Towing Trailers

When I got my driving license back after changing my name, I took a moment to study it. I always forget that I have a “special” license. Well, I have B and E categories ticked, which means I have my towing license as well as the bog standard license. I don`t tow trailers that often, but when I do I don’t think twice about what I can and can`t do.

Then, last weekend Otis’s chauffeur and I were discussing trailer weights and what you can and can’t tow with. Secretly I think he’s planning to upgrade the car.

However, it’s so complicated when you try to read up about it online. I tried to get my head around the law.

First of all, there are some terms to learn, because these are thrown around willy-nilly in trailer-talk:

  • MAM – the maximum weight of a loaded vehicle.
  • Kerbweight – the unladen weight of a vehicle.
  • Permitted load – this is the weight the vehicle is allowed to carry. It is the difference between the MAM and the unladen weight.
  • VIN – vehicle identification number plate on a car.

Then of course, there are three different categories of license, depending on when you passed your test. From the gov.uk website:

Licences issued from 19 January 2013

If you passed your car driving test (category B) from 19 January 2013, you can tow:

  • small trailers weighing no more than 750kg
  • a trailer over 750kg as long as the combined weight of the trailer and towing car or van is no more than 3,500kg (3.5 tonnes) maximum authorised mass (MAM)

You have to pass the car and trailer driving test if you want to tow anything heavier.

Licences issued from 1 January 1997

If you passed your car driving test between 1 January 1997 and 18 January 2013, you can:

  • drive a car or van up to 3,500kg MAM towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM
  • tow a trailer over 750kg MAM as long as the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg

You have to pass the car and trailer driving test if you want to tow anything heavier.

Licences held before 1 January 1997

If you passed your car test before 1 January 1997 you’re usually allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250kg MAM. View your driving licence information to check.

You’re also allowed to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750kg MAM.

 

Basically, if you`re a golden oldie, you can tow most trailers so have nothing to worry about. If, like me, you passed your test after 1997 you can drive a car and trailer (with an unladen weight of over 750kg) with a combined MAM weight of less than 3,500kg.

But how on earth do you work out what car to tow with, which trailer to use, and how big a horse you can tow?

Cars have a maximum weight that they can tow, listed on the VIN plate. This is also called a gross train weight, and is the weight of the fully loaded car and fully loaded trailer. You shouldn`t exceed this. Which brings in another factor into the equation – not only do you have to ensure that your MAM is not in excess of 3500kgs, but also the loaded trailer should not exceed the maximum that your car can tow – this may mean that you cannot fully load your trailer, for example only travel one horse, or a horse under a certain size.

On a post 1997 driving license you can tow a vehicle and trailer combination of up to 3500kgs, so long as the MAM of the trailer (with an unladen weight of over 750kgs) does not exceed the kerb weight of the towing vehicle. This is a safety factor as much as anything because the combination are much more stable when the towing vehicle is heavier. So lets see how this fits into real life.

Our car, is a Rav 4 diesel, with a maximum towing weight of 2000kgs. It`s kerb weight is 1715kgs and the MAM is 2190kgs.

We have an Ifor Williams 506 trailer, which has a kerb weight of 920kgs and a permitted load of 2600kgs.

Firstly, the MAM of the trailer exceeds the kerb weight of the car, which means that you cannot drive in on a post 1997 license without taking the trailer test.

This means that this car and trailer combination can only be carry 1080kgs (2000kgs minus 920kgs) on any license. That means that we could travel two small ponies (of approximately 500kgs each) or one horse. For that reason Otis (weighing 600kgs) travels alone. Then I don`t have to worry that the weight of the water container, tack and equipment will push us over the towing limit of the car. This highlights the importance of having your horse weighed accurately on a weighbridge, so you do not underestimate their size and get yourself into trouble. If we had a car with a larger towing capacity, such as a Landrover Discovery, we could tow two horses comfortably in the Ifor Williams 506.

Now let`s look at the overall MAM of the Rav and 506 trailer, to see how it relates to the 3500kg permitted on a B licence. The combined MAM is 4790kgs. That means that you have to have your trailer test, or be a golden oldie, to tow it. So regardless of whether you are going to tow one or two horses in it, you are more than likely to be over the 3500kg limit by the time you factor in the people driving, tack and other bits and bobs.

So what horse trailers can you tow on a post 1997 license?

Very little from what I can see. Firstly, you need a car and trailer that in total have an overall MAM of less than 3500kgs, and the trailer must not exceed the kerbweight of the car. This obviously drastically limits the options available.

Some trailer manufacturers have jumped on this bandwagon though, and produced a smaller, lightweight trailer which under some circumstances can be towed under an ordinary post 1997 driving license. They are all single horse trailers, designed to carry one horse up to 16.2hh.

Trailers that are in this category are the Ifor Williams 403 has a gross weight of 1600kgs and an unladen weight of 767kgs. The Bateson Derby lightweight trailer has a gross weight of 1700kgs and an unladen weight of 675kgs. The Requisite 75 has a gross weight of 1400kg and an unladen weight of 590kgs.

Let`s look at the mathematics for the Requisite 75 trailer because it is the lightest.

Just by looking at the MAM of the trailer you can see that the MAM of the towing vehicle must not exceed 2100kgs. Our Rav 4 exceeds this, which means that a smaller car would be needed. With my limited knowledge about cars I found that there are a handful of small 4x4s available, such as the Skoda Yeti. The only thing that then needs checking is the maximum weight that the cars can tow, to ensure that it is 1400kgs or more. Again, the Skoda Yeti ticks this box.

So it is possible to tow a single horse with a category B license, but you need to have the correct combination of lightweight 4x4s and single trailers, and have triple checked your maths because it is very expensive if you get fined or lose your license, or have insurance complications. In my opinion, it`s better to get your trailer test so that you have the option of towing a larger combination – either with a bigger car, a larger trailer, or multiple horses – without breaking the law. Plus, learning to tow a trailer correctly means that you are safer on the road. You can reverse down a country lane if necessary, know how to look after the trailer, and learn all the legalities involved in towing. I know I definitely felt more confident towing after having professional tuition, rather than just having my Dad getting me to reverse trailers around corners!

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2 thoughts on “Towing Trailers

  1. ahuckleberryfriend July 1, 2016 / 8:58 pm

    We tow our two horses [a 12.2hh pony and a chunky 15hh cob] with an ’08 plate Kia Sorrento 2.5 diesel [voted the best tow vehicle of its kind] in a Richardson Rice trailer. I really enjoyed reading this article, it was super helpful. I’m tempted to get everything checked at the trailer must be pretty heavy.

    • therubbercurrycomb July 1, 2016 / 9:04 pm

      I’m glad I could help you, I find it a minefield, but just glad I got my trailer test because now I only need to worry about the limitations of the car as opposed to my license.

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