New towing laws and how they affect you

Trailer test abolished in controversial revamp of UK towing legislation

Discovery 3 towing an Airstream caravan through snowy hills

by Theo Ford-Sagers |

The B+E trailer test is no longer a legal requirement, despite road safety concerns which prevented the changes to the law coming into effect on November 15, as originally planned.

From today (16 December), any driver with a Category B car licence, regardless of age or experience, may tow trailers or caravans up to 3500kg MAM without taking an additional test. This is an increase from 750kg MAM trailers, which had been permissible for B licence holders whose licence was acquired since 1997.

(MAM is short for Maximum Authorised Mass, also known as Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) and relates to the maximum weight of a trailer and its cargo combined.)

The DVLA will amend licences automatically to include B+E entitlement.

Today’s announcement came after a difficult hiatus for younger drivers needing to tow, as B licence holders who passed their test after 1997 had been unable to book a trailer test since 20 September, but were unable to tow B+E category trailers.

According to the government, abolishing the trailer test will free up testing capacity, enabling 30k extra HGV tests annually (an increase of 37%) and helping to ease the UK’s current HGV shortage.

UK drivers wishing to tow in the EU will still be required to pass the B+E trailer test. Any driver who passed their test prior to 1 January 1997 has never been required to pass a B+E trailer test before towing a trailer.

These changes relate to England, Scotland and Wales. The B+E trailer test has not been abolished in Northern Ireland.

Is it dangerous to abolish the trailer test?

A public consultation into the change was held between 10 August and 7 September, and resulted in 75% of votes in favour of removing the B+E trailer test.

Following advice from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee that the Department for Transport had provide insufficient evidence of the ‘potential increase in towing accidents involving injuries’, the House of Commons debated the changes on November 8, where Karin Smyth MP drew attention to the B+E trailer test’s ‘consistent current fail rate of 30%. In 2019-20, that was 8575 people. Under the government’s proposals, those people will be going out on our roads,’ she said.

The new legislation does not prevent drivers who have already failed their trailer test from now driving with a B+E category trailer.

The government advises that ‘it is best to take training from a driving instructor if you want to start driving a car and a trailer’. An accreditation scheme is under development, due to be finalised in 2022.

The full regulations and guidance can be found on the government’s website here.

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