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Trailers  Berkshire Driving School - Trailer Towing


Please bear with us - this part is under new construction


THE FACTS

For 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

towing regulation explained

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.

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 -

  1. Most customers cannot take a long period off work to attend a course,
  2. Intensive training is hard on the Client and he or she tends to perform more efficiently if the training is in 3 hour sessions
  3. The Client can practice between sessions and adopt the improved driving style.
  4. Clients can take as few or as many sessions as they wish so a test pass is almost guaranteed,
  5. Clients do not need further training if their driving has exceeded the standard required by the Driving Standards Agency,
  6. 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 waiting room the examiner will enter and ask for you. He will introduce himself, ask you for your license and invite you to sign by your name. He will return your license and ask you to take him to your vehicle. On the way 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. When you reach the vehicle he will ask you about six questions on safety affecting that vehicle.

SAFETY EXAMPLES

THE REVERSING MANOEUVRE

[click here for the video]

This is followed by the road drive which will take about 1 hour.

TRAILER DRIVING TIPS

The uncoupling/coupling exercise is usually carried out at the end of the driving part of the test. Note the following points for uncoupling...

And for coupling...

[click here for video]

.... 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.

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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.

FOR INFORMATION

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...

OUR QUALIFICATIONS

Your instructor will have certificates of have gained the following levels or grades or have passed the following examinations and more besides -

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Trailer FAQ

Click on this line for FAQ help

Clicking on this line expands our answer, click again to hide it.
Leave expanded if you wish to print the page.


1. What is the MAM?

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.


2. What is a Tonne?

A tonne is a metric ton or 1000kg.


3. What are 'grandfather rights'?

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.


4. Give an example of 'grandfather rights'

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.


5. What is the maximum weight a car or 4X4 may pull?

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 -

  1. The manufacturers impose a towing limit on the vehicle. This must not be exceeded.
  2. 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
  3. 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.


6. Does 'fully comprehensive insurance' cover all damage done by a driver?

No, for example, if a driver overloads a bridge, this is not likely to be covered by the vehicle insurance.


7. What are the current restrictions to car provisional license holders?

These include not pulling a trailer and not driving on the motorway. They should also display 'L' plates and be accompanied by a suitably qualified driver.


8. What are the restrictions applying specifically to trailer drivers?

These include not using the third lane of motorways and lower speed limits on many roads:

Weight restrictions may also apply.
Note that some vehicles (eg Ford Ka) are not permitted to tow trailers of any description.


9. How does the car + trailer test differ from the car test?

10. How do I uncouple the trailer?

11. How do I recouple the trailer?

12. What is meant by 'vehicle security' when recoupling?

13. What is an 'anti-sway' device?

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.


14. How is snaking avoided?

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.


15. What compatibility issues are important?


16. Is the weight on the tow bar important?

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.


17. What is a jack knife and how do I correct it?

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.


18. What is 'brake fade' and how do I avoid it?

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 ...


19. When driving off, what is the most important safety concern?

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!


20. What restrictions apply to trailer drivers?

21. How much is Car Tax?

For current rates of car tax (Vehicle Excise Duty) click here

http://www.vcacarfueldata.org.uk/ved/

For additional useful information on vehicle taxation click here

http://www.dvla.gov.uk/faq/faqindex.htm


22. Do I need a Trailer Licence?

If you wish to tow a larger trailer, the kind that have brakes fitted, and you do not have 'grandfather rights' (see questions 3 and 4 for explanation) then you will probably need to get your entitlement by passing the trailer test.

For additional useful information on trailer regulations click here

http://www.dvla.gov.uk/media/pdf/leaflets/inf30.pdf


23. What information might be found on a trailer plate?



24. How do I check the details on my license now that the paper counterpart is no longer a legal document?

This link will get you the required information - www.gov.uk/view-driving-licence


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Website revised on Saturday 24th March 2012. Last edited on Thursday 15th December 2016.