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Mud on the road! Liability and the farmer

View profile for Paul Burkinshaw
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Mud on the road - liability and the farmer

With the return of wet weather, we are likely to experience mud on roads as a by-product of normal farming operations.

The NFU actually released a briefing note for farmers on the liabilities of mud on roads some time ago in the latter part of 2012. The advice and information contained within it remains good to this day.

As such, farmers (and other vehicle operatives such as construction companies) are legally obliged to clear up after themselves and are potentially liable for a range of offences.  The powers available to the police and highways departments in dealing with issues that may arise fall primarily fall under the Highways Act 1980.

  • Section 148 of the Highways Act 1980 makes it an offence to deposit mud etc. on the highway that would interrupt other users of the highway.
  • Section 149 of Highways Act 1980 gives the highways authority the power to clean the road and recover its expenses from the person causing the obstruction.
  • Section 161 of the Highways Act 1980 states “if a person without lawful authority or excuse, deposits anything whatsoever on the highway in consequence of which a user of the highway is injured or endangered then that person is guilty of an offence”.

Contravention of sections 148 and 162 can lead to a level 3 fine of up to £1,000.00 in a Magistrates Court.  Furthermore if mud on the road leads to a personal injury, damage to property or any loss or inconvenience, then the person responsible may be liable for damages.  A conviction through the Magistrates Court for a criminal offence and may be relied upon in any claim for damages.

What should a farmer do?

  • Be prepared to hire equipment to clean up in advance.
  • Keep to your own farm roads and minor roads wherever possible.
  • Keep to low speeds, especially when travelling a short distance, to help retain mud on the vehicle.
  • Record your decisions in writing whether or not you deployed signs and/or cleaned the road.

What must a farmer do?

  • Do everything possible to prevent mud being deposited on the road.  This includes cleaning mud from vehicles as far as practical before they are taken on the road.
  • If there is a danger of mud being accidently deposited on the road use “slippery road” signs with a “mud on road” sub plate to alert other road users.  Check with your local Highways Authority their requirements for warning signs at the side of the road.
  • Clean the road as necessary during the working day and always at the end of the working day.
  • Ensure that labour and equipment is available and is suitable for the soil and the weather conditions present. 
  • Where a contractor is used, ensure that prior agreement is reached on who is responsible for mud on road issues (signage, cleaning, etc.) and ensure that adequate liability insurance is in place. Given the increasing use of contractors for heavy work reaching agreement as to their liability and recording it in writing is important. Ultimately the landowner/user would be liable if there had been a failure to reach an initial agreement on these points.

Sometimes things just don’t go to plan and we cannot book the weather. It is however on simple points like this helpful to be aware as to how certain issues are dealt with and the steps that can be taken to address issues that arise on a regular basis.

If you have any concerns about liabilities relating to farming activity, contractual issues or land disputes, contact Paul Burkinshaw who specialises in agriculturally related litigation and dispute resolution.

Our articles are intended for general information purposes only and are not a substitute for professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. We are always very happy to discuss any plans, issues or concerns you may have and to clarify how we might be able to help. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.