What you need to know about towing a trailer on a car licence.
If you have a category B driving licence to drive a vehicle (car/jeep) you can tow a small trailer. If you want to tow a larger trailer you must have category BE on your licence. For information on licence categories click here.
The owner's manual will generally set a limit on the total weight of the vehicle and its load. This is known as the maximum authorised mass (MAM) and is also sometimes known as Design Gross Vehicle Weight (DGVW). It covers the weight of the vehicle, passengers, fuel as well as any load carried on a roof-rack. The manual will also give the unladen weight of the vehicle, ie. the weight of the vehicle without any passengers or load. To know the load which can be carried you subtract the unladen weight from the MAM. If, for example, the MAM is 2010 kg and the unladen weight of the vehicle is 1535kg, then the load which can be carried is 475kg.
Even though your driving licence entitles you to tow a trailer, the kind of trailer you can tow will also depend on your vehicle specification. The owner's manual will generally set out a Towing Capacity- sometimes called Towing Weights or Maximum Trailer Weights- for the vehicle. Some small vehicles might not be allowed to tow any trailer while larger vehicles have restrictions set by the manufacturer of these vehicles on the size of trailer which can be towed. In all such cases the type of trailer you can tow will be the lesser of that allowed by your licence or the towing capacity of your vehicle.
The towing capacity is described for licensing purposes as the maximum authorised mass (MAM). Your owner manual/handbook will have a section in it about vehicle specification that will tell you this and almost all vehicles will have a metal plate fixed to its body which also gives this information.
For trailers the MAM is the weight of a trailer itself together with the heaviest load which it can carry as specified by the trailer manufacturer.
You can tow a trailer with a
- MAM no greater than 750kg, and/or
- Where the MAM of the trailer exceeds 750kg but where the MAM of the vehicle and trailer does not exceed 3500kg.
As a general rule your category B licence would not allow you to tow a horsebox or a livestock trailer for bringing animals to the local mart.
You can tow a trailer
- In all cases where the MAM of the vehicle and trailer combination is greater than 3500kg but less than 7000kg.
- In cases where the MAM of the trailer is greater than 750kg. However, note previous question where in certain cases a category B licence will allow you to tow a trailer over 750kg.
A car with a towing capacity of 2000kg can draw a trailer with a plated MAM of 3500kg provided the combination of the weight of the trailer and any load does not exceed the towing capacity of the car e.g. 2000kg.
- You must hold a current full driving licence in the category B (car).
- You must first pass a driver theory test in the category BW (if not already passed to obtain a category B licence)
- Apply for a learner Permit in category BE in an NDLS centre.
- After passing a driving test in the car/jeep and trailer you can then apply for the category BE to be added to your full driving licence.
If you tow a trailer that is greater than the permitted MAM you are not safe on the road and this has implications for your own safety as well as that of other road users. For that reason you should take time to understand what trailer is safe and legal to tow on our roads. Ultimately, you are legally responsible for ensuring that you have the correct licence and that you don't exceed the towing capacity.
How should the load on the trailer be positioned?
Loads should always be placed in a safe and secure position. Wherever possible, loads should be evenly distributed across the trailer and positioned in such a way as to keep the nose weight (i.e. the weight of trailer draw bar on the towing bracket) within the recommended limits for the towing vehicle. Consult your owner's manual for this figure.
For more information on trailers please click here.
Note this content is for reference and is not a statement of the law or a legal interpretation of the provisions relating to driver licences, this is a matter for the Courts.