The Importance of Machinery Maintenance Records
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The Importance of Machinery Maintenance Records

Whilst the rain keeps falling and access to the land is limited for fear of getting well and truly stuck, it is inevitable that farmers up and down the country are using this time as a valuable opportunity to service and carry out repairs upon their fleet of tractors and machinery.

How many of them, however, keep a written log of the repairs that they do and the checks that they carry out, either during the winter months or regularly throughout the year? Surely, the important thing is that the checks and maintenance are done and recording them is just more unnecessary paperwork? Absolutely not! If you are now thinking about that blank logbook or that unrecorded service that you completed the other week, here are some things that you should probably consider…

Such records are vital evidence that you run a competent farming business, where health and safety and vehicle maintenance are taken seriously and correctly applied and recorded. Sadly, you will all have heard of at least one accident on the roads in recent years involving tractors or other farm machinery. Regrettably, sometimes these result in fatalities and a robust maintenance schedule can result in fewer accidents. Where the records are important is when you need to be able to prove that your machinery has been kept in a good state of working repair, if this is ever in question.

Having been an agricultural insurance broker for thirty-odd years now, I have been involved in several such unfortunate cases. One example that comes to mind occurred within the last five years, involving a tractor, a grain trailer and a cyclist. Sadly, the cyclist was fatally injured. The tractor and grain trailer were impounded by the DVSA (Driving & Vehicles Standards Agency) immediately after the accident, where they conducted thorough checks throughout the vehicle and trailer and even did an accident reconstruction.

One of the reasons the farming company involved was not prosecuted was that we had previously persuaded them to keep a diary in the farm workshop of all maintenance carried out on all machines. This diary contained records that the trailer had recently had its brakes and two tyres changed and had been checked over a week previously in their own workshop. Furthermore, the tractor had an up-to-date service record and the person driving the tractor and trailer had been subject to a driving assessment (despite only being a harvest employee) and had attended a half day pre-harvest health and safety briefing on the farm.

All the above contributed towards giving the DVSA the correct impression about the competency of the farming business. However, in other cases, judges have had the view that, ‘if it’s not written down, it didn’t happen’. A log of maintenance, on paper or digitally, and a simple checklist of weekly or daily maintenance (tyre pressure and wear, wheel nut tightness, simple brake tests and visual inspections of hydraulic hoses, towing eyes, pick-up hitches, drawbars and drawbar pins) takes very little time and can be worth its weight in gold if the worst should happen.

There are insurance implications too. The small print on every policy will state that you must comply with current legislation and all vehicles must be maintained to a sound, roadworthy condition. If this is the case and evidenced, in 99% of claims involving farm machinery (whether you are at fault or not), the insurer will deal with any claim from injured third parties or defend a criminal prosecution. By ensuring records are kept, you can rest easy in the knowledge that you are protecting yourself, your business, your staff and the wider public.

By Nigel Wellings

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