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These are notes only - there is no specific directive for off-road machinery.


The law concerned with vehicles and their use off-road is fraught with complications and is poorly understood. The following notes are intended to help clarify the situation for persons involved in the importing or manufacture of vehicles for on and off-road use.

These notes apply primarily to the situation in the UK, and while the Machinery Directive applies consistently throughout the European Union, the same is not true of the rules which apply to vehicles used on the road. Although there are procedures which allow vehicles to be approved for on-road use in all countries in Europe, there are also differences in the legislation which mean that vehicles approved for use in one EU country may not automatically be legal for the same use in another country.

Public highway vs. off-road

The definition of “public highway” is an important factor. Essentially, for the purposes of this discussion, the public highway is any area to which the public may have access. This might include places such as municipal parks and supermarket car parks as well as the “normal” highway. In particular, it is important to realise that a public highway does not have to have a tarmac surface - “green lanes” with a public right of vehicular access, where off-road driving enthusiasts may go, are also public highways and so the vehicles which use them must comply with C+U (see below) as well as any applicable tax and insurance requirements of the Road Traffic Act. The rules apparently also apply to land designated for open access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. Only private land which is closed to public access is truly off-road in the sense that vehicles which do not comply with C+U may be used there.

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