Australia’s agricultural industry is only as productive as its heavy machinery. If you’ve ever run into unexpected downtime or needed to replace a tractor in a hurry, you’ll understand how important it is to get your new equipment to you quickly (and in good working condition). To tackle vast acres or even smaller farms, it’s important to get the right tractor or other heavy equipment for the job, even when it means buying your new farming machinery interstate.
The opportunity to purchase secondhand equipment Australia-wide offers extra choice and greater value, but the downside is that they’re not exactly vehicles for the road. Slow and heavy guzzlers, these vehicles plod inefficiently on asphalted or cemented roads and highways. With an average maximum speed of just 40 kilometres per hour, taking your new tractor for an extended road trip isn’t a viable option.
Transporting farm machinery from one state to another can be quite a challenge, and always requires a specialised transport service to get the job done safely. Special provisions, equipment, and permits are needed if a tractor or other equipment needs to be relocated over long distances, and requirements can vary from state to state.
This article serves as a comprehensive guide on how to properly and safely transport a tractor across Australia.
How Do You Transport a Tractor Interstate?
Driving a farm tractor down public roads, freeways, and interstate highways is almost always discouraged, usually permitted only for very short distances. Even in that case, a tractor driver needs to satisfy stringent requirements and should have a special license to move the vehicle.
It’s not only inefficient but also a safety hazard to drive farm equipment on the motorway. Its large size, massive power, and slow speed create extremely dangerous situations when fast-moving cars, delivery trucks, and other commercial vehicles attempt to overtake it.
Thus, to transport heavy machinery between states, it needs to be placed and secured on a trailer. The trailer is then hitched to a prime mover, a pickup truck, or even a sedan, depending on the size and weight of the tractor involved.
By doing this, you can transport a farm tractor quickly and efficiently on public roadways and highways. In addition, since the tractor doesn’t move with its own power, you reduce the vehicle’s wear and tear and increase its lifespan. Finally, by properly securing the machinery on the trailer, it can be moved from place to place rapidly but safely.
Most likely, you won’t have the right equipment, vehicle, team, or skill to safely and efficiently transport your tractor interstate. If so, you can hire the services of a reputable hauling company, or when buying through a machinery dealership, take advantage of their established equipment transport services.
Finally, a reputable heavy equipment transport company often takes care of the bulk of the permits and documents required to transport your tractor to another state. The hauling company can provide you with advice and guidance to arrange for the right permits rapidly, accurately, and easily.
Here we’ve listed down the basic guidelines you need to keep in mind when going about the tricky business of transporting a farm tractor interstate:
What Kind of Trailer Do I Need to Haul a Tractor?
Farm tractors and other machinery differ in size, weight, and horsepower and so do the trailers designed to transport them. Some common types of trailers that can be deployed to move farm tractors include the following:
A flatbed trailer is designed with a flat surface on which cargo is placed. Basically, it’s a platform that is reinforced by a sturdy steel frame made mobile with the addition of wheels. A flatbed trailer may vary in length; commonly, there are 20, 40, 48, and 53 feet flatbed trailers, offering versatile hauling capacity across a fleet.
A flatbed trailer is a convenient transport option for most low-horsepower tractors as long as you have a dock or platform for loading. Alternatively, a crane or forklift may be used to load the tractor to the trailer.
A removable gooseneck (RGN) trailer, often called a “float”, is a semi-trailer that consists of two drops in deck height. The front of the trailer can be detached, allowing the middle to be lowered to the ground. This creates a ramp where you can carefully drive your tractor up the ramp.
An RGN trailer can carry cargo from around 18 ton to 66 ton. The largest ones can also have 20 axles or more. These features make RGN trailers the best option for large row-crop, 4WD, and high-horsepower farm tractors.
A step-deck trailer is a type of flatbed trailer. However, it has two deck levels. One is shorter but higher, positioned at the front closer to the rear wheels of the vehicle towing the trailer. The main deck is lower and closer to the road. The lowered main deck. called the step deck, can accommodate taller cargo.
With its open-platform and lowered step deck, this trailer is perfect for tall, high-powered farm tractors. You can put other equipment such as spare wheels, attachments, and miscellaneous equipment on the smaller, higher deck.
Intermodal Shipping Container
Standardized intermodal shipping containers are a great option if you want your tractor to be sheltered against nature’s elements while transporting it. This is especially useful if you’re planning to transport your tractor via a ship.
Intermodal containers come in various specifications, with standards of 20, 40, 48, and 53 feet. There are also high-cube containers (often 40-foot or 45-foot containers), which add 1 foot to the overall height of the units. This allows you to load taller tractors.
Finally, there are also open-top or open-side containers. These enable easy loading and unloading of oversized cargo such as large tractors and farming machinery. A crane or forklift may be used to load the tractor in such a container.
If you’re unsure which type of trailer to use for transporting your heavy equipment across public roads and highways, then it’s best to ask a transport service provider. They have logistics experts who will recommend the most optimal and cost-effective solution given your machinery’s specifications, the destination, and other factors.
How Do You Load a Tractor on a Trailer?
Let’s consider this scenario: you have consulted with a transport company for expert advice. You agree with their recommendations and have arranged the right trailer for the job. Now, it’s time to load your tractor onto the trailer.
Before doing so, know that a tractor is considered heavy machinery. The proper and legal hauling and transportation of heavy machinery is never easy. It requires a fixed set of protocols, coordinated efforts, proper communication, the right equipment, and teamwork to do such a task safely. Not following these rules often result in injuries, damage to the tractor, or failure to load – and any of these mishaps can cost a massive amount of money.
Remember that the load is only as safe, reliable, and strong as its weakest link. Here is the proper method for safely loading tractors to trailers.
Have the hauler or transportation company perform and document a risk assessment
Risk assessments refer to compliance documents that allow a hauler or transportation service company to prove how detailed or thorough their processes are. Risk assessments can be done by a supervisor or senior manager. Such a document should include the full operation and transportation timeline, the weight loads, and other relevant project risks.
Crew should wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Safety should be the first priority of everyone in the site. Unfortunately, it’s also the most routinely overlooked as workers become complacent when they’ve become familiar with the procedure.
The hauling and transportation crew should utilize the right personal protection equipment such as safety helmets, heavy-duty boots, work gloves, and other similar items. Using PPE also helps give the service provider a stronger risk assessment and permit application; they show that the crew adheres to the highest standards of safety.
Inspect the trailer
Check the trailer thoroughly. Particular areas of focus include:
- Tyres – should have the right tire pressure. Treads should be in good condition and not worn out
- Lights – brake and sidelights should work perfectly
- Brakes – the brake system should function and all components are in good shape
- Tie-down points – tie-down points should be in good condition and proper spacing. In addition, determine your load’s proper tie-down point number. In general, you need at least 4 tie-down points for loads above 10,000 points, but more is always better.
- Weight – check if your tie-down working load limitations sum up to at least half the weight of your load
- Choose an even, level area
Select a place where the ground is level and even. In addition, make sure the ground is sufficiently firm and compact to bear the weight of a fully-loaded trailer. This is especially important if your region has experienced recent rainfall and the ground may be saturated with moisture. This will cause sinkage due to the weight of the two vehicles.
Clean the ramp and trailer
Make sure the ramp and the trailer deck is clean to ensure safety. It should be clear of dirt, oil, water, ice, and grime as all of these can affect traction. For added traction, you can use ramp friction devices.
For efficiency and safety, it’s important to assign tasks to each member of the team. Assign the equipment driver, spotter, tie-down inspector, and other personnel. No one should interfere with the task of someone else. During the loading procedure, no unauthorized person or other vehicles should be in the vicinity.
Start loading the tractor to the trailer
Begin the loading process by having you or the driver slowly and steadily drive the tractor up the ramp. The keywords here are “slowly” and “steadily.” Always have the spotter in plain view and be aware of the spotter’s instructions.
It’s important to note that as the tractor moves along the ramp, the trailer’s centre of gravity shifts, sometimes causing the trailer’s front part to lift off the ground. This is the most hair-raising and dangerous part of the loading process. Keep calm and just drive slowly and gradually.
The tractor should be positioned in a way in which most of its weight is distributed towards the front of the trailer. This prevents the trailer from fishtailing while it’s moving down the road.
How Do You Tie a Tractor to a Trailer?
Once the tractor is properly positioned on the trailer, it’s time to secure it. Here are some tips on how to ensure safe and proper fastening:
Check local laws on heavy equipment transportation
Each state has its own set of regulations for securing heavy equipment when transporting them on public highways. Having 4 to 5 tie-down points is a general recommendation. However, your own local government unit may have its own regulations, and it’s important to consider these differences when travelling through multiple states.
In addition, transporting oversized cargo may require different sets of regulations above and beyond smaller equipment; this is particularly important if you have an extra-tall or extra-large piece of machinery to move.
Properly chain down your tractor
When securing the tractor onto the trailer, you need to be aware of these important points:
- Always use the right chain and hook sizes; they should match.
- When fastening the chains, ensure that at least four chains are used, one in each corner of the vehicle. In this way, opposing forces will keep your tractor in place. Of course, it’s always a wise move to add extra security and stability by adding more chains.
- Make sure the chains are secure and tight. There shouldn’t be any wiggle room, slack, or movement with any of the chains. The tractor shouldn’t move, shift, or bounce while en route; and properly tightened chains are the key.
- Every chain must be fastened downward in a straight line. There shouldn’t be any bends, twist, or angles.
- Make sure you’re tying down on the correct points. Doing so ensures the tightest, safest, and most compliant way to fasten your tractor securely. It also prevents damage to your tractor. Take extra care if the tie-down points land near your tractor’s hydraulic hoses, engine, or brake components.
- Make sure you’re using matched chain and hook binder grades. Check the chain links; you’ll often see an etched number on the 4th or 5th link. Match that number with the number printed on the boomer handle; these should be properly aligned.
- The total working load limits of your tie-down components should be equal to at least 50% of your tractor’s weight. Also, make sure that the chain grade and its working load limit does not exceed the boomer’s listed limit.
Add tire chocks
To prevent the tractor from rolling forward or backwards, secure the wheels with chocks. Use appropriately sized chocks for your tractor.
Wedge the chock tightly and centred against the front of each tire. Do the same on the other side of the tire.
Engage the parking brake
Once the tractor is securely fastened and positioned on the trailer, engage the parking brake. Alternatively (or as an added safety measure), put the tractor into first gear. This ensures that your tractor stays in place.
By following the proper loading process; by positioning your tractor correctly on the trailer; and by using the right chains, wheel chocks, and safety equipment, you should now be ready to transport your tractor interstate.
What Permits are Needed to Transport a Tractor Interstate?
Before contacting a hauler, you should know what permits you need to transport heavy equipment on public highways. A hauling service provider often takes care of applying for the right permits, simplifying the process for farmers waiting on an interstate delivery.
However, there may be unique situations or conditions that necessitate you, as the buyer, to file the permits yourself. It’s also useful to know what permits are required whenever the transportation of heavy equipment is involved.
Each state will have their own individual requirements, but as an example, these are the requirements to transport heavy machinery in Western Australia:
Oversize Overmass (OSOM) Permit
This permit allows you to move large, oversized cargo on public roads. OSOM categorizes vehicles according to classes, with each class assigned its own cost, operating conditions, and application form. There is also a separate permit if the route involves crossing a bridge.
Before applying for an OSOM permit, there are pre-permit application requirements. To drive an oversize vehicle in WA, you must:
- Obtain a license for your vehicle at the Department of Transportation
- Become an operator
- Have yourself accredited
- Register the vehicle with Main Roads
Permits are available for single trips or recurring periods. You can check out this link for comprehensive details of OSOM permits.
For other necessary permits, orders, and schemes to drive a restricted access vehicle on a public road, check out Mainroads Western Australia for more information.
Electricity Network Permit
If you’re transporting a tractor on public roads, chances are you will encounter power lines. Without precautions, oversize loads can be hazardous; the tall machinery you’re transporting can snag a power line, for example, causing damage to crucial infrastructure and creating an electricity hazard for the driver.
Therefore an Electricity Network Permit is necessary to transport any tall or potentially risky equipment. The permit is often processed by the electric company handling the infrastructure in your area. For example, in Western Australia, you would need to apply for an electricity network permit at Western Power.
The web page linked above provides you with an online application form. It also enumerates permit rates, permitted line heights, and other important information.
Moving heavy equipment on public roads often causes disruptions in the traffic flow. Oversized cargo can block two or more lanes. And because trailers must move slowly, they can cause heavy traffic behind them. Fast-moving vehicles get stuck behind the trailer, waiting for a chance to overtake the large, slow-moving vehicle.
As thus, you need to apply for a permit issued by the local police, particularly The State Traffic Intelligence, Planning and Coordination Unit (STIPCU) in Western Australia. The specific police permit required to move agricultural equipment in WA is the MR19 permit, and especially large loads may require an agricultural pilot.
When Do I Need a Heavy Vehicle Pilot or Escort?
If your load is particularly big or wide, you may need an escort to ensure your safety as well as that of other motorists. An escort also helps navigate through heavy traffic. There are varying escort requirements for different Australian states, so you’ll need to check the rules for each jurisdiction before your journey.
In Western Australia, if your load is wider than 5.5 meters and/or longer than 40 meters, you would need a Traffic Escort Warden (TEW). To do so, you need to fill up a Traffic Escort Head Agreement. You also need to read, understand and agree with the terms, conditions, and responsibilities as detailed in the Traffic Escort Service Provision Policy.
You also need to pay for fees as enumerated in the Metropolitan Traffic Escort Guidelines and the Traffic Escort Fees documents. The documents also detail information about curfews.
After you complete the Traffic Escort Head Agreement and the document is authorized by signatories, you can now fill out a traffic service booking request form. Note that if you want to cancel your trip or change something in your confirmed traffic escort booking form, you need to fill up the traffic escort cancellation or amendment form.
For more on the traffic escort requirements in Western Australia, you can view the documents provided by Main Roads WA.
How Long Does it Take to Transport a Tractor Interstate?
The duration of road travel when transporting a tractor depends on factors such as the distance of the point of origin to the destination and the speed at which the trailer is able to move with a heavy load. If there are any obstacles or issues along the way, including inclement weather that may pose a safety hazard, there can be some deviation from the original timeline, so it’s good to allow some extra time.
Allow half a day for loading the tractor on the trailer. For short distances of 150km or so, trips often arrive in around a day. Longer interstate transport routes warrant a few days or even a week, depending on certain conditions.
As a general rule, always give an allowance of one day from the expected arrival of your tractor as a contingency, particularly when planning a tight harvest timeline or other crucial event. For example, if the hauler says that it will arrive at the destination on Tuesday, expect it to arrive on Wednesday, so any unexpected issues are taken into account.
How Much Does It Cost to Transport Farm Machinery Interstate?
Similar to the length of the journey, the cost of transporting a tractor varies based on several factors. Below are just some of the things that farming machinery transport services need to consider to come up with a quotation:
Size and dimension of the tractor
Smaller tractors are easier to handle, haul, and transport. Large tractors, on the other hand, are heavier, more difficult to manoeuvre, and may require special handling, which leads to higher transportation rates. This is especially true if the tractor is large enough to be categorised as an oversized load, with the need for additional permits and vehicle pilots.
Weight is among the biggest factors that influence transportation rates – the heavier your tractor is, the more expensive the rate will be, particularly as it will require more heavy-duty equipment and consume more fuel over the journey.
Open-air or closed container
Most people choose open-air trailers as it’s the easiest and most affordable way to transport their tractors. However, some opt to pay a higher rate and prefer their tractors shipped in a closed container. The advantage of the latter method is that the equipment is protected from the elements on the road. This option is often chosen when moving brand-new tractors in bad weather.
The distance from the point of origin to the destination also matters in determining the transportation rate. Naturally, the farther the destination is, the more expensive it will be. However, it’s important to understand that the cost per mile of transporting your tractor over a long distance is actually lower compared to short-haul transportation. Yes, the overall rate of short-haul transportation will still be lower than long-distance hauling, but it will often be higher per km.
Expedited delivery requires you to pay extra fees connected with rush hauling. To avoid the high costs of rush delivery, it’s best to plan ahead of time. Doing so ensures that you don’t make a last-minute decision that can cost you a lot of money, or that you won’t have run-on issues in your timeline if there are any delays.
Special arrangements or requirements
Any special requests or requirements outside the standard process entail a higher cost. For example, if you need a crane to lift your tractor up from a trailer, you would have to pay more for the crane rental and operation.
How much does it cost to transport a tractor interstate?
The rate to transport a tractor interstate varies widely depending on size, weight and distance. At Boekeman Machinery, transport rates are calculated based on the following formula:
- $5.00 + GST Per Loaded KM
- Pilot $1.90 + GST + Travel Time @ $50.00/Hr when returning empty (Over 3.5m 1 Pilot, Over 4.5m 2 Pilots)
- All loads over 4.3m High require a Western Power Permit. Cost of $150
- Backloads via Negotiation
- $500 + GST minimum charge all loads
Any additional permits or specific requirements will also add to the final cost of transport. However, the easiest way to determine interstate delivery costs for your tractor is to request a farm machinery transport service quote.
Biosecurity Issues When Transporting a Tractor Interstate
Farm machinery often comes into contact with livestock as well as potential pests and invasive plants. Thus, bringing farm machinery from one place to another poses a biosecurity risk, as a major channel where diseases can be spread between Australia’s key agricultural regions.
Therefore, if you want to bring tractors and farm equipment interstate, it must be washed and cleaned thoroughly before arrival. Normal washing won’t cut it, so it’s best to hire a commercial cleaner that specialises in tractor cleaning. They use high-powered equipment such as pressure washers to clean off spores, seeds, dirt, grime, and more. Such cleaners also use detergents and chemicals that kill pathogens for complete disinfection.
It’s highly recommended to have the tractor cleaned to a high-quarantine standard before entry; this helps hasten the process and avoid delays if any issues are picked up. Allow time and budget for thorough cleaning – for complex machinery such as harvesters, the cleaning process can be quite expensive and take up to a week to ensure no grain contamination is present.
Particularly when transporting equipment into WA, dirty machinery may not be allowed entry if it’s not cleaned to quarantine standards. In addition, there are quarantine road checkpoints along the transportation route, and it’s at the inspector’s discretion to inspect incoming farming machinery and determine whether entry permission is granted.
Lastly, importers may be required to obtain and complete important documents such as an interstate health certification from the state of origin, or risk hefty fines for failing to comply with biosecurity regulations.
To find out more about quarantine issues when transporting farm equipment interstate, see the following links:
What Should I Look for When Choosing a Machinery Transport Service?
When choosing a hauling service to transport your tractor, farming equipment, or any other heavy equipment, take into consideration the following factors. This assumes that your prospects are legitimate service providers – when buying through a dealership, they should have a trusted service they work with to ensure reliable delivery.
- Do they offer the services you need? Visit their website or get in touch with them for more details about their services, including the capacity for the correct size and weight, and whether they service the regions you’re trying to deliver to.
- How much industry experience do they have? This is very important. Their industry experience will vastly determine whether they can efficiently, effectively, and safely transport your equipment.
- Do they own their own equipment? Your provider should have the right tools, vehicles, and other equipment for the services they’re providing. This includes all tethers and safety equipment for loading.
- How will they manage your shipment? Do they know how to file permits properly? Do they have the right sources for special requests? Do they have a well-organized team to track the delivery?
- Do they have the necessary licenses and certifications? These documents will tell you that they are a legitimate company, and they know what they’re doing. Considering the investment you make on your farming equipment, knowing that the hauling company “walks the talk” is very important.
- Do they offer insurance or do you need to provide it? On every trip, there’s always a risk of unexpected issues or accidents during transportation. It’s important to ask whether the delivery service offers their own insurance, so you have plenty of time to arrange your own if needed.
- Do they have references? References allow you to gather important information about their capabilities and reliability. A good transport service for heavy machinery should be able to share success stories moving the exact type of machinery you require them to deliver.
The above are some of the important questions you need to ask before you choose a transport service for agricultural machinery. In the end, it’s not about choosing the cheapest provider, but the one that has the capability to get the job done safely.
Are tractors allowed on highways?
To some extent, it may be legal to drive a tractor on the highway where it’s absolutely necessary, as long as the right permits and licenses are in place. However, it’s still covered by many rules and regulations, and these vary from state to state.
Typically, only the very shortest and most essential trips are permitted, and you’ll need to file for permission from Main Roads and the police. An escort may also be necessary to make the journey safely. For all but the shortest trips, you’ll need a trailer or truck to move a tractor on the freeway.