Tractor drivers “must get training from 2021”

After so many years in which multiple tragedies and fatalities have befallen tractor drivers, Portugal is approaching the date by which no one can take over the wheel who hasn’t been properly trained.

From February 2021 drivers without the requisite certificates will risk stiff fines, no matter whether they’re using a tractor off-road, or not.

Notice of this law came two years ago, thus communities have been at work, hosting free training schemes which many farmers and their workers have already taken.

Says SIC television news, there are three ‘levels’ of competence, the lowest requiring 35 hours of training, the next 50 hours and the highest, 250 hours.

In some cases, trainees have been in their 80s.

One such, Dinis Alves, 84, told reporters how parts of the theory work were “not very easy” but bit by bit he was able to get the hang of it.

As to the practical advice, after 60 years driving tractors, he said he learnt a great deal.

“I thought I knew everything, but I learnt that didn’t know anything”, he explained, now at last aware of how to come down a steep hill without the risk of the tractor toppling over.

Accidents involving tractors falling, all too often killing their drivers, claimed the lives of over 350 people between 2013 and 2017.

Says SIC, the tractor has become the vehicle most likely to be involved in fatal accidents.

Stories of ‘yet another death’, or serious injury prompted the elaboration of the law that has received nothing but praise from all rural communities that are now involved in training local citizens.

Even so there are issues other than training that have to be taken into consideration, explained one of the farmers interviewed by SIC: the condition of tractors (many of which are incredibly old and not properly maintained) and the condition of the drivers (often suffering from limited mobility and occasionally a little too partial to alcohol).

Said Lícinio Rodrigues, if it was up to him o-one should be driving a tractor over the age of 70.

He explained that he knows of a number of old men in his district “who can only walk with two canes” but can often be seen driving tractors. In these cases – in his opinion – they are far too vulnerable and should not be given certificates of competence.

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