Towing with a post 1997 (1st Jan) driving licence


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Ok now a lot of people are misled about the legality of towing without taking the B+E license test. I’ve decided to write this to help people tow legally, this will be useful for those whom are interested in motor sport or wanting to tow their vehicle.
This will also potentially save people hundreds of pounds when they might not require a towing licence.
Please remember through the duration of this thread that the recommendation is not to exceed 85% of the kerb weight of the towing vehicle. However you can tow legally up to the vehicles towing limit of the car (This may be more than 100%!), providing you passed your test prior to 1st Jan 1997. If you didn't read on!

The law is:

DVLA said:
Car licences obtained on or after 1 January 1997:

If you passed a car test on or after 1 January 1997 you're limited to vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes maximum authorised mass towing a trailer up to 750kgs, or a vehicle and trailer combination up to 3.5 tonnes MAM providing the MAM of the trailer doesn't exceed the unladen mass of the towing vehicle. You will need to pass an additional driving test in B+E if you wish to tow a caravan or trailer combination which exceeds these weight limits.

Now let’s run through the acronym (Ref: DVLA themselves).

DVLA said:
Maximum Authorised Mass:

The term maximum authorised mass (MAM), used in the context of driving licences, is the maximum weight of a vehicle or trailer including the maximum load that can be carried safely while used on the road. This is also known as gross vehicle weight (GVW) or permissible maximum weight. It will be listed in the owner’s manual and is normally shown on a plate or sticker fitted to the vehicle. The plate or sticker may also show a gross train weight (GTW).

DVLA said:
Unladen weight:

The unladen weight of any vehicle is the vehicles own weight when not carrying any goods or burden. This is:
• inclusive of the body and all parts which are necessary to or ordinarily used with the vehicle or trailer when working on a road
• exclusive of fuel and, in the case of an electrically powered vehicle, the batteries

Now, the thing to remember is the Kerb weight that is defined in your vehicle handbook and on all website specifications is NOT the same as unladen weight.

Kerb weight is according EEC (European) standards the unladen weight of a vehicle + 68KG driver allowance, + 7KG luggage allowance + 90% full fuel tank. Non European cars may differ slightly.

So for example my Ford Focus 1.8 TDCI has a kerb weight of 1293KG and a 55L fuel tank. 1293KG - 75 – 49.5 (90% of 55L) = 1168.5KG unladen weight. Now the braked tow limit for this car is listed as 1300KG. Now this means there is a significant difference when it comes to selecting the right trailer and also the gross capacity of that trailer (Refer to MAM)

My example trailer will be the Brian James Clubman range.
Twin axle Clubman 1000 has a Gross Capacity (MAM) of 1380KG, and a Load Capacity of 1000KG. So you can laden the trailer with 1000KG of weight and the trailer itself weighs 380KG.

The single axle Clubman 1000S has a Gross Capacity (MAM) of 1300KG, and a Load Capacity of 1000KG. The trailer weight is 300KG.

If you were towing with either of these plated trailers (Vehicle plate with weight allowances) you would be breaking the law REGARDLESS of what you are towing on the trailer. Infact you would be breaking the law towing nothing simply because the MAM of the trailer (1380KG/1300KG) is greater than the unladen weight of the car (Approx 1168.5KG in this example).

Also remember that the entire MAM of the car and trailer must not exceed 3.5 tonnes. The MAM of the trailer is 1380KG as we know; the MAM or GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) is it’s maximum permissible weight, including 5 occupants, luggage, fluids etc. The Ford Focus 1.8 TDCI is approximately 1750KG.

Method to avoid exceeding the unladen weight of the towing car:

DVLA said:

If a vehicle is unlikely to be used at its potential maximum weight, it may be down-plated, so that a lower weight is specified on the plate. In the case of a heavy goods vehicle, the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) should be consulted because VOSA issue the ministry plate that must be carried on the vehicle. For other vehicles, the manufacturer should be contacted.

Now I have contacted Brian James and you can downplate trailers Load Capacity by an amount of your wish this in turn changes the Gross Capacity (MAM). Obviously this limits the load you can apply on the trailer (But is not a problem if your car is race prepared and weighs 700KG).

So basically all you need to do is get them to downgrade the trailers Load Capacity so the Gross Capacity is not greater than the unladen weight of the towing car. This may be 211.5KG as the example above (Twin axle) or less depending on the tow car or if single axle used.

As you can see, this is extremely ambiguous of the DVLA and the regulations are written in a way to catch people out. It’s a lot of thought process just to understand whether or not you can legally tow your car with a trailer!
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