Athlone Institute of Technology launches special ‘NCT’ tractor testing course

Athlone Institute of Technology, in conjunction with the Road Safety Authority (RSA), has launched a “first of its kind” tractor testing course designed to upskill heavy vehicle testers.

The intensive four-day programme has been developed in response to a new EU Directive requiring ‘fast’ commercial tractors to undergo a special roadworthiness test akin to the NCT.

“Up until now, tractors haven’t even been on the radar in terms of testing and road safety. Under the new EU Directive, people who have one of these vehicles and who use it for commercial use will be obliged to get the tractor tested before they can take it out on a public road,” Joe Lawless, Head of Department of Polymer, Mechanical, Civil Engineering & Trades said.

According to Mr Lawless, Ireland’s 650 heavy vehicle testers need to be supplied with adequate training before they can sufficiently test tractors in this manner.

“Our first batch of testers are currently being upskilled here at AIT. To train people how to test and inspect correctly, we had to get in a range of tractors because there is such a wide variety of different ones. I think we had six altogether.

“Each trainee tester is assigned a tractor with a variety of different faults that they will be required to identify. Everything is computerised. It’s quite similar to the NCT process in that respect. Our heavy vehicle testers will have a range of equipment at their disposal to test the tractors,” he said.

The inspection process is quite detailed and will require examinees to carry out extensive testing including a complicated hand-brake procedure that involves the use of a special ramp and adherence to a safety protocol. Following this, testers will be expected to complete a written exam.

Athlone Institute of Technology is currently the only place in Ireland offering this specialised heavy vehicle testing for commercially-driven tractors and, as such, has lined up several consecutive courses to meet the demand.

“We have heavy vehicle testers coming from all over the country to complete this training programme. Our first set of testers are sitting their exams today,” Mr Lawless explained.

Athlone Institute of Technology has been extremely successful with the RSA tender for the past six years and is authorised to deliver Commerical Vehicle Roadworthiness (CVR) Training.

The EU Directive, which comes into effect this week, will require new vehicles to be tested after four years and every second year after that.