TOWING THE LINE
Since 1997, all new drivers have been given a category B (car) driving licence only, which limits the weight of vehicle they can drive and trailer they can tow.
If you passed your test on or after 1st January 1997, then you can drive a car and trailer so long as the combination does not exceed 3.5 tonnes and the maximum laden weight of the trailer does not exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle, regardless of whether the trailer is loaded or not at the time.
To add to the weight entitlement in order to tow trailers such as twin axle horse trailers drivers need to pass a practical category B+E (car and trailer) test. If the towing vehicle has more than eight seats, (i.e. a Landrover 110 Station wagon), unless you passed your test before 1st January 1997, you will have to take a minibus test before you can drive it, or a minibus towing test if you want to tow a horse trailer with it.
The tests take approximately one and a half hours and are conducted at DSA large goods vehicle testing centres.
The fine for 'driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence' is a £1000 and 3 - 6 penalty points. An unlicensed driver would be unlikely to have valid insurance which carries a further fine of £5,000 and 3 - 6 penalty points. For a new driver, this could mean losing their licence altogether under the New Drivers Act, and having to retake their theory and practical tests. . Drivers who obtained their licence before 1997 were given full category B + E licence entitlement automatically.
Colin Maddock, of The Driving Standards Agency Customer Service Unit says: "The law was changed in 1997 as part of a number of driver licensing changes aimed at enhancing driver safety through the harmonisation of licensing procedures across the European Union.
In the year 2001-2002, we conducted just 299 car and trailer tests against 1.3 million car tests, and we're concerned that some new drivers are going on to drive cars towing trailers without first acquiring the correct driving licence entitlement.”
The test is split into 2 sections, off-road manoeuvring and on road driving. The off-road manoeuvring part has 3 exercises - reversing around a pylon (B) and into a coned bay (C) (see picture below), 20 mph controlled stop and a hill start. You will also be required to uncouple and couple the trailer.
The on-road drive lasts about an hour and covers a route of 15 to 20 miles and looks at the driver’s ability to control the longer, heavier combination and to read the road well ahead, be able to react to hazards in good time because of the extra weight and stopping distance.
THE ORGANISATION OF HORSEBOX & TRAILER OWNERS
Whitehill Farm, Hamstead Marshall, Newbury, Berkshire RG20 0HP
Tel: 01488 657651 Fax: 01488 657652