A few months ago Steve Banner was looking at what’s available in the trailer market and this month he wades through some of the pertinent towing legislation.
If the trailer you’re proposing to haul with your 3.5-tonner does not have a gross weight in excess of 750kg then a category B driving licence qualification will cover you. In other words, you can drive the combination using an ordinary car driver’s licence no matter when you passed your test.
If it tips the scales at above that weight, and the sum of the gross vehicle and gross trailer weights totals more than 3.5 tonnes, then you’ll require a B plus E category on your licence. If it does not then a B category will fill the bill unless the gross weight of the trailer is in excess of the unladen weight of the towing vehicle. If that’s the case, then a B plus E qualification is necessary.
If you passed your driving test before 1 January 1997, then you’ll almost undoubtedly hold that qualification automatically. If you passed it after that date, then you’ll need to take a separate test.
Car drivers who passed their test prior to 1 January 1997 are allowed to drive a 7.5-tonner hauling a trailer grossing at up to 750kg. If you passed your test after that date, then you’ll need to take another one before you’re allowed to become a 7.5-tonner jockey; with or without a trailer.
If both the towing vehicle and trailer have ministry/manufacturer’s plates and the trailer’s unladen weight is over 1,020kg, then you’ll need one if the vehicle and trailer gross weights add up to over 3.5 tonnes. If the trailer’s unladen weight is less than 1,020kg, but the towing vehicle grosses at above 3.5 tonnes then you’ll need one too.
If the vehicle and trailer do not have ministry/manufacturer’s plates, the trailer’s unladen weight is over 1,020kg and the sum of the vehicle and trailer unladen weights is over 1,525kg, then yet again, an O licence is needed. If the trailer’s unladen weight is below 1,020kg, but the plate-less towing vehicle’s unladen weight exceeds 1,525kg, then an O licence is required under these circumstances too.
Again, all sorts of specialised vehicles are exempt from the O licence rules, including those operated by the fire, ambulance and police services. From the trailer viewpoint it’s worth noting that pulling a road roller with a 3.5-tonner won’t bring you into O licence scope. Nor will hauling a trailer not primarily designed to carry goods, but which does so incidentally because the operator is involved in road construction, maintenance and repair.
So far as Drivers’ Hours and tachographs are concerned, if the permitted gross train weight — ie the maximum weight the towing vehicle and trailer combined can operate at — of the rig you’re driving exceeds 3.5 tonnes gross, then you’re within scope. There are a number of exemptions under the law, however; vehicles being used by the armed forces, for example.
Remember that these days digital rather than analogue tachographs are fitted to any new vehicles that require them, and you’ll require a smartcard to use one. They’re available from the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency. You’ll also require downloading tools and software so that you can extract, store and analyse all the Hours data the tachograph and card will end up holding.
Before towing anything a visit to the DVLA web site is highly recommended, just to check on the latest legal requirements.