With the recent Covid-19 pandemic, many people are considering a UK based getaway instead of flying abroad. Motorhomes, caravans, and camping offer a lower risk of contact with groups in confined spaces, vastly different to airports with strict new conditions.
But did you know, you may be breaking the law with your caravan when towing? If you tow a horsebox or other trailer, you may be in the same position.
It’s all too easy to hitch up your caravan, or one you have borrowed for a sunny weekend away, the family, the romance, the fantastic campsite. Forgetting that you may not be licensed to tow the caravan. Get sorted now before you get caught. Don’t forget the rules of the road either, these are different with a trailer.
So what are the rules?
Your age, the weight of the towing vehicle and the trailer all dictate what licence you need.
If you passed your test (category B) before 1st January 1997, you then received a BE licence, which means you can tow a trailer upto 3500Kg maximum gross weight.
If you passed your test on or after 1st January 1997 you only have a category B licence: the maximum weight of car and trailer is significantly less. You are at a much greater risk of breaking the law. You may be breaking the law with the following examples, so need to take your B+E test:
- The combination of the loaded car and caravan exceeds 3,500Kg and the loaded caravan is over 750Kg.
- A horsebox with a horse and tack with weight in excess of 750Kg (very likely), so the combined towing vehicle and horsebox cannot exceed 3,500Kg.
- A utility company or builder using a van to tow a trailer with a heavy mini-digger may be exceeding the total 3,500kg weight, with the digger and trailer well over 750Kg.
When considering the weight of the vehicle it is important to use the maximum gross weights of the Car and Trailer as opposed to the unladen weights. Make sure that the maximum towing weight for the vehicle is not exceeded.
What about rules of the road, and The Highway Code?
Towing a trailer is not the same as driving a car. The car behaves differently, the space you take upon the road is much more, road conditions affect driving and safety. Cornering, manoeuvring in confined spaces, not to mention reversing all need practice for safe driving. The Highway Code lays down rules for towing to reduce the risks of towing, the main ones are:
- Vehicles towing trailers are not allowed in the outside lane of a motorway with 3 or more lanes.
- The max speed on a motorway when towing a trailer is 60mph
- The max speed when towing a trailer on a single carriageway is 50mph
- Do not exceed the weight for towing vehicle and trailer
- Ensure proper weight distribution with heavy items over the axles
- Adjust headlamps
- You must have towing mirrors if your trailer is wider than the rear of the towing vehicle
There are other factors to consider:
- The trailer must have working brakes if over 750Kg
- Tow bars must be of an approved type and correctly fitted
- The trailer must have working lights
- Correctly rated tyres, with correct tyre pressures
- The nose weight onto the tow bar must not exceed vehicle specification
- All loads must be secure and not stick out
- Trailer jockey wheels, static supports must be fully retracted and locked
- This list is not exhaustive, please consult the Highway Code.
We strongly advise you to read the Highway Code and fully understand the law and guidance for towing a trailer. If you don’t and you get caught, fines and penalty points are very likely.
The Category B+E Training and Test
A lot of people call the Category B+E test a towing test and think the test is solely about the trailer. As long as they can reverse and uncouple/recouple successfully they think that will be enough. The test lasts upto 75 minutes, the Driving Part of the test lasts 50 minutes and is just as important. It covers the areas we mentioned above:
- The space you take upon the road, road conditions, driving safely
- Cornering, manoeuvring in confined spaces, reversing
- Your ability to safely handle the towing vehicle with trailer.
If you pass the Category B+E Test in a vehicle with automatic transmission you will receive a Category B+E licence restricted to automatic vehicles only.
If you pass a higher category of test (C1E, CE, DE) you will automatically get your Category B licence upgraded to a Category B+E.
There is no medical or theory test required to upgrade from a Category B to a Category B+E.
Tests are generally conducted at LGV Driving Test Centres as opposed to Car Test Centres.
Get Legal, Stay Safe
The message here is make sure you are legal with a trailer and stay safe. Start with a valid license.