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9 Jul 2021

The importance of trained tractor operators

Modern farms invest in tractor training!

By 2030, self-propelled tractors and harvesters will be a common sight on farms. The time and labour-intensive tasks currently performed by tractor operators will, in future, be performed by machinery and robots, at both a lower cost and with greater accuracy. Goldman Sachs reports that it can cost as little as R35 000 to upgrade existing cars to make it driverless. Agricultural equipment can also be made autonomous at comparatively low costs. The good news is that this applies not only to large and sophisticated equipment, but increasingly to especially smaller equipment and Ari-robots, precisely because this equipment causes less soil compaction damage. Research suggests that this smaller fleet of automated tractors could bring about 10% growth in yield-related income and, by nature, drastically reduce labour costs. Modern, computerised equipment will result in as much as a 70% increase in Agri-yields by 2050.

The future is exciting, but for today, and the next 12-15 years, our machinery and especially tractors in South Africa will still be managed by our farm staff and the ‘human factor’ will have an impact on its cost-effective implementation and maintenance of relatively expensive technology as well as the safety of people.

The sober facts

Tractors are still the leading cause of accident-related deaths on farms. In South Africa, only 20% of the 750 000 km national road network is tarred and 80% of routes are used continuously by tractors, thus exposing other road users to potential dangers.

The most commonly reported tractor-related accidents include:

– Do not maintain safe speeds – as many as 20% of incidents occur during the drive from storage to the country/field.
– Disregard of road rules
– Miscalculation with slopes, changing road surfaces and cargo loads
– Motorists driving into slow-moving, poorly visible tractors at sunset / sunrise
– Entanglement in PTOs
– Falling from tractor or trailer

Five good reasons to train workers in the use of tractors and equipment

– Trained employees take greater responsibility for their task of caring for the equipment.
– All employers in South Africa are legally responsible for the safety of their staff. All tractor operators must therefore be trained and receive follow up training every 2 years.
– Lower literate employees undergoing certified training are more motivated and prouder of their work
– Technology is constantly becoming more sophisticated and its optimal and effective use requires basic training of the operator.
– The services of trained staff are more in demand – an important contribution that farmers can make to combat unemployment in South Africa within the agricultural environment.

Tractor Operator course – 1 day

Accredited Skills Programme


1. Legal provisions for the operation of tractors on public roads
2. General tractor maintenance
3. Safe handling of tractors
4. Effective tractor handling on slopes
5. Daily tractor maintenance and monitoring
6. Safety during refueling
7. Secure attachment of implements

The Peritum Agri Institute Tractor Operator training programme is accredited with the AGRI SETA and a competency certificate is issued against unit standard no 116820 with 10 credits. This certificate is considered by most agencies to be sufficient for young farmers who want to work as contractors on farms in America. It is also accepted by most agencies as sufficient evidence for special export regulations requiring tractor operator training.