Berkshire Driving School - Trailer Towing
Trailer Tests to be abolished from Monday 20th September 2021
This has been a quick change to the testing system in order to increase availability for providing much-needed truck driver testing so everything is in a state of flux at this time.
Until the law changes later in Autumn 2021 you must continue to follow existing licence rules about what you can tow based on when you passed your car driving licence.
See our Blog for up to date information and a link to the GOV.UK official source.
As a result we will be suspending trailer training until further notice.
We do acknowledge that our training would still be useful so we will keep our collected wisdom available for viewing.
THE FACTSFor the purpose of this discussion we are ignoring trailers maximum authorised mass of under 750kg
New drivers are restricted to driving vehicles up to a maximum authorised mass of 3.5 tonnes. A car pulling a trailer is considered to be one vehicle so must not exceed 3.5 tonnes. However a small (up to 750kg) trailer is permitted for any vehicle mass up to 3.5 tonnes.
Passing the trailer test confers +E trailer towing entitlement and doubles the maximum authorised mass for a car plus trailer to 7.0 tonnes.
MAM OF THE TRAILER
The maximum authorised mass of the trailer can be found by adding up the individual axle weights stamped on the trailer plate. This information is applicable for licence regulations. Once the driver gains +E entitlement then the actual mass of the trailer is the governing factor.
BRAKED WEIGHT OF THE CAR
The maximum authorised train weight of the vehicle should not exceed. This is stated in the V5C and on the vehicle plate.
THE DRIVERS LICENSE
What the driver is legally entitled to tow is stated on the driving license. Having determined that the car can legally pull the trailer then the driver must determine if he is licensed to drive the vehicle. Without trailer entitlement the driver is limited to a maximum authorised combined weight of 3.5 tonnes. +E raises this to 7 tonnes.
WITH TRAILER ENTITLEMENT
When a driver passes the trailer test and adds trailer entitlement to his or her license then the train weight which the driver is permitted to tow increases to 7.0 tonnes. A large 4x4 might have a maximum authorised mass of 3.5 tonnes and could be driven with a car license holder who did not have +E trailer entitlement; coupling a trailer will result in a vehicle combination exceeding 3.5 tonnes. Pulling this outfit on the highway would now be illegal if the driver did not have trailer entitlement. With B+E entitlement the driver may pull a mass of up to 3.5 tonnes with this vehicle. The plate on the trailer has no real significance if the driver has B+E. Providing the two vehicles making up the train are compatible, the weight and ONLY the weight of the trailer is of any significance.
OUR INTERPRETATION OF THESE ENTITLEMENTS
The graph, above, shows our interpretation of the current regulations. The vertical axis represents the (plated) trailer mass with a maximum of 3.5 tonnes as this is the limit for a standard 50mm towball. The horizontal axis represents the mass of the tow vehicle with a maximum limit of 3.5 tonnes as this is the limit for a standard car licence.
The green section represents a max gross train weight of 3.5 tonnes with a special extension of the 750kg trailer allowance with any vehicle. Any (reasonable) combination of vehicle and trailer weight is permitted in the green section without trailer +E entitlement.
The amber section represents +E entitlement up to the max gross train weight of 7 tonnes - actually only fully achievable with a 3.5 tonne car and 3.5 tonne trailer. Again any (reasonable) combination of vehicle and trailer weight is permitted.
For this discussion 'reasonable' would normally expect the towing vehicle to be powerful and heavier than the trailer for stability but is not a specific requirement.
WHY THE REGULATIONS SHOULD BE OBSERVED
Driving without the correct qualifications invalidates your insurance so you risk endorsing your license with a minimum of six points plus a fine. It is difficult to arrange cost-effective insurance after acquiring points for not having proper insurance.
ADVANTAGES OF PASSING THE TRAILER TEST
The cost of your training and passing the driving test is usually far less than the penalties imposed if you break the law. Passing the test allows you to pull a safer vehicle combination. You future proof your license. You do not need to worry so much if your horse puts on weight or you would like to transport two horses. Turning up with your horse to the gymkhana towing with a 4x4 looks the part and is less likely to need hauling out of the mud than the family car.
- A 4x4 will give your horse a smoother ride than if you towed your box with a family car.
- If participating in motor sport is your hobby then with trailer entitlement you can tow your car to the venue rather than have to drive it there.
- If you race a motorcycle and trailer the machine to your venue, the +E on your license will allow you to tow with a bigger vehicle which could carry more spares.
- If you are a builder with +E then you can pull your trailer with a proper 4x4 rather than using the family car.
- If your 'Builder's Mate' can also drive your combination legally then he can set off with the outfit to collect more materials leaving you to continue working.
- If you go caravanning regularly, the +E on your license will allow you to tow a bigger caravan or tow with a more appropriate car.
- If you have a 3.5 tonne motor home then with trailer entitlement you might be able to tow a small car using a dolly.
- If you have a trailer sailor yacht, you can save boat yard fees by storing it inland or take it to new locations for future holidays - if you had the license to tow it.
WHY TRAIN FOR THE TRAILER DRIVING TEST?
The test trailer test is expensive so passing first time is cost-effective even if you pay for us to have your driving checked as a precaution. The test is perfectly straight forward but it is surprising how we develop bad habits or make mistakes when under scrutiny. We will itemise any improvements you can make to your driving so that you can go away and practice improving your driving style. It is impossible to put on an act during any vocational driving test since they are long in duration and you need the confidence to know that you will pass the test without changing your driving style. Customers usually appreciate that driving more efficiently saves them fuel and reduces vehicle wear. Environmentally friendly driving is marked during the test and to fail in this respect will constitute a fail in the near future. You will probably recoup the cost of our training through lower motoring costs.
We rarely offer courses as such for these six reasons -
- Most customers cannot take a long period off work to attend a course,
- Intensive training is hard on the Client and he or she tends to perform more efficiently if the training is in 3 hour sessions
- The Client can practice between sessions and adopt the improved driving style.
- Clients can take as few or as many sessions as they wish so a test pass is almost guaranteed,
- Clients do not need further training if their driving has exceeded the standard required by the Driving Standards Agency,
- Vocational driving tests can be booked at short notice so the test can be arranged for when the Client is actually ready to take the test and pass it successfully.
A test pass is therefore almost assured.
THE TRAILER DRIVING TEST
The test lasts about 1 hour 15 minutes. We will arrive at the test centre about 10 minutes earlier than the appointed time. It is advisable for the candidate to wear a high visibility jacket when at the test centre and we will supply you with one. The vehicle will be fitted with 'L' plates and extra mirrors for use by the Examiner. The trailer will comply with the DSA regulations and laden with an approved load of 600kg. At the test centre parking area the examiner will come to the vehicle. He will introduce himself, ask you for your license and invite you to sign by your name. He will return your license. He will enquire if you have any physical disabilities that you had not mentioned on your application form and also ask you to read a number plate at about 20 paces. He will ask you about six questions on safety affecting that vehicle.
- How can you check that the suspension of the trailer is not broken?
- How would you check that the trailer body catches are secure?
- How do you check the wheels and tyres?
- When loading this trailer, what factors would you take into account?
- What factors will you take into account when pulling a trailer?
- How could you check the brake lights if you were on your own?
- How could you check the [horn, lights, indicators, power steering, footbrake, handbrake] were working.
- How could you de-mist the windscreen if it started to cloud over when you were driving?
- Identify the fog light switches.
- How could you adjust the beam of your headlights to compensate for the trailer nose weight?
- Show me how to operate the hazard warning lights.
- Explain the working of the wiper switches.
- How would you know that a trailer light had failed when you were driving the car?
- Show me [how you would check the oil level, top up the engine oil, fill up the screen wash bottle, check the coolant level, top up the hydraulic reservoirs.]
- Show me [how you would adjust the head rests.]
Click here for more information. The order of the test can vary but typically you start with the reversing manoeuvre.
THE REVERSING MANOEUVRE
Hopefully The Nottingham Driving School will not object to you watching their clear video on the B+E manoeuvre...
Our vehicle is 8m in length, the manoeuvring area will be smaller and the markings at the test centre will be slightly different. Although examiners are allowed discretion with some degree of 'shunting', it will be marked as a fault. Approach the first cone with a stick in it fairly closely so you will have more space on your right to bend the vehicle. Our outfit is easy to manoeuvre round the cones so there is no need to bend the combination in one go. You are allowed to get out just once to see if you have reached the yellow box.
This is followed by the road drive which will take about 1 hour.
TRAILER DRIVING TIPS
- Always look around when moving off,
- Brake on the straight and avoid braking when cornering,
- Avoid engine braking except when descending a long hill.
- Check both door mirrors regularly as you drive,
- Check the nearside mirror as you pass other road users, parked vehicles and junctions on the left,
- Always carry out the mirror - signal - manoeuvre routine,
- Discourage other motorists from overtaking when you need to pull out for obstructions.
The uncoupling/coupling exercise is usually carried out at the end of the driving part of the test. Note the following points for uncoupling...
- When uncoupling the trailer, make certain that the jockey wheel is lowered and secured to prevent the coupling falling on your feet.
- The final step to do is to disconnect the safety cable. However, before you do this you should give the trailer a shove to make certain that the brakes work.
And for coupling...
- When (re)coupling you should reverse the car so that the tow ball is within range of the safety cable.
- Do not hook the safety cable to the car until you have checked the trailer.
- Attach the safety cable before you connect anything else.
- When you have wound the jockey wheel up and the coupling has clicked into place you must then wind the jockey wheel down a short distance and check that a false coupling has not occurred.
- You may ask the Examiner to stand behind your outfit and help you check the lights.
This driving school has produced an excellent video on recoupling and uncoupling for the B+E test...
The instructor has been extra careful to emphasise all the steps but in practice the examiners appreciate that the trailer had been driven to the test centre and was legal for that purpose. Do stop the engine, though when leaving the vehicle - better for the environment. Neither do you need to reverse all the way back to the side of the trailer. Just a little overlap is fine. Also no need to open the trailer - our sand bags are quite secure. Finally, you can use the reversing sensors to locate the cars' position. Go slowly when the beep starts, stop when you get a continuous note. You will be within range of the safety cable attachment.
.... And then the verdict. The Examiner will invite you to sit in the comfort of the car for this. He will count his marking sheet to check that you have fewer than 16 minor errors, you should have no serious or minor errors. Too many minors in the same row will be a fail as more training will be required.
Cost of training
See our description page in the Blog for latest fees : Our Charges
WHAT IS INVOLVED IN THE TRAINING
Please read, understand and practice the relevant parts of this page before your first session. It will save time.
- We will check that you can couple and uncouple correctly.
- We will check that you are able to reverse the trailer in a straight line without excessive weaving. (Hint - if your mind becomes addled during this exercise then just turn the wheel in the direction you can see the trailer in the door mirrors.)
- We will go to the manoeuvring area and practice the reversing manoeuvre.
- Then the road drive taking note of the techniques advised earlier on this page.
- During the drive the instructor will advise you on ways to improve your driving. - if your driving is up to the required standard we will book the test for you.
- A car can weigh up to 3.5 tonnes.
- The trailer can be up to 2.55 metres wide.
- The trailer bed can be 7 metres long.
- The load may stick out of the rear by 1 metre without needing to be made more visible.
- The load may stick out up to 2 metres providing the rearmost projection is made visible.
- Beyond that you will require an attendant and take other precautions.
- The load may overhang the vehicle by up to 305mm (1 ft)
- There are no height limits.
- Any vehicle or load over 3 metres in height requires the driver to have the height recorded on a plaque easily seen by the driver.
- The load should not move forward if subjected to a force of 1G
- The load should not move sideways or rearwards if subject to a force of 0.5G
- Your vehicle plus trailer may exceed 3.5 tonnes so if you are competing with hauliers you will need an Operator's Licence and employ a Transport Manager - see next section.
- You may therefore need to have a tachograph fitted in the vehicle.
BUSINESS or COMMERCIAL USE
Wording from 'Goods Vehicles' to 'vehicles used for carrying goods' was introduced a few years ago with VOSA so a Range Rover and Trailer carrying other peoples goods and having a train weight exceeding 3.5 tonnes could be lumped together with trucks exceeding 3.5 tonnes and the same tacho regulations and drivers hours restrictions apply. Thus if you have a business trailering other people's cars around the country you could be in competition with hauliers. You will therefore be bound by the regulations imposed on hauliers.
If so then read these...
Your instructor will have certificates of have gained the following levels or grades or have passed the following examinations and more besides -
- Certificate in Education,
- Transport Managers Qualification in National and International Movements,
- Diploma in Driving Instruction,
- IAM Advanced Motorist both truck and car,
- RoSPA pass,
- DIAmond Advanced Instructor,
- RTITB lorry instructor,
- MAVIS Instructor,
- including Acessible buses,
- DSA vocational passes in artic lorry and large bus.
- More examination passes in the pipe line.
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The MAM is the maximum authorised mass (weight) also known as the gross vehicle weight. It is the weight of the trailer plus the weight of the maximum permitted payload.
A tonne is a metric ton or 1000kg.
Grandfather's rights are the continued rights to drive vehicles although the law has changed. New drivers with the same license will not be permitted to drive certain vehicles which had hitherto been allowed if that person had passed the test at an earlier date.
Drivers who passed the test before 1 January 1997 are permitted to drive vehicle and trailer combinations up to 8.25 tonnes. They are also permitted to drive medium goods vehicles which have a MAM of 7.5 tonnes. Drivers who passed their test after this date are restricted to vehicle and trailer combinations of 3.5 tonnes MAM. They are also restricted to small trailers with a MAM of 750 kg, 3/4 metric ton.
The DVLA should be your source when trying to find out what you can drive since the DVLA will update their web site as and when the regulations are altered.
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.
So, three requirements need to be satisfied -
- The manufacturers impose a towing limit on the vehicle. This must not be exceeded.
- The DVSA impose a train weight depending upon the entitlements on your license i.e. 3.5 tonnes with the B category, 7.0 tonnes for B+E
- Other legal restrictions e.g.
- lower speed limits for units pulling heavy loads
- unbraked trailers must weigh less than half the weight of the towing vehicle
- Without +E entitlement the MAM of the trailer must not exceed the MAM of the car
- Abnormal loads may need special markings and other requirements
- 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.
For example: Say that the unladen weight of a typical 4X4 may be 2 tonnes.
The manufacturer may authorise a MAM of 2.75 tonnes. ie it may be permitted to carry a payload of 750kg max.
Without trailer entitlement this leaves just 750kg for the trailer (ie a small camping trailer, usually unbraked.)
Clearly the 4x4 is capable of drawing a far larger trailer than this but the driver must have a trailer licence entitlement to do so
The vehicle weight is the maximum mass of the car plus trailer. Be aware of this so that you may comply with weight limit signs.
You should find that your trailer is marked with the unladen weight and payload. (Our present trailer has a payload of 1,000kg and an unladen weight of 276kg bringing the maximum authorized mass to 1276kg. This is just over the minimum driving test vehicle requirements.) Our BMW 120d has a maximum permitted towing mass of 1,200kg (as printed in the manufacturer's handbook) so is a good match for this trailer. When fully laden the trailer will weigh less than 80% of the car and therefore complies with the Code of Practice recommended by the Caravan Club.
If the trailer has no brakes it may have a maximum authorized mass of 750kg and may be driven by car drivers. 'L' plates and a supervising driver are not required. However the trailer must weigh less than half the weight of the towing vehicle's kerb weight.
Trailers with overrun brakes may have a maximum authorized mass of 3.5 tonnes if permitted by the manufacturer (as denoted by the plate). They usually have a maximum authorized mass exceeding 750kg and restrictions apply if the driver does not have grandfather rights to draw such a trailer - namely the front and rear of the vehicle must display 'L' plates and the driver must be supervised by a qualified driver. The trailer when loaded must not exceed the car manufacturer's design limit (see handbook). Note that although the vehicle may easily pull the trailer, legal considerations should be observed. Failure to do so would invalidate the insurance. For example a car plus trailer license will not allow the driver to draw a combination greater than 4.25 tonnes (3.5 tonne vehicle drawing a 750kg trailer). Above this mass a medium or large driving license is required to be held by the driver.
No, for example, if a driver overloads a bridge, this is not likely to be covered by the vehicle insurance.
The vehicle must display 'L' plates and must not pull a trailer. Driving on the motorway is permitted but they must be accompanied by a suitably qualified driving instructor.
These include not using the third lane of motorways and lower speed limits on many roads:
- Motorways and dual carriageways, 60mph,
- other roads, 50mph.
Note that some vehicles (eg Ford Ka, Tesla Model 'S' or many small cars) are not ratified for towing trailers.
- The test is longer,
- The test centre has a manoeuvring area,
- No manoeuvres are conducted on the road,
- There is no emergency stop,
- The examiner will ask the candidate to perform a manoeuvring exercise,
- The examiner will ask questions on vehicle safety
- An uncoupling and recoupling exercise is performed,
- The candidate is expected to drive to a higher standard.
- Select a suitable place to leave the trailer. This should be level and convenient for others.
- Leave the car is a safe condition and apply the trailer handbrake.
- Disconnect the electrical plug,
- Lower the jockey wheel and disconnect the trailer cup from the tow ball,
- Check the trailer brakes by (trying to) push it back.
- Disconnect the safety cable,
- Move the car away,
- Check the trailer security.
- Check that the trailer handbrake is applied,
- Walk round the trailer checking body panel security, wheels and tyres and ensure numberplate matches the tow car
- Reverse close to the trailer tow cup and leave the car is a safe condition. Most cars have reversing alarms or cameras which help you stopin the correct position
- You should consider repositioning the car if needed. (It is easier to swing the trailer round rather than to pull it up to the car. A tandem axle trailer is easier to swing round if the jockey wheel lifts the front wheels off the ground))
- Before connecting the break-away cable you MUST walk round the trailer to check its safety (Tipping mechanism is locked, tyres free from cuts bulges and have enough tread and inflated correctly, wheel nuts look O.K., doors and lid secure, number plate in place.)
- Wind down the jockey wheel so that the tow cup is slightly higher than the car tow ball.
- Release the trailer handbrake carefully and swing the tow cup over the tow ball, be prepared to reapply the trailer handbrake if the trailer threatens to move too quickly,
- Raise the jockey wheel to lower the tow cup onto the car tow ball.
- ENSURE THAT A SAFE COUPLING HAS BEEN EFFECTED. Raise the back of the car by lowering the jockey wheel down a little.
- Raise the jockey wheel completely and lock it up, making certain that it does not interfere with the brake actuator.
- Connect the black electrical plug. (The drain hole is at the bottom)
- Release the trailer brake,
- Make certain that the slack in the cables is sufficient to allow manoeuvring yet will not let them drag on the ground.
- Check lights, tyres and vehicle security. (The brake lights need the ignition to be switched on)
- Adjust any retrofitted mirrors.
- Check the coupling and brakes before leaving the yard by accelerating and braking.
- The trailer used by us is small and light. Ensure that the tipping mechanism is locked down and that the lid catches are secure.
- Larger trailers may need an anti sway (or stabiliser) devices to be attached after the towing vehicle has been coupled.
- Caravans require more attention. Drawers and cupboards must be locked, gas bottles stowed, stop cocks, windows and skylights closed, chemical toilets emptied, electrical appliances made safe, loose items secured.
- The number plate may need to be changed. The trailer should be serviceable which is important if it has been standing for a long period.
These are sometimes used on higher trailers to stop them swaying or snaking in the wind. They dampen the movement between trailer and towing vehicle.
Increasing the nose weight, fitting an anti-sway device, increasing the trailers tyre pressures and travelling slower will reduce this effect. Should this occur, braking will exacerbate this. Drive sympathetically and lift off the accelerator should this should occur. Consider accelerating if a transitory gust is the cause of the problem.
- Some trailers may have a tow eye which needs a tow pin on the towing vehicle
- Non-standard lighting plugs may be used on older equipment.
- The tow hitch must be the correct height, especially if the trailer has more than one axle.
The weight should be such so that it can be coupled up to the car without too much effort. Excessive weight on the tow bar will set the car head lights too high and make the steering dangerously light.
Too little weight will make the combination snake the coupling may bang when going over bumps and the rear of the car will be excessively bouncy.
A nose weight of between 50 to 100kg should be considered. The load on the trailer may be re-distributed to achieve this.
Jack knifes come in two forms. Firstly, when reversing, the angle of the trailer can become so acute that the driver will not be able to recover when on full lock. Driving forward and straightening will sort this out.
A second type is a dangerous condition caused by the driver slowing down too sharply when cornering. The trailer goes straight on and pushes the back of the car round. If the driver had braked on the straight and accelerated gently when cornering, this could have been avoided. If the driver is lucky and catches the situation in time then accelerating might restore stability.
Hot friction material may lose its efficiency when hot or metal parts distort slightly. Old hydraulic fluid may produce bubbles if subjected to heat, air is squashy.
Cars have disk brakes which do not suffer brake fade since they offer superior cooling and brake disks expand towards the pads. Trailers have drum brakes which can overheat causing the drums to expand away from the brake shoes.
When approaching long descents trailer drivers should keep their brakes cool by ...
- Slowing before the descent,
- Selecting a low gear to increase engine braking.
Visibility is restricted so be vigilant with your observation by checking ALL mirrors and looking round effectively, covering all sides of the vehicle. Watch out for pedestrians stepping over the tow hitch!
- Don't use the outside lane of a three lane motorway
- Don't exceed 60mph on the motorway
- Don't exceed 50 on other roads
- Watch out for weight limit signs since the vehicle now includes the trailer.
- Height and width restrictions may apply to your outfit.
- Yes, click this link
This link will get you the required information - www.gov.uk/view-driving-licence
If you would like further information or to comment on this topic please