The number of tractor learner driving permits issued to young people hit a 10-year low last year due to the pandemic, Irish Farmers Journal analysis of Road Safety Authority (RSA) licence data has shown.

Just 1,725 tractor learner permits were issued by the RSA in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The number of learner permits Category W only issued in 2020 was 1,725 and for January to April 2021 was 422. That was in contrast to the 2011 figure of over 3,400 for the year.

As of 30 April 2021, just 422 tractor learner permits have been issued to young people this year.

Not essential

IFA president Tim Cullinan has called for the immediate resumption of the driver theory test service.

Cullinan said he previously wrote to Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton pointing out that there are many essential workers who need to secure a category B and/or W driver licence in order to deliver essential services on farms during the summer, and as part of employment with agricultural contractors.

Minister Naughton confirmed in the Dáil that the driver theory test has not been classified as an essential service and will remain closed.

Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae said that traditionally farmers’ sons and daughters could do their theory test when they turned 16 years of age, get their provisional licence and drive a tractor to help out on the farm or get a job locally for the summer.

Automatic entitlement

In 2019, the number of tractor learner permits awarded amounted to 2,366. Of these, 2,322 were issued to 16-year-olds.

There is no requirement for a learner to have a qualified accompanying driver for this category.

A car learner permit can be attained at age 17 with automatic entitlement to a tractor learner permit.