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The Friends of Ferguson Heritage Ltd. - Tractor Number Plates.

Vehicle Excise and registration Act 1994

Section 1. Vehicle excise duty shall be charged in respect of every mechanically propelled vehicle which is used or kept on a public road in the U.K.and shall be paid on a vehicle licence ( tax disc) to be taken out by the person keeping the vehicle
Section 5. (1). No vehicle excise duty shall be charged in respect of a vehicle if it is an exempt vehicle; (2). Schedule 2 specifies description of vehicles which are exempt vehicles
Schedule 2. 20A A vehicle is an exempt vehicle if:-
a) it is used only for the purpose relating to agriculture horticulture or forestry
b) it is used on a public road only in passing between different areas of land occupied by the same person and
c) the distance it travels on public roads in passing between any two such areas of land does not exceed 1.5 Kilometres
Section 21. The Secretary of state shall on the first issue by him of a vehicle licence (tax disc) for a vehicle, register the vehicle in such a manner as he thinks fit.
Section 23. Where the Secretary of State registers a vehicle under section 21 he shall assign to the vehicle a mark (registration mark) indicating the registered number of the vehicle.
Section 42. If a registration mark is not fixed on a vehicle as required by virtue of Section 23 the relevant person is guilty of an offence.

A brief summary of the above is that if you use your tractor on the public road (not being an exempt vehicle) you require an excise licence (tax disc) even if it is zero rated, and if you have an excise licence you require your tractor to have number plates, and have them displayed. The number plates can be displayed either on both sides of the tractor, or on the back. there is no requirement to have a front number plate.

Registration and Licensing regulations 1971

section 19. Save as provided in Paragraph 2 no person shall use or cause to be used or permit to be used on a road during the hours of darkness any motor vehicle unless every letter and number of the registration mark displayed on the back of:-
a) the motor vehicle if it is not drawing a trailer;
b) the trailer if the motor vehicle is drawing one trailer;
c) the rearmost trailer if the motor vehicle is drawing more than one trailer
is illuminated so as to be easily legible in the absence of fog from every part of the relevant area..............
Para 2 The provision of paragraph 1 does not apply to (a).............. (b) a vehicle which is not required to be fitted with a rear registration plate
Section 21 The owner of an agricultural machine shall ensure that the registration mark of the vehicle is displayed either on both sides of the vehicle so that it is clearly legible from both sides of the vehicle, or on the back of the vehicle so it is clearly legible from behind the vehicle, and in either case he shall ensure that the registration mark is so fixed to the vehicle that the letters and figures thereon are in the vertical

If you have a rear numberplate and use the tractor during the hours of darkness you require it to be illuminated. This does not apply if you have number plates on each side of the tractor.

Regulation 17. The size shape and character of any registration mark which is required to be fixed on a vehicle by virtue of the Act shall be in accordance with the provisions of Schedule 2 of these regulations.
Schedule 2.
states that vehicles registered on or after 1st January 1973 which have lights fitted must have fitted reflecting numberplates complying with British Standard AU145a ( modern reflecting numberplates)
PART 6 ( Agricultural tractors registered before 1st January 1973)
A registration mark to which this paragraph applies shall, except where it is so designed and constructed that it may be illuminated from behind by means of the translucency of the letters and figures comprised in the mark or is exhibited on a plate in accordance with paragraph 8 below, be formed of white, silver or light grey letters and figures upon a black surface and every letter or figure shall be indelibly inscribed upon that surface or so attached to the surface that it cannot readily be detached therefrom, and in a case where the letters and figures are exhibited on a flat plate the plate may be constructed of cast or pressed metal having raised letters and figures.
This refers to the standard reflecting numberplates required today, which MAY be fitted to tractors registered before 1st January 1973, and to tractors registered after 1st January 1973 which do not have lights and cannot be used on a road during the hours of darkness
PART 9. ........the registration marks displayed on a vehicle shall be displayed on a flat rectangular plate or on a rectangular, flat, unbroken area on the surface of the vehicle......

This means that tractors registered before 1.1.73 can use black and white / silver numberplates.
Tractors registered on or after 1.1.73 without lights can have black and white / silver numberplates.
Tractors registered before 1.1.73 with or without lights may use reflective numberplates if they wish.

Since the above was written, the author reports that changes have been made to the RTA; see here

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