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Towing and trailers


Answer

Towing a caravan/trailer is an involved matter. It's not possible to cover in detail all the various issues you will need to consider. However, basic information is provided below:

Driving licences

Driving licences issued on or after 01.01.97
From 01.01.97 drivers who pass their car driving test (category B) can:

  • Drive vehicles up to 3500kg maximum authorised mass (MAM) with up to 8 passengers seats with a trailer up to 750kg MAM.
  • Tow heavier trailers if the total MAM of the drawing vehicle and trailer doesn't exceed 3500kg.

If you want to tow a trailer outside these provisions you'll need to take another test – usually for category BE.

Driving licences issued before 01.01.97
If you passed your car driving test (category B) before 01.01.97, you will usually be entitled to drive a motor vehicle and trailer with a combined MAM of up to 8250kg.

Passengers
It's against the law to carry passengers in a caravan when it's being towed.

Speed limits
It is also important to stick to the required speed limits – they are different for cars towing a caravan:

  • 60mph - motorways and dual carriageways
  • 50mph - single carriageways
  • 30mph - built-up areas

Motorways – third lane
On the motorway, a car towing a caravan is not permitted to use the right hand (offside) lane on a motorway, which has three or more lanes open for use.

Mechanical condition
Make sure your car and caravan are roadworthy with regard to their mechanical condition e.g. lights, tyres, brakes, number plates, mirrors etc.

Weights and plates
Make sure the weight of your drawing vehicle, your caravan and the combined weight of your car and caravan doesn't exceed the various weights shown on the plates on your drawing vehicle and caravan.

Tow ball
Make sure you comply with any requirements in relation to your car's tow ball e.g. weights, heights and breakaway couplings.

Mirrors
The basic requirement is that you must be able to see clearly down both sides of your caravan and 4 metres either side at a distance of 20 metres behind the caravan. If your existing car mirrors cannot provide this or you are doubtful as to whether they can, it is safest to fit extension towing mirrors otherwise you may commit an offence.

Insurance
Make sure your insurance covers towing a caravan/trailer – most insurers will need to know if you fit a tow ball to your vehicle and want to tow a caravan.

Further information
It's important to realise that the above only represent a basic guide to what's required. If you need further information, we would suggest you contact an approved dealer or an organisation such as the Caravan and Motorhome Club – please see the link below:

Caravan and Motorhome Club

The link below provides further information in relation to towing trailers:

Department for Transport - Guidance: towing a trailer with a car or van


Answer

Number of trailers
Motorcycles cannot:

  • draw more than 1 trailer,
  • carry any passengers in the trailer (unless it is towing a broken down motorcycle),
  • draw a trailer with an unladen weight exceeding 254 kg (unless it is towing a broken down motorcycle).

Motor bicycles (two wheeled motorcycles) without a sidecar
If it doesn't exceed 125cc:

  • it cannot tow any trailer (unless it is towing a broken down motorcycle).

If it exceeds 125cc (the following provisions don't apply if it is towing a broken down motorcycle):

  • it cannot tow a trailer exceeding 1 m in overall width,
  • the distance between the rear axle of the motor cycle and the rearmost part of the trailer does not exceed 2.5 m,
  • the motor cycle must be clearly marked with its kerbside weight,
  • the trailer must be clearly marked with its unladen weight; and
  • the laden weight of the trailer must not exceed 150 kg or two thirds of the kerbside weight of the motor cycle, whichever is the less.


Answer

When one vehicle is towing another with a rope or chain the maximum distance allowed between them is 4.5 metres.

If the distance between the two vehicles exceeds 1.5 metres then the rope or chain must be made clearly visible within a reasonable distance from either side to other road users. This is usually done by tying a coloured flapping cloth in the middle of the rope or chain.

Additionally, you need to be aware that:

  • The towed vehicle must be taxed, registered and insured hand an MOT (if required) and the person driving it must hold the appropriate driving licence for that category of vehicle.
  • Make sure the person driving the towing vehicle has a licence that covers them to drive the combination of vehicles – legally a towed vehicle remains a motor vehicle but is also a trailer when towed.
  • If it is dark then the broken down vehicle must have its lights on as it would under normal circumstances.
  • Tell the insurance companies of the vehicles what you are going to do beforehand in case there are any implications for the insurance cover.
  • Towing a vehicle is potentially very dangerous and should only be done for the minimum distance necessary.
  • We would suggest that towing a vehicle should always be done by professional recovery companies/garages who have the appropriate equipment, training and experience.
  • You should never tow on a motorway.


Answer

Ideally, it would be best to tow the smallest possible caravan with the largest possible vehicle but this is not always feasible. Car manufactures are making smaller, lighter, more fuel efficient vehicles, whilst caravan manufacturers are making larger, more luxurious caravans that weigh more. Therefore, in the interests of safety it is vitally important to ensure that you purchase a caravan that your vehicle can tow safely and lawfully. The following advice applies to cars towing caravans or camping trailers etc.

There are a number of terms you need to be aware of:

  • Gross train weight (GTW) – this is the total weight of the car plus caravan (trailer) plus load. It may also be called the gross combination weight (GCW).
  • Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) – this is the maximum a vehicle is allowed to weigh when it's fully loaded.
    Unladen weight – this is the weight of a vehicle when not carrying a load and excluding fuel or batteries if it's electrically powered.
  • Kerb weight – this is the mass of the vehicle with bodywork in running order (including coolant, oils, fuel, tools, spare wheel and driver). Note that some car manufacturers don't include the weight allowance for the driver (75 kg) in their kerb weight figures. Your vehicle's kerbside weight may be in your vehicle's handbook or you may need to contact your local dealer.
  • Towing limit – this is the maximum weight a vehicle is designed to tow up a 12 per cent hill (1 in 8).
  • Maximum Technically Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM) – this is the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM), normally applied to a caravan.

For safety reasons experts recommend that the weight of the loaded caravan should be no more than 85% of the car's kerb weight – you'll find the kerb weight in the handbook. Drivers who are experienced at towing may go up to 100 per cent of the car's kerb weight, but no-one should tow a caravan that is heavier than the towing limit of the drawing vehicle. From a legal perspective, if you exceed the MAM of your car or caravan (MTPLM) or your car's GTW or in some cases if the MAM of your caravan/trailer exceeds the unladen weight of your car, you will be committing an offence/s.


Answer

Yes, it is an offence – you cannot obscure your lights or reflectors. You will need to fit a trailer board.


Answer

It would all depend on the circumstances. There isn't a specific offence of listening to music whilst driving but if it affected your driving, you could commit an offence.


Answer

The requirement is that you must be able to see clearly down both sides of your caravan, and 4 metres either side at a distance of 20 metres behind the caravan. If your existing car mirrors cannot provide this or you are doubtful as to whether they can, it is safest to fit extension towing mirrors otherwise you may commit an offence.

Contact your local police force

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