Mud on the roads: advice for farmers
All farmers must take responsibility for ensuring their own and each other’s safety where agricultural vehicles using public roads are concerned.
Mud can be a significant hazard to other motorists, particularly motorcyclists, and can result in serious and even fatal collisions.
Farmers are responsible for cleaning up mud dropped on public roads by their own vehicles and livestock.
What farmers should do
Be prepared to hire-in equipment for cleaning the road and check availability in advance.
Stay on your own farm roads and minor roads whenever possible.
Keep your speed slow to help keep mud on your vehicle, especially when you are only travelling a short distance.
Be prepared to keep a written record of your decisions on whether or not to put out signs and/or to clean the road.
What farmers can do
Do everything possible to prevent mud being deposited on the road. This includes cleaning mud from vehicles as much as you can before taking them on the road. The fact that cleaning mud off tractors and attachments is commercially inconvenient may not be a defence in law.
Use signs to warn other road users. Only use signs that meet the Highways Act 1980 – you should be able to buy them at your local builders or agricultural merchants. The recommended signs are the Slippery Road triangle with a sub plate saying Mud on Road and, if appropriate, the Roadworks sign. Signs must be at least 750mm high.
Position signs to give maximum visibility and warning to other road users.
Clean the road when necessary during the day and always at the end of the working day.
Vehicle operators, contractors and farmers who deposit mud on the road are potentially liable for a range of offences. This guidance is not a complete statement of the law or of your responsibilities and possible liabilities.
A range of powers are available to the Police and the Highways Department, primarily the Highways Act 1980 and the Road Traffic Act 1988:
- Highways Act 1980 Section 137 states: “If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage along a highway he is guilty of an offence”.
- Highways Act 1980 Section 148 states: “If without lawful authority or excuse a person deposits anything whatsoever on a highway to the interruption of any user of the highway he is guilty of an offence.”
- Highways Act 1980 Section 149 states: “If anything is deposited on the highway so as to constitute a nuisance/danger the Highway Authority can require the person who put it there to remove it forthwith”. Mud causes skidding and is therefore dangerous and a nuisance.
- Highways Act 1980 Section 161 states: “If a person, without lawful authority or excuse, deposits anything whatsoever on a highway in consequence of which a user of the highway is injured or endangered, that person is guilty of an offence”.
- The Road Traffic Act 1988 covers situations where a mechanically propelled vehicle is driven dangerously on a road. Driving dangerously can include driving a vehicle in a state that could cause danger to others.
Punishment for these offences ranges from fines to imprisonment.