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Vehicle Towing Laws

Towing trailers or caravans with vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes In this article reference is made to the maximum authorised mass (MAM) of vehicles and trailers. This should be taken to mean the permissible maximum weight, also known as the gross vehicle weight.

Category B: Vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes MAM and with up to eight passenger seats
Category B vehicles may be coupled with a trailer up to 750kgs MAM (allowing a combined weight up to 4.25 tonnes MAM) or a trailer over 750kgs MAM provided the MAM of the trailer does not exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle, and the combination does not exceed 3.5 tonnes MAM.

For example:

a vehicle with an unladen weight of 1.25 tonnes and a MAM of 2 tonnes coupled with a trailer with a MAM of 1.25 tonnes could be driven by the holder of a category B entitlement. This is because the MAM of the combination does not exceed 3.5 tonnes and also the MAM of the trailer does not exceed the unladen weight of the drawing vehicle
Whereas

the same vehicle with an unladen weight of 1.25 tonnes and a MAM of 2 tonnes when coupled with a trailer with a MAM of 1.5 tonnes would fall within category B+E. This is because although the combined weight of the vehicle and trailer is within the 3.5 tonnes MAM limit, the MAM of the trailer is more than the unladen weight of the drawing vehicle
Vehicle manufacturers normally recommend a maximum weight of trailer appropriate to their vehicle. Details can usually be found in the vehicle’s handbook or obtained from car dealerships. The size of the trailer recommended for an average family car with an unladen weight of around 1 tonne would be well within the new category B threshold.

Towing caravans
As for towing caravans, existing general guidance recommends that the laden weight of the caravan does not exceed 85% of the unladen weight of the car. In the majority of cases, caravans and small trailers towed by cars should be within the new category B threshold.

An exemption from the driver licensing trailer limit allows a category B licence holder to tow a broken down vehicle from a position where it would otherwise cause danger or obstruction to other road users.

By passing a category B test national categories F (tractor), K (pedestrian controlled vehicle) and P (moped) continue to be added automatically.


Category B+E: Vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes MAM towing trailers over 750kgs MAM
Category B+E allows vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes MAM to be combined with trailers in excess of 750kgs MAM. In order to gain this entitlement new category B licence holders have to pass a further practical test for category B+E. There is no category B+E theory test. For driver licensing purposes there are no vehicle/trailer weight ratio limits for category B+E.

DVLA Towing Trailers

Legal issues of towing
Maximum sizes for towing
Towing vehicle under 3500kg GVW

Length (excluding the coupling and drawbar)
7.0 metres

Maximum width
2.3 metres

Towing vehicle over 3500kg GVW

Length (excluding the coupling and drawbar)
12 metres if at least 4 wheels

Maximum width
2.55 metres

Length of towing vehicle & trailer combined
18 metres

Maximum overhang of load from rear of trailer
3.05 metres

Further information from: National Trailer and Towing Association (NTTA)
www.ntta.co.uk/law/


 

The driving licence you need to tow a caravan or trailer The ability to tow a caravan or trailer will depend on the driving licence you hold. The category entitlement on your driving licence will determine the type of trailer you can tow.

Construction and use
This article relates to driver licensing matters only. For details on the construction and use requirements regarding weights and dimensions for trailers please contact:

Vehicle Standards Engineering 5, Department of Transport, Zone 2/01, Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DR Telephone: 020 7944 2064.

Maximum authorised mass (MAM)
In this article reference is made to the maximum authorised mass (MAM) of vehicles and trailers. This should be taken to mean the permissible maximum weight, also known as the gross vehicle weight.


Car licences held before 1 January 1997
All drivers who passed a car test before 1 January 1997 retain their existing entitlement to tow trailers until their licence expires. This means they are generally entitled to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8.25 tonnes MAM. They also have entitlement to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750kgs MAM.

Drivers who hold subcategory C1+E - limited to 8.25 tonnes MAM, may apply for provisional entitlement to the new subcategory C1+E, in order to take and pass the test which will increase their combined vehicle and trailer entitlement to 12 tonnes MAM. It is not necessary to gain subcategory C1 entitlement first but drivers have to meet higher medical standards, and pass both the category C theory test and the subcategory C1+E practical test.


Towing trailers or caravans with vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes
Towing trailers with medium sized vehicles between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes
Towing a trailer with a passenger carrying vehicle

Large goods vehicle and passenger carrying vehicle licences held before 1 January 1997
Since 1 January 1997 all drivers who hold category C or D entitlement have been limited to trailers up to 750kgs MAM; Category C+E or D+E must be held in order to tow trailers in excess of this.


Car driving licence first obtained since 1 January 1997
Drivers who passed a car test on or after 1 January 1997 are required to pass an additional driving test in order to gain entitlement to category B+E and all larger vehicles. In addition to the new driving tests, drivers of vehicles which fall within subcategories C1, C1+E, D1 and D1+E also have to meet higher medical standards.


Upgrading entitlement for trailers
In general, an additional driving test is required for each category or subcategory of entitlement. But there are certain exceptions to this where drivers have already passed one test which involves trailer entitlement for a larger or equivalent sized vehicle.

This means that passing a test for subcategory C1+E or D1+E upgrades category B entitlement to B+E. A test pass for subcategory C1+E upgrades subcategory D1, if held, to D1+E. But a test pass for subcategory D1+E does not upgrade subcategory C1 to C1+E because the trailer size required for a subcategory D1+E test is smaller than that required for a subcategory C1+E test.

Passing a test for category C+E upgrades category B entitlement to B+E and also confers entitlement to subcategory C1 and C1+E and, if category D or subcategory D1 is held, these are upgraded to category D+E or subcategory D1+E. A test passed for category D+E upgrades category B and subcategory D1 to category B+E and subcategory D1+E respectively. But it does not upgrade category C or subcategory C1 entitlements because the trailer size required for a category D+E test is smaller than that required for a category C+E or subcategory C1+E test.

Provisional trailer entitlement
Since 1 January 1997 drivers are no longer able to sit a test in a heavy vehicle/trailer combination (eg category C+E or D+E) unless they have first passed a test and obtained a full licence in the corresponding rigid vehicle (eg category C or D).

This means that although drivers may have been driving a vehicle and trailer combination legitimately, under ‘L’ plates, they are not permitted to sit a trailer test using such a combination until a test has been passed in a rigid vehicle and a full licence obtained for that category.


This information is not intended to be a definitive statement of law.

 


Driving Standards Agency (DSA) commercial services The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) is the only agency in Great Britain charged with setting driving standards. DSA has a wealth of experience in assessing drivers and riders because it conducts over one million driving tests, across all categories of vehicle, every year. DSA also trains, tests and monitors the performance of examiners and sets the standards and syllabus by which all approved driving instructors teach driving.

Driver quality monitoring
The driver quality monitoring service (DQM) provides an objective and informed perspective of a bus and coach driver's ability.


The new government Road Safety Strategy has expanded the role of DSA to include assessing the standards of driving of professional drivers and assisting their employers to achieve high safety standards.


The objectives of DQM are to:

improve and increase the general awareness of road safety
reduce passenger, pedestrian and road accidents
contribute to an overall reduction in insurance claims and premiums
address public concerns about driving standards identified through correspondence, accident and other surveys
stimulate driver awareness of driving and road safety issues and the effect these have on customer service
identify and specify the driver training needs of organisations and individuals

Occupational driver appraisals
DSA has the expertise to carry out occupational driving appraisals (ODA) and offers companies an objective and informed view of an employee's driving ability.


ODA aims to:

improve the safety of operations within an organisation and to help reduce occupational driver incidents
identify and specify the driver training needs of organisations and individuals
improve and increase the awareness of road safety
increase driver awareness of driving and road safety issues
help employers achieve high safety standards
promote the culture of continual driver development

 

 

Towing trailers with medium sized vehicles between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes In this article reference is made to the maximum authorised mass (MAM) of vehicles and trailers. This should be taken to mean the permissible maximum weight, also known as the gross vehicle weight.

Subcategory C1: Medium sized goods vehicles 3.5 - 7.5 tonnes MAM
Subcategory C1 vehicles may be coupled with a trailer up to 750kgs MAM allowing a combination of up to 8.25 tonnes MAM. But unlike category B, the 750kgs MAM trailer weight limit is an absolute limit.

In order to gain this entitlement category B licence holders have to meet higher medical standards and pass both theory and practical tests for subcategory C1.


Subcategory C1+E: Medium sized goods vehicles 3.5 - 7.5 tonnes MAM plus trailer over 750kgs MAM
Subcategory C1+E allows vehicles to be combined with a trailer over 750kgs MAM provided the combination does not exceed 12 tonnes MAM and the laden weight of the trailer does not exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle.

In order to gain this entitlement category B licence holders have to pass further tests - subcategory C1 (theory and practical) followed by C1+E practical. There is no subcategory C1+E theory test. It will not be possible to go directly from category B to subcategory C1+E.

Because EC regulations limit drivers aged under 21 years to driving vehicles or combinations which weigh no more than 7.5 tonnes MAM, drivers under the age of 21 are not allowed to drive subcategory C1+E vehicles up to 12 tonnes MAM. But 18 year old drivers are allowed to take a test for subcategory C1+E which will allow trailers in excess of 750kgs MAM to be towed. Entitlement is limited to a combination weight of 7.5 tonnes MAM until the driver reaches 21 years, at which time the balance of 12 tonnes MAM entitlement automatically becomes effective.

 

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