If you tow a separate vehicle behind your car for work or leisure then you’ll want to hear about the new rules announced by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) earlier this month.
The biggest rule change, to be introduced in late 2021, means that drivers will no longer need to sit a test to tow a caravan or trailer.
With the popularity of staycations on the rise, this could be good news for holidaymakers taking caravans to pitches around Britain, and business owners using trailers in industries such as maritime, forestry, agriculture and construction.
Meanwhile, some drivers will be unaffected by the new rules anyway; it all depends on when you earned your licence.
What has changed?
While the new laws covering the three nations won’t come into force until later in 2021, it’s now no longer possible to book or sit a car and trailer (B+E) driving test. Tests due to be taken on the 20th September or beyond have been cancelled, and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will issue full refunds for those tests within five working days.
What can you do before the law changes?
If you want to tow a vehicle and missed out on booking a test, or you've had your test cancelled, you must continue to follow the current rules based on when you passed your car driving test until the law changes later in 2021.
What can you tow until the law changes?
Licences issued before 01/01/1997
If you passed your test before 1st January 1997, you're ordinarily allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer combination of 8,250kg, known as maximum authorised mass (MAM).
Licences issued from 01/01/1997 to 18/01/2013
For more recently qualified drivers, passing their test between 1st January 1997 and 18th January 2013, you can drive cars or vans up to 3,500kg and a trailer of max 750kg MAM (a total load of 4,250kg).
You’ll have had to have passed a car and trailer driving test if you want to tow any loads above that weight.
Licences issued from 19/01/2013
Anyone passing their test more recently than that – from 19th January 2013 onwards – is allowed to carry the same weights as the previous category (3,500kg vehicle + 750kg MAM tow, equalling up to 4,250kg in total) or to tow a trailer with over 750kg MAM, as long as the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle weighs no more than 3,500kg.
According to newspaper The Telegraph, this rule change is designed “to free up capacity to train new lorry drivers”. There is an estimated shortage of at least 60,000 HGV drivers in the UK, a figure which predates the shortage of EU-national drivers no longer resident in the UK.
And if you’ve taken a trailer-towing test at personal financial cost in the past and are feeling a little shirt-changed on seeing the news of the rule change, it’s bad news: the UK government has said categorically that it will not reimburse those who got their tow licence in the past through the discontinued test, or who have paid for training in preparing to sit a now-cancelled test.
Keen to tow a trailer or caravan but don’t know where to start? The DVLA’s Safe Driving for Life blog has a guide on how to access training ahead of your first towing drive.
The UK government site also has a checklist that you can follow for making sure your trailer and caravan is towed safely.
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