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Higher risk of mud on roads expected this harvest, NFU Mutual warns

Farmers harvesting bumper maize crops this autumn are being advised to take extra precautions to avoid leaving mud on roads and protect other road users.

With extra maize planted this year and record yields predicted due to ample rain over the summer, the rural insurer is concerned of an increased risk of mud being deposited on roads during harvest.

“Many dairy farmers have put more fields down to maize this year or grown the crop for the first time to counteract the high costs of bought-in feed,” said Hannah Binns, NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist.

“Plenty of rain over the summer has led to very heavy crops in many parts of the country, and we are concerned that harvesting these could lead to problems including mud left on roads by tractors and trailers.”

She explained this is a typical problem with crops harvested in the autumn when heavy rainfall is likely.

“We’re advising farmers harvesting maize to prepare for poor conditions by putting in place plans to use measures such as field wheel washers, warning signs and road sweepers to reduce the risk of a road traffic accident which could lead to deaths or injuries – plus the risk of prosecution.”

Other crops harvested in autumn – including sugar beet and potatoes can also lead to mud being let on roads. Moreover, tractors moving between fields during ploughing and other cultivation operations can lead to large mud clots being left on roads which can prove hazardous to road users, and particularly motorcyclists.

From a legal standpoint, farmers must take steps to prevent mud being left on the roads by their vehicles, NFU Mutual confirmed.

If mud is inadvertently left, farmers are responsible for cleaning it up as soon as possible and putting in place warning signs while there is a hazard.

NFU Mutual Mud on Roads Checklist

The following checklist was compiled by NFU Mutual Risk Management Services to serve as a guideline for farmers operating machinery on public roads during harvest:

  • Do everything possible to prevent mud being deposited on the road – including cleaning mud from vehicles in the field, as far as practicable, before they are taken onto the road
  • Buy or be prepared to hire-in equipment such as wheel washers and self-propelled road sweepers to clean up accidentally deposited mud – avoid manual clean-ups to keep people off the road as much as possible
  • Keep to your own private farm roads and minor public roads whenever possible
  • Keep to low speeds – especially when travelling short distances – to help retain mud on the vehicle
  • Keep a written record (e.g. a simple note in a farm diary) of your decisions on whether or not to deploy signs and/or to clean the road
  • If there is a danger of mud being accidentally deposited on roads, use ‘Slippery Road’ signs with a ‘Mud on Road’ sub plate to alert other road users
  • Make sure signs are positioned to give maximum visibility to other road users, especially at sharp corners and blind summits
  • Clean the road as often as necessary during the working day – and always at the end of the working day
  • Ensure that staff and equipment are available for clean-up work (including high visibility clothing for operatives working on the highway) and is suitable for the soil and weather conditions present
  • Where a farm contractor is used, ensure that prior agreement is reached on who is responsible for mud on road issues – including wheel washing in fields, use of signage and clean-up

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