Why mandatory ABS on tractors does not make sense: unassessed risks, high costs & other, more urgent priorities

[To read the POSITION PAPER in FULL, please click on the link below]

The European Commission’s plans to make ABS systems obligatory for tractors between 40-60km/h must be shelved

In the EU, fast tractors (driving more than 60 km/h) have been required to have Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) installed since 2016. The question the EU now needs to decide on is whether ABS should be made mandatory for tractors with maximum design speeds between 40-60 km/h by 2020/21. The questions that thus need to be answered are:

  • Will the introduction of ABS deliver a statistically significant reduction in road accidents?
  • Does the duty cycle of a tractor mean that it should be treated as an on-highway vehicle?
  • Will the benefits outweigh the costs?

Statistical Benefit – The available evidence shows that the main cause for tractor accidents is not a lack of braking performance. The two prime causes of recorded accidents are: low speed (compared to other road vehicles) and low visibility. In line with this, prior analysis has clearly demonstrated that ABS would not help to improve road safety in any statistically significant way. In fact, with an average fleet renewal rate of 1.7% of total EU-28 tractor sales, it would take more than 20 years before the first fatal accident could statistically be avoided. By contrast, improving, for instance, the lighting and signalling of Europe’s entire tractor fleet could prevent up to 70 fatal accidents each year.

Duty Cycle – An agricultural tractor by its very nature spends most of its time off-highway or on unpaved roads (80% on average off-highway). Less than 8% of tractors each year specified by customers are capable of over 40km/h. Some manufactures already offer ABS as an option to customers who choose this because they spend more time at higher speed. The duty cycle of the average tractor does not warrant the need for ABS as standard. A tractor is not an HGV or car.

Cost Benefit – Due to the necessary adaptations and testing procedures, effective overall cost increase for farmers and agricultural contractors to buy tractors with ABS could range from 2.0% to up to 10% of the vehicle price and reach up to 5,000€ per machine. The European Commission has recently underlined that farm-related innovations need to deliver both proven societal benefits and improve farmers’ bottom line.

A technology such as mandatory ABS on tractors, which does not deliver statistically significant benefits while exerting a significant cost burden on farmers’ bottom line is unacceptable, particularly in light of the current farm crisis, and particularly when better, proven, and cost-efficient solutions are available. In light of this, the Commission’s plans to make ABS systems obligatory for tractors between 40-60km/h need to be abandoned.

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