You must hold a full driving licence to tow anything. Most drivers who passed their test
before 1 January 1997 have licence categories allowing them to drive vehicle and trailer
combinations weighing up to 8.25 tonnes.
With effect from 1 January 1997 the second EC Directive on Driving Licences (91/439/EEC)
came into effect, affecting new drivers passing their test after that date and HGV drivers who
obtained their licence after 31 December 1991.
The net result is that new drivers will only be allowed to drive and tow the following
1. Vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes (category B) with a 750kg trailer (4.25 tonnes total MAM).
2. Category B vehicles with larger trailers i.e. > 750kg, provided that the
combined MAM does not exceed 3.5 tonnes and the gross MAM of the trailer
does not exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle. To be able to tow
combinations outside this ruling requires the passing of an additional test.
3. New HGV drivers and those who have passed their HGV tests since 1 January
1992 will be restricted to towing trailers up to 750kg until they pass an additional test.
Detail of the Regulation
The Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) (Amendment) Regulations 1990 SI 1990 No 842
classifies vehicles according to either:
• “Maximum authorised mass” (permitted maximum weight). Vehicles over
3,500kg MAM are classified as LARGE GOODS VEHICLES (LGV’s)
• Number of seats. Vehicles having more than 8 seats (not including the drivers)
are classified as PASSENGER CARRYING VEHICLES (PCV’s)
Requires ADDITIONAL qualifications for people to drive LGV’s and PCV’s
The main non-LGV (unified) licence categories are:
Category A: Motor cycles (with or without a sidecar), including tricycles and mopeds
Category B: Motor vehicles with:
• A maximum authorised mass (MAM) not over 3,500kg
• A maximum of 8 seats (not including the driver’s seat)
Trailers being towed by vehicles in this category must either
• Be not more than 750kg MAM – making a maximum authorised Train Weight of 4,250kg
• Have a MAM which does not:
exceed the unladen weight of the towing vehicle
Have a train weight exceeding 3,500kg
Drivers of vehicles in this category wishing to tow trailers which do not comply with
either of the above conditions must have a B + E entitlement.
Passenger-carrying vehicle having more than 8 seats (in addition to the driver’s seat),
including such a vehicle towing a trailer not exceeding 750 kg mam.
Sub-category of category D being a passenger carrying vehicle having more than 8
but not more than 16 seats, in addition to the driver’s seat, including such a vehicle
towing a trailer not exceeding 750 kg mam.
Category D + E
Combination of a passenger carrying vehicle and trailer where the passenger vehicle
is in category D but the combination does not fall within that category.
(Other categories covered – B + E.)
Category D1 + E
Sub-category of category D + E comprising any combination of motor vehicle and
(a) the motor vehicle is in sub-category D1
(b) the trailer exceeds 750 kg mam but not the unladen weight of the towing vehicle
(c) the combination does not exceed 12 tonnes mam, and
(d) the trailer does not carry passengers.
(Other categories covered – B + E.)
The above categories are limited to driving vehicles not used for “hire or reward”.
Drivers holding only category B entitlement may drive vehicles in sub-category D1
(passenger vehicles with between 9 and 16 seats) provided they have held their licence for an
aggregate period of at least two years, they are aged 21 or over, and receive no payment or
consideration for their services apart from out of pocket expenses.
The vehicle may be driven on behalf of a non-commercial body, for social purposes but not
for hire or reward. The vehicle must not exceed 3.5 tonnes mam, or 4.25 tonnes mam where
specialised equipment for disabled passengers is installed. A trailer may not be towed.
Holders of category B entitlement gained before 1st January 1997 must, upon reaching the
age of 70, comply with the medical standards required for category D1 vehicles if they wish
to continue to drive these vehicles. This will also apply to category C1 vehicles. Similar
requirements apply to holders of short term licences.
Land Rover Station Wagons
These vehicles if fitted with 9 or 11 passenger seats, in addition to the driver’s seat fall
legally into category D1 and, therefore, all the restrictions to age, time licence is held and
trailer towing apply. Young people and holders of category B licences since 1-1-1997 can
easily fall foul of the law.
The main categories of LGV licences
Category C1: Rigid goods vehicles over 3,500kg but NOT over 7,500kg. Vehicles
drawing trailers not over 750kg maximum authorised mass are
included in this category
Category C1 + E: Combinations of vehicles in Category C1 plus trailers over
750kg maximum authorised mass, but with an overall
maximum authorised mass (gross train weight) not over 12,000kg
Category C: Rigid goods vehicles over 3,500kg maximum authorised mass
(MAM – this expression has the same meaning as permitted
maximum weight –PMW). Entitlement holders may also draw
trailers not over 750kg MAM.
Category C + E: Articulated vehicles and drawbar combinations whose semitrailers
and trailers have a MAM greater than those stipulated in
NB: The ‘E’ relates to trailers and semi-trailers over 750kg maximum authorised mass.
These categories are for drivers who previously held old style (“ordinary”) licences (in
either Group A or Group B) issued before 1 June 1990 allowing them to retain their
previous entitlement under the old style ordinary licences.
Drivers in these two categories are also permitted to drive PCV’s provided they do not:
Carry more than 8 passengers
Use the vehicle for ‘hire and reward’ work
To qualify for an LGV licence (of either category) a person must be:
• In possession of either:
A full ‘ordinary’ driving licence
A category B licence
• At least 21 years of age, except drivers:
Of medium-sized goods vehicles, i.e. Over 3,500kg but not
over 7,500kg maximum authorised mass. For these the
minimum age is 18
• A fit and proper person. Although LGV licences are issued by the Secretary of
State for Transport, the Traffic Commissioners (Licensing Authorities) in the nine
traffic areas are empowered to determine whether an applicant’s
conduct/convictions justify the granting or refusal of a licence. Similarly, an
existing licence holder can be disqualified as the result of a traffic commissioner’s
• Physically fit. A medical certificate (dtp 20003) is required:
Before the first licence (provisional or full) is issued
With each renewal after the age of 45
When required by the Secretary of State for Transport
Although the medical examination is concerned with every aspect of the applicant’s physical
fitness, some conditions normally preclude the granting of an LGV entitlement, e.g.
Epilepsy – since the age of five. However, a person who has been subject to
epileptic attacks may apply for a licence provided:
(a) No attacks have taken place in the 10 years prior to the date from
which the licence is to run
(b) No treatment for epilepsy has been received during this period
(c) A DVLA nominated consultant has investigated the applicant’s
medical history and, as a result, is satisfied that there is no likelihood
of further attacks.
Diabetes – existing sufferers will be allowed to continue to hold a licence if:
(i) they had declared their condition before 1 January 1991
(ii) they had, after that date, been allowed to retain their licence
poor eyesight – i.e. Visual acuity: Worse than 6/12 – better eye
6/36 – other eye
Worse than 3/60 if corrected by glasses/contact lenses
Drivers who obtained their LGV entitlement before 1 January 1983 and still held their licence
on 1 April 1991 qualify for entitlement on less rigorous standards.
Dimensions; weights; manufacturers’ plates; markings; licences
Marking of rear overhang:
Between 1 metre and 2 metres, ensure the end is clearly visible by attaching a piece of cloth or similar.
Between 2 metres and 3.05 metres, a marker board as defined in the Regulations must be fitted and illuminated at night.
If the overhang is more than 3.05 metres, an attendant must be carried and the police must be notified 2 days before commencing the journey.
“Long Vehicle” Marker Plate
Not required for light trailers.
These are a legal requirement only for trailers over 3500kg or where the towing vehicle is over 7500kg gross weight. When they are required, different plates are required depending on the length of the vehicle. Details can be found in the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations,
Loads must not project more than 305mm either side of the trailer, up to a maximum width of 2.9metres.
Loads over 2.9 metres in width are classed as abnormal loads and the police must be notified two days before a journey commences.
Recommended maximum height
3.0m high or 1.7 times the wheel track (the horizontal distance between the centre lines of the tyre treads) There is no legal requirement, but this is an accepted guideline. If however the height does exceed 3.0m then a notice giving the height details must be displayed in the cab of the towing vehicle.
(Only buses are subject to a maximum height regulation (Regulation 9).)
Type 01: unbraked trailers – max. 750kg gross trailer weight or half the towing vehicle’s kerb weight – whichever is less.
Type 02: trailers on overrun brakes – max. 3500kg gross trailer weight
1982 regulations demand that all trailers, including unbraked ones, must be clearly marked
with their maximum gross weight in kg. This may be checked at any time by the police at a weighbridge. Since 1st January 1997, all unbraked trailer plates must show the year of manufacture.
To comply with the D.o.T. Code of Practice for the recall of defective trailers less than 3500kg G.V.W. it is desirable that a trailer should carry a manufacturer’s plate clearly showing:
- Manufacturers name and address chassis or serial number and model number
- Number of axles
- Maximum weight per axle maximum
- Nose weight of coupling
- Maximum gross weight (G.V.W.)
- Date of manufacture
Towbars and towing hitches
European type approval 94/20/EC
In the U.K, with effect from 1st August 1998 all Passenger Carrying Vehicles up to 3500kgs
Gross Vehicle Weight (M1 Vehicles) can only be fitted with European Type Approved towbars if the vehicle has received European Whole Vehicle Type Approval.
Non M1 vehicles, light commercial vehicles and private imports from outside the EEC do not need Approved Towbars; however, most car and some Light Commercial Vehicles such as vans commonly use the Type Approved Towbar.
Most towbar manufacturers have allowed, in the towbar test and approval application, for the inclusion of various accessories, often by including a spacer in the towbar kit, which is removed when the accessory is fitted. This information should be clearly stated in the fitting instructions. If there is any doubt, you should contact the towbar manufacturer.
This would apply to all accessories that move the towbar rearwards from the towbar.
Where GVW is Gross Vehicle Weight, and GTW Gross Trailer Weight.
The maximum D value for an M1 vehicle is 17.7kn that represents a GVW of 3500 kgs towing GTW of 3500kgs.
It is possible to design a towbar that fits the whole range of models of one particular vehicle.
Because Towing Capacity is related to GVM then each model may have a different value for D. To prevent overload of the Towing Vehicle refer to the Vehicle Manufacturers’ Handbook to confirm the GTW for your particular model.
Towing with Heavy Goods Vehicles
The snatch loads imparted to the tow hitch by a commercial vehicle tend to be much higher than those of passenger cars, especially with a GVW up to 180000 kgs. These snatch loads will impart severe strain on the Trailers drawbar which may eventually damage the drawbar.
It is therefore recommended that when towing with a Commercial Vehicle a shock absorbing towbar is fitted.