New trailer towing law finally comes into force three months after test scrapped

  • The car and trailer towing test has been scrapped as part of Government plans to tackle the HGV driver shortage crisis, meaning most drivers can now tow a horse trailer without taking an extra test under the new trailer towing law.

    The change to the towing rules were announced in September 2021 and finally came into effect on 16 December, following three months of limbo and delays.

    The decision directly affects the horse world in several ways. It means people who have not shelled out for training and testing, previously a legal requirement for anyone who passed the driving test after 1 January 1997, are able to tow a trailer up to 3.5T maximum authorised mass (MAM).

    It also affects equestrians seeking their HGV licence, as the towing test was scrapped to make way for 50,000 extra lorry tests.

    The initial response on social media in September was mixed. Those who had already paid for training and undergone testing will not be eligible for refunds, although there were some specific exceptions for people with upcoming tests booked. There is a significant knock-on effect for towing training firms and safety concerns have also been voiced.

    The new rules surrounding what size and weight of car and trailer a person can tow will still depend to some extent on when they originally passed your car driving test.

    Trailer towing law change: training remains encouraged

    The Driver Vehicle and Standards Agency explanation states the change follows a public consultation involving 9,541 responses.

    “These changes will not change the standard of driving required to drive an HGV, with road safety continuing to be of paramount importance,” added the DVSA statement, issued on Friday (10 September).

    “Any driver who does not demonstrate utmost competence will not be granted a licence. All car drivers will also still be encouraged to undertake training to tow trailers and caravans. We’ve already delivered 50% more [HGV] tests than were available before the pandemic, but today’s additional measures will deliver yet more tests.”

    The DVSA’s advice to those who offer towing training states: “Professional training is still important for car drivers who want to tow a trailer, so we will continue to encourage those wanting to tow to seek training before towing a trailer.

    “We encourage you to talk to your car and trailer pupils to explain what they will no longer need to take a test and will be able to tow a trailer that’s up to 3,500kg maximum authorised mass when the law changes. You can also signpost your pupils to our towing guidance.”

    Read the full guidance on the trailer towing law changes on the Government website

    • Have you been affected by the Government’s decision to scrap the car and trailer towing test? Let us know about your experiences by writing to hhletters@futurenet.com for a chance to see your views in H&H magazine and you could win a bottle of Champagne Taittinger (please include your name and address; letters may be edited).

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