Also known as agricultural machinery operator, farm machinery operator, tractor operator or tractor operative.
This profile highlights the skills and knowledge associated with the role. However, jobs will have varying responsibilities depending on level of the role and the size or type of the business.
A tractor driver works on farms that produce crops such as cereals, fruit, or vegetables. As a tractor driver, you’ll be responsible for a wide variety of cultivation tasks, such as preparing the land, sowing seeds or seedlings, harvesting, and storing crops.
For certain tasks, such as harrowing (preparing the land) or drilling (planting seeds), you’ll need to use additional machinery attached to the tractor.
Farm tractors and other machinery often use advanced technology such as satellite operation, image analysis, and artificial intelligence. This means you'll have the opportunity to learn new skills and different approaches to farming. As a tractor driver, you'll also be trained in maintaining and enhancing soil quality. This is especially important as it helps farmers be more productive and helps the environment.
Some more experienced tractor drivers take specialist training to become qualified sprayer operators to apply plant protection products to crops. Protecting crops is important to help them grow to their full potential and minimise damage from pests and weeds.
The workload of a tractor driver can vary from season to season: During harvest time, it can be particularly busy, and you'll need to be willing to work longer hours. However, you may earn overtime payments during harvest, and many tractor drivers enjoy the teamwork and satisfaction of seeing the result of all their work.
Depending on the size of the farm, you may work as part of a large or small team, and you’ll usually be supervised by the farm manager or farm owner.
You may need to have your own transport to get to work.
As a tractor driver your responsibilities might include:
- Operating and maintaining farm tractors and machinery in a safe and effective manner
- Meeting all health and safety standards
- Preparing and operating other farm machinery, e.g., loaders and combine harvesters
- Maintaining, cleaning, and carrying out minor repairs to farm machinery
- Completing safety checks and risk assessments before operating machinery
- Operating machinery in a timely and efficient manner
- Maintaining good environmental practice standards
- Conducting cultivation, crop husbandry, and harvest practices
To work as a tractor driver, you should:
- Be reliable with a positive attitude to work
- Have good awareness and attention to detail, especially when operating large machinery
- Be calm when working to deadlines
- Be able to focus for extended periods to complete work tasks safely and efficiently
- Be able to spot and report problems
- Have good communication and listening skills
- Be able to work well in a team or under your initiative
- Be highly motivated and keen to develop skills and knowledge
You don't always need a formal qualification to start out as a tractor driver. However, you'll need to be interested in machinery, enjoy working outdoors, be prepared to be flexible with working hours, and take a tractor test.
You could decide to study a related subject, such as agriculture. This would involve some training in using various kinds of agricultural machinery and building up skills and knowledge to manage land sustainably.
You can also gain experience by volunteering on a farm or smallholding.
If you live in a city or urban area, you could volunteer on a local city farm, community garden, or allotment. You can find some of these in your area on the Social Farms and Gardens website.
This type of role would suit someone with a keen interest in machinery, technology, and mechanics or someone who has worked in mechanics previously.
As a tractor driver, you’ll have the following competencies for using farm equipment effectively to help manage soils and support sustainable crop production. You will:
- Be able to drive tractors and tow machinery safely
- Follow farm protocols to deliver good environmental practice
- Meet the relevant health and safety standards
- Help with planning crop production
- Follow correct guidance to produce crops successfully
- Follow farm protocols to harvest and store crops
- Use knowledge and skills to carefully manage the soil and enhance soil quality
- Use the appropriate technology, machinery, and equipment
A full-time salary starts at around £19,000. On a farm with harvest overtime hours, this could rise to £35,000 for those qualified as spray operators.
Full-time, part-time, and contract opportunities are available.
As a tractor driver, you can increase your skills and knowledge by working with various types of equipment. Over time, you’ll develop a good understanding of modern technologies and practices.
With experience, you could move on to a more senior level and operate larger machinery such as combine harvesters or large cultivation tractors.
Over time, with a high level of knowledge and skills, you could advance to a management role. You would need to be able to manage a team, plan the cropping, and have a good understanding of the best practices to farm sustainably and profitably.
You may also consider specialising in a specific area of machinery operations, such as sprayer operator, which would require additional training.
With training, you could also work in related areas, such as farm machinery mechanics or machinery sales, often working for large national or international manufacturers.
Courses which can help you on this career path include:
Level 1 Diploma Land-based Studies Agriculture
Level 2 Technical Certificate in Agriculture
Level 3 Advanced Technical Certificate in Agriculture
TIAH Essential Skills
Our online Essential Skills modules can help you develop your skills and knowledge in a range of areas and are a great addition to your CV.