21 Sep 2011

Rural contractors like look of transport review

1:57 pm on 21 September 2011

The Rural Contractors Federation sees a government review of transport rules affecting agriculture as a significant step in resolving issues it has been battling with for years.

The review will cover rules on work-time and logbook requirements as well as restrictions on the use of heavy agricultural vehicles on roads.

Agricultural contractors say the existing work-time rules are not flexible enough to take account of conditions during harvesting, when they may have to work longer and irregular hours to harvest crops while the weather is right.

The federation's executive director, Roger Parton, says the comprehensive scope of the review is just what they were looking for.

"Perhaps we can achieve something that is easy to understand and easy to comply with and easy to enforce," he says.

Mr Parton says a new variation to the rules that allows agricultural contractors some more work-time flexibility is a step in the right direction.

Federated Farmers has also welcomed the transport review; it suggests listing agricultural vehicles in a separate schedule so they're treated differently from other heavy road users.

CTU wants tougher standards

The Council of Trade Unions, however, is calling for regulations covering agricultural vehicles to be tightened, not relaxed.

CTU president Helen Kelly says suggesting changes to regulations on working hours, requirements for safety inspections of vehicles and relaxing requirements for load weights is sending a message that farm work safety is not a priority.

Ms Kelly says there were 11 agricultural deaths in the year to June 2010, and Federated Farmers should work on how to improve standards and call for a renewed look at how farm vehicles are used and manufactured in order to reduce that toll.

She says being hit by a moving object is the top cause of fatal and serious injuries in New Zealand workplaces and farm vehicles account for 23% of those.