Warning over towing laws

  • The Driving Standards agency is urging motorists to check that they are eligible to tow horse trailers

    The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) fears many new drivers may be ignoring, or ignorant of, the need to pass a further test to tow certain trailers, including horse trailers.

    The DSA, which is responsible for running driving tests, has urged driving instructors to make sure their pupils understand what they are entitled to drive when they have passed their driving test.

    Its deputy customer services manager Colin Maddock said: “Although there are no statistics available to support the theory that new drivers are ignoring licence requirements, we conducted 299 car and trailer tests last year against 1.3 million car tests.

    “It therefore seems possible some new drivers may be going on to drive cars and trailers without first acquiring the correct entitlement.”

    Nobody knows how many trailers there are on UK roads, or who owns them, because they are not registered as vehicles in the way they are in other European countries.

    Anyone who has passed their test since 1 January 1997 is only entitled to drive a car up to 3.5 tonnes maximum authorised mass (MAM or gross weight), plus a trailer with a MAM of up to 750kg.

    They can drive a heavier braked trailer with a lighter car provided the outfit’s MAM does not exceed 3.5 tonnes and the trailer’s MAM does not exceed the car’s unladen weight.

    Almost all horse trailer outfits fall outside these limits, which do not affect those who passed before 1997.

    Until they pass the car and trailer test, new drivers can only tow one if they show L-plates and are accompanied by a driver over 21 who has held a licence for that category for three years.

    If they tow alone, they are driving without a licence for the class of vehicle and would be uninsured.

    Anyone who allowed them to tow could also be prosecuted.

    Fines for these offences are stiff and offenders would face higher insurance premiums in future.

    Read more news in this week’s Horse & Hound (1 August 2002), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.

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