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. New drivers can normally pull trailers with a maximum of 3.5 tonnes providing other legal requirements are satisfied.
You may want to be aware of these procedures
- How to check that the suspension of the trailer is not broken?
- How to check that the trailer body catches are secure?
- How to check the wheels and tyres?
- Loading this trailer, what factors would you take into account?
- What factors will you take into account when pulling a trailer?
- How to check the brake lights if you were on your own?
- How to check the [horn, lights, indicators, power steering, footbrake, handbrake] were working.
- How to de-mist the windscreen if it started to cloud over when you were driving?
- Identify the fog light switches.
- How to adjust the beam of your headlights to compensate for the trailer nose weight?
- How to operate the hazard warning lights.
- How to explain the working of the wiper switches.
- How to know that a trailer light had failed when you were driving the car?
- How to check the oil level, top up the engine oil, fill up the screen wash bottle, check the coolant level, top up the hydraulic reservoirs.
- How to 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...
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