weight of the vehicle 21*, **

*Age 17 if you are a member of the armed services

**Age 18 if you got your driving licence before 10 September 2009, and the weight of the vehicle and trailer together is under 7,500 kilograms

Though the minimum age is 21, you can drive C1+E category vehicles at age 18 if you:

  • have passed your driving test and Driver CPC initial qualification
  • are learning to drive or taking a driving test for this category or Driver CPC initial qualification
  • are taking a national vocational training course to get a Driver CPC initial qualification
  • had your driving licence before 10 September 2009 - you must take the CPC periodic training within 5 years of this date

A C1+E category vehicle is the same as a C1 vehicle, except with a trailer over 750 kilograms. For example, a vehicle with an unladen weight of 6,000 kilograms and a maximum weight of 7,500 kilograms pulling a fully loaded trailer with a weight of 4,500 kilograms gives a total weight 12,000 kilograms.

Large vehicles, with or without trailers

Category Description Minimum age
C Vehicles over 3,500 kilograms, with a trailer up to 750 kilograms 21*
C+E As category C but with a trailer over 750 kilograms 21*

*Age 17 if you are a member of the armed services

However, you can drive these vehicles at age 18 if you:

  • have passed your driving test and Driver CPC initial qualification
  • are learning to drive or taking a driving test for this category or Driver CPC initial qualification
  • are taking a national vocational training course to get a Driver CPC initial qualification
  • had your driving licence before 10 September 2009 - you must take the CPC periodic training within 5 years of this date

Other categories

Category Description Minimum age
F Agricultural tractors 17*
G Road rollers 21
H Tracked vehicles 21*
K Mowing machine or vehicle controlled by a pedestrian 16

*Age 16 for tractors less than 2.45 metres wide, it must only pull trailers less than 2.45 metres wide with 2 wheels, or 4 close-coupled

Age 17 for small road-rollers with metal or hard rollers, they must not be steam powered, weigh more than 11,690 kilograms or be made for carrying loads

*Age 17 if the maximum authorised mass of the tracked vehicle doesn’t exceed 3,500 kilograms

Type approval and exemptions for tractors and goods vehicles

You are required to have a goods vehicle operator’s licence for most goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes gross plated weight.

However, there are a number of exemptions that apply, including for agricultural tractors.

You can also download the Driver and Vehicle Services Agency’s (DVSA) guide to operator licensing for goods vehicles.

Type approval for tractors

All vehicles supplied for use in the UK need to meet strict health and safety standards.

Vehicle Type Approval is the confirmation that production samples of a design will meet specified performance standards. The specification of the product is recorded and only that specification is approved.

Agricultural quad bikes

An agricultural quadricycle (quad) is a light 4-wheeled vehicle intended for off-road use. It must be registered with the DVLA as an agricultural vehicle and be used as a working vehicle for farming, forestry or similar purposes.

You are allowed to use an agricultural quad on the public road for short distances as long as it is registered for road use, has a number plate and complies with the relevant lighting and construction requirements.

Lighting requirements

If you use an agricultural quad on the public road between sunrise and sunset you are not required to fit a lamp or reflector. However, you will be required to make hand signals to indicate slowing down or change of direction.

To use your agricultural quad during the night it must be fitted with the full complement of lighting, for example:

  • lamps
  • reflectors
  • rear markings and other devices

If your quad was first used on or after 1 April 1986, the types of lamp it requires are determined by the maximum speed of the vehicle, as shown in the table below:

Lamp requirements for different types of quad

Maximum speed Types of lamp required to be fitted
Any speed Front position lamp (white) Rear position lamp (red) Rear retro-reflector (red) - must be non-triangular Number plate lamp
>15 miles per hour (mph) As above and also: Dipped-beam headlamp (white) Front and rear direction indicators (amber)* Also, there must be a switch to operate all 4 flashing together - as a hazard warning device
>25mph All of the above and also: Main-beam headlamp (white) Rear fog lamp (red) Stop lamp (red)
>40mph All of the above and also: Dim-dip device or running lamp (unless the vehicle conforms to European requirements)
  • Front and rear direction indicators are not required if the unladen mass of the quad is less than 255 kilograms

Additional features and rules for agricultural quads

If your agricultural quad is capable of speeds exceeding 20mph then you are required to fit a speedometer and a horn.

You are not allowed to carry any passengers on an agricultural quad.

Rebated fuel for agricultural vehicles

There are certain categories of vehicle which are not defined as road vehicles and can therefore use rebated fuel, otherwise known as ‘red diesel’.

Unlicensed vehicles not used on public roads

If you own a vehicle that is not used on the public road and has no licence under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994, it is an excepted vehicle.

A vehicle can qualify as an exempted vehicle in the unlicensed category if it is not registered with the DVLA or if a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) is made.

This includes vehicles that have not been taxed since before the 31 January 1998, which are not required to make a SORN.

It is a criminal offence to use a vehicle on a public road that is not registered with the DVLA or has a SORN.

Tractors

A tractor qualifies as an excepted vehicle if it is designed and constructed primarily for off-road use. An excepted tractor can be used on a public road solely for:

  • agriculture, horticulture or forestry work
  • cutting verges bordering public roads
  • cutting hedges or trees bordering public roads or bordering verges which border public roads

Tractors with a vehicle excise licence - such as a general haulage vehicle - cannot use red diesel either on or off public roads, regardless of whether it is undertaking agricultural, horticultural or forestry work. This is because it is licensed to perform other work and is not therefore assumed to be used solely for agriculture, horticulture or forestry.

Light agricultural vehicles

For a vehicle to qualify as a light agricultural vehicle, it must:

  • have a revenue weight not exceeding 1,000 kilograms
  • be designed and constructed so as to seat only the driver
  • be designed and constructed primarily for use otherwise than on roads
  • be used solely for purposes relating to agriculture, horticulture or forestry

The revenue weight of a vehicle is either the maximum weight of the vehicle or the design weight as defined in section 60A of the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act.

Quad bikes and similar single-seater machines used for agricultural, horticultural or forestry work are classed as light agricultural vehicles.

Agricultural material handlers

For a vehicle to qualify as an agricultural material handler, it must be designed to lift goods or burden. It must also be designed and constructed primarily for off-road use.

This category is restricted to material handlers used on public roads solely for:

  • agricultural, horticultural or forestry work
  • cutting verges bordering public roads
  • cutting hedges or trees bordering public roads or bordering verges which border public roads

Agricultural engines

Agricultural engines are restricted to purpose-built vehicles that:

  • are designed and used solely for agriculture, horticulture or forestry work
  • are used on public roads only for going to and from a place of work
  • if used on a public road, do not carry any load except such as is necessary for its propulsion or for the operation of any machinery built-in or permanently attached to the vehicle

Examples of vehicles that use agricultural engines include:

  • combine harvesters
  • crop sprayers
  • forage harvesters
  • pea viners

Agricultural processing vehicles

Agricultural processing vehicles - such as mobile seed cleaning machines or feed milling machines - are specialist vehicles that:

  • are used for the movement of built-in machinery - for processing agricultural, horticultural or forestry produce - used while the vehicle is stationary
  • are used on public roads only for going to and from a place of work
  • if used on a public road, do not carry any load except such as is necessary for its propulsion or for the operation of the processing machinery

Vehicles used between different parts of the land

An agricultural vehicle can be used on more than one piece of land if it:

  • is used only for agriculture, horticulture or forestry work
  • is used on public roads only when passing between different areas of land occupied by the same person
  • does not travel further than 1.5 kilometres on a public road when passing between two such areas and has a nil licence in force in respect

Mowing machines

A mowing machine must be a complete vehicle - machinery built into the vehicle - whether pedestrian-operated or ride-on.

Further information on agricultural vehicle licences and fuel

There are several organisations that offer help and support for farmers and land owners on agricultural vehicles.

The DVLA is an executive agency of the Department for Transport (DfT) that provides information and advice about driver licences, vehicle registration and taxation. Find information on vehicle licensing and tax.

The VCA is an executive agency of the DfT and the national approval authority for new road vehicles, agricultural tractors and off-road vehicles in the UK. You will need to contact the VCA to get Vehicle Type Approval for any tractor or agricultural vehicle you use. Find out about the work and services of the VCA on the VCA website.

DVSA provides a range of licensing, testing and enforcement services with the aim of improving the roadworthiness standards of vehicles, and ensuring the compliance of operators and drivers with road traffic legislation. Read about the work and services of DVSA on the DVSA website.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) represents the farmers and growers of England and Wales. It aims to promote successful and socially responsible agriculture and horticulture, while ensuring the long-term viability of rural communities.

You can read about the work of the NFU on the NFU website.

You may also be likely to come into contact with your local authority over a number of farming, land use, food standards and environmental regulations. Your local authority may also be able to provide further information or resources.

Edward Dale’s top tips:

Edward Dale is an arable and combinable crop farmer from Lincolnshire. He outlines the benefits of controlled traffic farming: water soaks through the ground better, increased yields, less fuel usage, less time establishing a crop and more fertile soil: “Every time we go into a field we use the same wheeling. We’ve reduced the amount of the time we are in the field, and there’s more land for direct drilling. Diesel usage has gone from 120 litres a hectare down to around 60 litres a hectare.”

Further information

DVLA Driving Licence Helpline

0300 790 6801

Download vehicle licence application form V10 from the DVLA website (PDF, 194K)

Download vehicle registration certificate V5C application form V62 from the DVLA website (PDF, 226K)

Post Office branch locator for vehicle tax issue on the Post Office website

Download Post Office branches for advanced or postal applications list (PDF, 242K)

Vehicle types and information

Download fuel for road vehicles guidance from the HMRC website (PDF, 224K)

Vehicle licensing and tax information on the DVLA website

VCA work and services information on the VCA website

DVSA work and services information on the DVSA website

NFU work and services information on the NFU website