Tow-ing the line – caravanners urged to check they aren’t breaking towing laws

Tow-ing the line – caravanners urged to check they aren’t breaking towing laws
Tow-ing the line – caravanners urged to check they aren’t breaking towing laws

As British holidaymakers take to the road and the caravan season gets into full swing, drivers are being urged to make sure they aren’t breaking the law.

Caravanning is hugely popular in the UK, with an estimated 555,000 touring caravans in use around the country, according to the The National Caravan Council (NCC). And many motorists regularly tow horseboxes or other trailers with their car.

But depending on when you passed your test and how big the caravan or trailer is, you could be breaking the law and face a fine of up to £1,000.

What you need to know

January 1 1997 is the key date for UK motorists, as tougher towing restrictions were placed on drivers passing their test from that day.

Knowing the accurate weight of the vehicle, caravan or trailer and load is crucial in determining whether you need to sit and pass the additional Car and Trailer Driving Test.

Tim Alcock from LeaseCar.uk said: “With warmer weather on the way, many British caravanners will be considering their first trip of the year, so we’ve tried to clear up the relevant laws so that drivers can steer clear of any confusion.

“Along with checking all caravanning equipment is up to scratch, car owners should check when they passed their test as different towing rules apply to those who obtained their license before or after January 1, 1997.

“It’s vital to remember too that maximum speeds must be limited to 60mph on dual carriageways and 50mph on other roads when towing a caravan or trailer.”

The rules apply whether you're towing a caravan, horsebox or other trailer (Picture: Shutterstock)
The rules apply whether you’re towing a caravan, horsebox or other trailer (Picture: Shutterstock)

The rules

If you passed your test before January 1, 1997:

You are allowed to drive a combination of trailer and vehicle up to a weight of 8,250kg, including the load.

You’re also legally permitted to drive a minibus with a trailer weighing more than 750kg when loaded.

To tow heavier combinations than 8,250kg, such as medium-sized lorry and trailers, drivers must successfully pass the lorry theory test and ‘C1+E’ practical driving test.

If you passed your test after January 1, 1997:

You can only tow using a car or van weighing up to 3,500kg and with a trailer weighing up to 750kg.

You may tow a heavier trailer, as long as the total gross weight of the trailer when combined with your vehicle’s maximum weight doesn’t exceed 3,500kg.

To tow beyond these restrictions, drivers who qualified from January 1997 onwards must successfully pass the Car and Trailer Driving Test too – also known as the ‘B+E test’, based on the code on the back of photo driving licenses.

Most cars will also have a maximum towing weight listed in the handbook or on the vehicle identification number plate, which can usually be found under the bonnet – if neither is listed, the vehicle shouldn’t be used for towing.

Other rules

A caravan being towed by a vehicle weighing less than 3500kg can be up to 7m long, excluding the A-frame. But the trailer width for any towing vehicle must not be more than 2.55m.

Caravans and other trailers must also display the same number plate as the towing vehicle and have a working brake system if they’re heavier than 750kg when loaded.

Secondary coupling or a breakaway cable should be applied too in case the car becomes detached, as well as a type-approved tow bar and suitable towing mirrors.

Secondary or breakaway coupling should always be used. (Picture: Shutterstock)
Secondary or breakaway coupling should always be used. (Picture: Shutterstock)

If drivers don’t have an acceptable view of the road behind them, they could be fined up to £1,000 and receive three penalty points.

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