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'First of its kind' tractor-testing course launched

A new EU directive requires commercial tractors to undergo a special roadworthiness test.

_19A9614 Tractor-testing at Athlone Institute of Technology Source: Nathan Cafolla/AIT

A TRACTOR-TESTING course has been launched in Athlone to upskill heavy vehicle testers.

Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) said the course, which it’s running in conjunction with the Road Safety Authority, is the “first of its kind” in Ireland.

The intensive four-day programme has been developed in response to a new EU directive that requires commercial tractors to undergo a special roadworthiness test similar to the National Car Testing Service (NCT).

The new rule relates to four-wheel-drive tractors capable of reaching speeds of more than 40kph.

“Up until now, tractors haven’t even been on the radar in terms of testing and road safety.

“Under the new EU directive, people who have one of these vehicles and who use it for commercial purposes will be obliged to get the tractor tested before they can take it out on a public road,” Joe Lawless, who helps run the course, said.

_19A9603 Joe Lawless (fifth from left), head of AIT's Department of Polymer, Mechanical, Civil Engineering & Trades, accompanied by the first students to undertake the specialised training course. Source: Nathan Cafolla/AIT

Lawless said Ireland’s 650 heavy vehicle testers need to be supplied with adequate training before they can sufficiently test tractors in this manner.

Exam

A range of tractors are being used to upskill the first batch of trainees at AIT.

Each trainee tester is assigned a tractor with a variety of different faults that they will be required to identify. Everything is computerised. It’s quite similar to the NCT process in that respect.

“Our heavy vehicle testers will have a range of equipment at their disposal to test the tractors,” Lawless said.

The inspection process is quite detailed and requires examinees to carry out extensive testing, including a hand-brake procedure that involves the use of a special ramp and adherence to a safety protocol. Following this, testers have to complete a written exam.

_19A9586 (1) Tractor-testing at Athlone Institute of Technology Source: Nathan Cafolla/AIT

AIT plans to run at least seven more courses to meet the demand. The first group of testers sat their exam during the week.

“We have heavy vehicle testers coming from all over the country to complete this training programme,” Lawless said.

The EU directive, which came into effect in May, requires new vehicles to be tested after four years and every second year after that.

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Órla Ryan

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