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Requirements

For farmers to clear roads of snow, there are certain requirements. This includes public liability insurance, evidence of vehicle insurance, vehicle details and names and contact numbers for staff involved in the snow clearance operation.

 

Mr Fraser says: “No specialist kit is required; either a telehandler with a bucket or tractor with a slewing blade is acceptable.

 

“We supply traffic management if we feel a particular area needs it.”

 

Operators supply their own fuel, with snow clearance a red diesel-exempted activity (see legislation panel).

Opportunities

Opportunities

There may be opportunities at a more local level for ‘parish lengthsmen’, engaged by the parish council with funding from the county council to undertake routine maintenance work such as gulley clearance, often more promptly than could be achieved by a main contractor.

 

Winter work includes gritting pavements with a pedestrian spreader or manual snow clearance.

 

Mr Fraser adds: “Using existing equipment such as spreaders or investing in snow blades or blowers could provide a useful diversification for contractors, especially in areas which get a reliable dose of cold weather most years.”

Fuel use legislation

  • Rebated fuel (red diesel) can be used in any vehicle that is fitted with a snow plough or similar device to clear snow from public roads.
  • Following a consultation by HMRC in 2012, three categories of agricultural vehicles; tractors, light agricultural vehicles and agricultural materials handlers, may use red diesel when gritting roads. Previously, the exemption only applied to purpose-built gritters.
  • For clarification, quads and similar single-seater machines used for agricultural, horticultural or forestry work are classed as light agricultural vehicles.

Lighting necessities

Lighting necessities
  • Agricultural vehicles used on the roads must comply with lighting regulations, especially key when visibility is likely to be poor
  • Tractors used at any speed should have a pair of red rear retro-reflectors and a matching pair of red rear position lamps (tail lights), plus a white rear registration plate light
  • Those capable of travelling at more than 15mph also need a pair of amber direction indicator/hazard warning flashers*
  • Above 25mph a matching pair of red rear fog lamps and stop lamps (brake lamps) are also required*
  • Rear marker lights, turning indicator lights, brake lights and a numberplate with a light must be clearly visible from the rear of the vehicle at all times, so if an implement (such as a spreader in this case) obstructs the tractor’s lights or numberplate, they must be fitted to the implement itself

*Not required for tractors first used before April 1986.

Case study

Adrian Marsh has been offering winter maintenance services to private sector clients for 20 years, a service he says fits in well with a portfolio of grass harvest and fertiliser/lime operations from his base in Shropshire.

 

He says: “We offer gritting with dedicated lorry-mounted Econ and tractor-mounted Bredal spreaders, as well as snowploughing – Vale Engineering is another good supplier. We use a lot of Fendt tractors throughout the business and with the Vario transmission they are ideal for winter work.”

 

He adds: “We have to provide comprehensive insurance cover and some clients require the operators to undertake online accreditation tests before working on-site.”

 

The work is demanding, he points out, with shifts from 7pm to 3am, seven days a week, so needs dedicated operators.

 

Mr Marsh says the winter maintenance business has become increasingly competitive and subject to price cutting, but offering a professional service is key.

 

“We have stuck with it because the demand is there. Health and safety legislation means that our clients cannot afford to have accidents caused by snow and ice," adds Mr Marsh.

 

“Contractors try to undercut using just van-based equipment, and if the weather is not too severe they might get away with it, but in the worst conditions they will not even make it to site, let alone complete the job.”

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