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The Legal Obligations of Quad Bikes

Quad bikes, or all terrain vehicles (ATV) are a very useful light machine used by many farmers, growers and gamekeepers who enjoy their versatility and utility. However, like everything used on the land which is mechanically driven, there are rules and regulations which must be adhered to to prevent prosecution at the Magistrates Court.

All quad bikes, if they are to be used on the road must be approved, registered and taxed and have an MOT if they are more than three years old.   There are quite a few designs of quad bikes that cannot be used on the roads as they do not meet road safety standards. Some are tested and “type approved” in a similar way as motorbikes and these are sometimes called “leisure quad bikes” or “quadricycles".  These car-like quads, where the driver compartment is fully enclosed are treated in the same way as other quad bikes.  They are the only type of quad that can be used on the road.   We recommend that you check with the manufacturer if your quad bike has been approved for road use.  If your bike has not been approved but meets road safety standards, you can apply for type approval with the DVLA.  

The quad bike must be registered with the DVLA, have number plates and display a tax disc.  Bikes used on the road must have a valid MOT certificate.   To drive on the road you will need a full driving licence or a category B1 licence if it was issued before 1997.  Most important is that you must have a minimum of third party insurance.  A quad bike can only carry passengers if it is designed to do so and has the right number of seats – again check with the manufacturer to make sure that it is compliant and only choose quad bikes suitable for the purposes required.  If two gamekeepers are needed then the quad bike should have two seats.

Crash helmets are recommended in all circumstances but quad bike drivers and passengers do not have to wear the crash helmets - but on or off road, these vehicles give little protection in an accident. 

If you are using your bike off road you do not need a driving licence, nor do you have to tax and register it.   However there is an off road register where you can record the details of the bike which could help the Police if it is stolen.   I would recommend that all off road quad bikes are so registered and protected with such items as trackers and “smart water”.  These items assist the Police in retrieving the vehicles which are often targeted by thieves and easily sold on the “backstreet market” .

If you are using your quad bike for agricultural, horticultural or forestry work such as spreading of slug pellets or other chemicals it is effectively a light agricultural vehicle and should be registered as such.   You will need to get the correct nil value tax disc and renew it each year.   You can only use an agricultural quad bike on the road if travelling less than 1.5 km between sites where it is being used for agriculture, horticulture or forestry.  An agricultural quad bike used on the road does not need an MOT but must be registered and licensed for road use and must have a valid number plate and a minimum of third party insurance. Any owners who allow staff to use quad bikes should ensure that they have proper training and the correct safety equipment and the correct insurance.    If quad bikes are used after dark they will all need the correct lights, this is particularly important for looking after stock and again in the short hours of daylight in the winter.  Quad bikes used for light agricultural vehicles are usually made only with a driver’s seat and therefore are not allowed to carry passengers.

Farmers and landowners who use the vehicles might want to check with their insurers and solicitors that they have correctly applied the rules and regulations for the use of these vehicles.