So, what do caravanners and HGV drivers have in common? You may think not much, but the demand for towing licences is making it harder for HGV drivers to take their test. Amid the lack of heavy goods drivers, the government has decided to change the rules and make more space for HGV tests by abolishing the need for a test to tow.
Until now, only certain drivers could automatically tow on their standard driving licence; anyone who’s licence was gained after 1st January 1997 needed to take a test to add B and E categories to their permitted vehicles. But before everyone heads out to buy a caravan or trailer for next year’s staycation, it is a good idea to stop and think; just because you don’t need a test, it doesn’t mean that towing anything is easier than it was last week.
It is still advisable that you book towing lessons; speak to your local driving instructor who will be able to direct you to a specialist centre. Aside from that, here are a few useful hints and tips that will help you to get on the road, and stay on the road, safely, while towing.
- Know your limits. You may be able to tow, but you need to know how much you can tow. The legal limit is a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of 8.25 tonnes. However, this depends on the size of the towing vehicle. As a general rule, you shouldn’t tow anything that weighs more than 85% of your tow car.
- Check your insurance and breakdown cover. Most policies will cover you for third party while towing, but you need additional insurance if you want fully comprehensive insurance for the vehicle and your caravan or trailer.
- Take it easy – everything, from starting your vehicle to braking, takes a little longer when you are towing, so take your time.
- Practise reversing. When you reverse a trailer, you need to turn the wheel in the opposite direction to the one that you want to go in. This can be hard to get your head around; if you want to reverse left, you need to steer right. If it doesn’t make sense, find a child’s toy car and trailer and see how the trailer reacts when you turn the car.
- Take corners wide. A trailer or caravan will cut the corner, so you need to take corners wider than normal to account for that. Be careful not to go too wide; as you straighten up, your trailer will swing out and you don’t want it to catch the opposite hedge, kerb or - even worse - a building or vehicle. If the mechanics of it are confusing, get that toy car out again!
- Use towing mirrors. You are legally required to be able to see four metres around your caravan and 20 metres behind you.
If you are now legally able to tow, make sure you know what you are doing and book a course with your local instructor or caravan club. For more information and advice, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.