Road Safety Advice & Driver Licencing Rules for Drawing Light Trailers
( From RSA.ie )
Whether you tow a trailer for work or domestic reasons, it is important to know your legal obligations and ensure that you do not drive a vehicle or tow a trailer that your driver licence may not cover.
Before towing a light trailer, it is important that you understand what combinations of towing vehicles and trailers you are allowed to drive depending on the category of driving licence you hold. It is also important that you identify the towing capacity of your vehicle, and the load-carrying capacity of your trailer.
Light trailers are those with a maximum mass (as specified by the manufacturer) not exceeding 3,500kg. Such trailers typically include anything from small domestic trailers to general duty trailers including flatbed or plant trailers, car transporters, trailer caravans, horse boxes and livestock trailers.
The Law & Driving Licence Entitlements
Important Note on DGVW
On both the RSA and Licencing Authority and some other websites and publications there are comprehensive explanations and analysis of what one can and cannot tow with a vehicle on both a B and BE licence.
However the finite rule on this is dictated by the Road Traffic (Licencing of Drivers) Regulations 2006. SI No. 537 of 2006. , with which the An Garda traffic corps are familiar
Statutory Instrument http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/2006/si/537/made/en/print#article7
The wording “design gross vehicle weight ” within this statutory Instrument is vital and it would appear that the incorrect wording of “maximum mass” is unintentionally substituted elsewhere in other guides in common use.
These two terms have different meanings are their interpretations would lead to two very different conclusions in what trailers can be towed with a particular vehicle and licence combination.
In effect, it is the Design gross weight of the trailer that must be taken into consideration, not the possibly much lesser actual un-laden weight + trailer load weight. For example , to understand this it is important to realise that you cannot legally tow an empty 2000Kg DGVW (design gross vehicle weight) trailer , although it may only weigh 340Kg behind a Skoda Octavia which has a towing capacity of 1450 Kg. (Trailers must legally be plated to match the towing vehicle / licence of the driver.) In this case , the Octavia can only tow a trailer up to a DGVW of 1400 Kg. (empty or loaded up to its capacity).
We have looked at this in more detail below on this page and have also got a couple of blogs with worked examples of a Nissan Qasquai and a VW Caddy van that will help to better understand the implications and help you stay legal.
- Nissan Qasquai : https://thecarlowyard.com/towing-with-a-nissan-qashqai/
- VW Caddy Van : https://thecarlowyard.com/what-can-i-tow-with-my-caddy-van/
It is important to distinguish between a driving licence (which is a full driving licence) and a Learner Permit which is a permit issued to learners to enable them to learn how to drive. Both documents have different entitlements.
- A category B driving licence authorises you to drive a car, van or 4 x 4 which has a maximum mass (as specified by the manufacturer) of not more than 3,500kg and is designed and constructed to carry no more than eight passengers in addition to the driver. You may tow a trailer with a maximum mass (again as specified by the manufacturer) not greater than 750kg, or where the maximum mass is more than 750kg, the combined maximum mass of the towing vehicle and the trailer is not greater than 3,500kg. (and not greater than the vehicle’s towing capacity )
- A category BE driving licence authorises you to tow a trailer where the combined maximum mass of the towing vehicle and trailer is greater than 3,500kg.
- As a general rule, a category B licence does not entitle the holder to tow a horsebox or a livestock trailer because the combined maximum mass would exceed 3,500kg.
- The holder of a Category B Learner permit may not tow any trailer – whatever the size.
Your Driving Licence.
The categories of vehicle you are allowed to drive are shown on your licence here. See the BE category on this sample.
Your Towing Vehicle
Your vehicle will have a plate on it , indicating the towing capacity of the vehicle. The towing capacity of the vehicle is the difference between the top 2 figures on the plate on the vehicle. (the plate is typically on the pillar at the passenger door ) Here are a couple of examples.
Volvo XC 90
On This Volvo XC 90 , the max towing capacity is 4990 – 2740 = 2250 KG.
On A BE Licence, You can tow a trailer in all cases where:
- MAM of the vehicle and trailer combination is greater than 3,500 kg but less than 7,500 kg
- MAM of the trailer is greater than 750 kg.
- MAM = Maximum Authorised Mass
So with this Vehicle, on a BE Licence, you could avail of this vehicles maximum towing capacity of 2250 Kg , as the MAM (maximum authorised Mass) of the vehicle and trailer combination (DCVW) is greater than 3,500 kg but less than 7,500 kg. One of our 2000Kg DGVM trailers would be a good match for this vehicle. For example the Saris DV2000 has an un-laden weight of 340Kg, so you could carry a load of 1660 Kg.
You cannot legally tow a trailer of DGVW (Design Gross Vehicle weight ) over 2250kg with this vehicle on a BE licence.
Also note that on a BE licence, If you were to tow a larger than 2250Kg trailer with this vehicle, (eg a trailer normally 3500Kg DGVW ), the trailer would have to be re-plated , downgrading its DGVW down to 2250 Kg, so that it could be legally towed. For example, if you were to tow a Saris 3500Kg platform trailer, with an un-laden weight of 600Kg, we would re-plate it to 2250Kg DGVM and then you could carry a load of 1650 Kg (2250 – 600 )
On a B Licence you can tow a trailer where:
- MAM no greater than 750 kg and/or
- MAM of trailer exceeds 750 kg but the MAM1 of the vehicle and trailer combined does not exceed 3,500 kg.
Note: As a general rule a category B licence does not allow you to tow a horsebox or livestock trailer transporting animals
With this vehicle, on a B licence, you can tow any 750 Kg trailer, or a trailer over 750Kg, where the MAM does not exceed 3500kg , and does not exceed the vehicles towing capacity.
So with this vehicle, on a B licence you could tow a trailer larger than 750Kg , with a total load of only 760 Kg ( 3500kg MAM – 2740 Kg Vehicles mass = 760 Kg ). So in reality , with a B licence with this vehicle you should select a 750 Kg DGVW trailer,
And with a B licence , if you were to hook up the Saris DV 2000, double axle 8 x 4, 2000Kg DGVW you would not be on the road legally as the DCVM (designed combined vehicle mass) would be 2000 Kg + 2740 Kg = 4740 Kg which is greater than the 3500 Kg allowed with a B licence. It’s important to note that , with this vehicle, on a B licence, you cannot tow this trailer, even when it is completely empty, although its un-laden weight is only 340 Kg . On a B licence, you cannot tow any trailer over a DGVW of 760Kg with this vehicle.
While all trailers can have their DGVW downgraded, (new VIN plate fitted and new certificate of conformity issued ) there is a limit to how low a trailer’s DGVW can be downgraded. In the case of the Saris DV2000, of normal DGVW of 2000kg, it can be downgraded to 1100Kg DGVW only, so there is no possibility of using this trailer on this vehicle with a B licence.
On This Skoda Octavia , the max towing capacity is 3355 – 1955 = 1400 Kg. With this vehicle, on a B licence, you cannot avail of your full licence allowance of 3500Kg DCVW (Design Combined Vehicle Weight ) , as the vehicles DCVW is only 3355 Kg
So with this Vehicle, on a B or BE Licence, you could tow any 750 Kg trailer . With a larger trailer you could avail of this vehicles maximum towing capacity of 1400 Kg , as the MAM (maximum authorised Mass) of the vehicle and trailer combination is less than 3,500 kg. One of our 1350Kg trailers would be a good match for this vehicle. For example the Saris single axle DV135 has an un-laden weight of 235Kg, so you could carry a load of 1165 Kg. (1400 – 235 )
You could not normally tow one of our DV 2000 (DGVW of 2000Kg ) double axle 8′ x4′ trailers with this car on either a B or BE licence, as the trailer’s DGVW of 2000Kg exceeds the car’s towing capacity of 1400 Kg. In fact , you could not tow this standard DV2000, 2000Kg DGVW , double axle 8′ x 4′ trailer, ever when it is completely empty, although it has an un-laden weight of only 340 Kg……It is the trailer’s DGVW only that is taken into account for these calculations.
However you could use this same DV2000 trailer with this car , by downgrading it’s DGVW to 1400 Kg. As this trailer’s own weight is 340 Kg , it would then have a reduced load capacity of 1060 Kg. We would fit a new VIN plate to the trailer showing a DGVW of 1400Kg and issue a new matching certificate of conformity.
Weight Downgrading Possible
If you require it , we can downgrade the weight on this trailer , by replacing the VIN plate with a lesser weight specification and issue you with a new matching certificate of conformity. A range of downgraded weights (available in 50 Kg increments) i s available for each Saris Trailer.
Easy online 2 step Trailer Weight Calculator
Check out our FREE online Trailer weight calculator. You can quickly and easily determine the max trailer DGVW (Design Gross Vehicle Weight) that you can tow legally with your car and your licence.
Click on this RSA Booklet below and scroll through over 40 pages of valuable content. This is the source of all information on towing safely and legally.Road-Safety-Advice-for-Drawing-Light-Trailers-A5-booklet-Amends-9-12-15-
The following guidance should also be considered before undertaking a journey with a light trailer. If you comply with it you can be confident your journey will be much safer.
- If you’re towing a trailer, it is your responsibility as the driver to ensure that both the towing vehicle and trailer are safe and mechanically sound, fit for purpose, and legally compliant with all relevant Road Traffic legislation, i.e. tyres have adequate tread depth and are free from defects, lights and brakes are working and the hitch is in good condition. Remember, to be fully compliant, your towing vehicle must be taxed, insured and have passed its roadworthiness test – that is, the NCT or Commercial Vehicle Roadworthiness Test (CVRT) as appropriate.
Coupling & Uncoupling
- Before coupling a trailer, make sure you read the relevant sections of your vehicle and trailer’s owners’ handbooks. Do not try coupling or uncoupling a trailer on your own until you are fully familiar with all the steps and can complete them safely. All drivers towing trailers are responsible for learning how to couple/uncouple a trailer safely. As with any manual handling task, proper training and instruction, along with common sense and using proper techniques, will reduce the risk of personal injury. For example, should you load the trailer before or after you hitch it to the drawing vehicle? If possible, it makes sense to hitch an empty trailer to the drawing vehicle.
Loading & Unloading
- Loads must be evenly distributed and securely tied down. Unevenly distributed loads will reduce the stability of the vehicle combination and increase the likelihood of an accident. Loads should also be positioned in such a way as to keep the nose weight (that is, the weight exerted by the trailer drawbar on the coupling) within the limit specified by the manufacturer of the drawing vehicle. Make sure you are familiar with safe loading practices and always follow them.
- Remember that your vehicle will handle differently when you’re towing a trailer, especially when the trailer is loaded. Therefore you need to take special care and drive more defensively, anticipating the effect of the trailer. For example, you need to ask yourself has your stopping distance increased – in most cases, the answer will be yes.
- If possible, you should store your trailer on a property or in a building with security features close to your house. You should keep a record of the vehicle identification number (VIN) which is visible on the manufacturer’s plate. This number is also usually stamped on the trailer chassis. You should also consider putting your own unique marking on your trailer to help you identify it if it is stolen. This can be an effective deterrent. Remember to photograph your trailer, including the manufacturer’s plate and any unique marking you put elsewhere on it.
Preparing for the BE Driving Test
- If you do not hold a full category BE licence and you wish to tow trailers with a maximum mass exceeding 750kg or vehicle combinations where the combined maximum mass of the vehicle and trailer combination exceeds 3,500kg, you will need to pass a practical driving test. If you have never passed a theory test, you will need to pass one before you can apply for your category BE learner permit. Once you have your learner permit and before you apply for a driving test, get plenty of training and practice with an RSA Approved Driving Instructor (ADI). Click here to find an ADI who provides category BE training. Your ADI will assess your knowledge and skill and will develop a training plan to help you to practice and to prepare for your practical driving test.
Finally remember that the maximum speed limit for a vehicle towing a trailer is 80km/h, and this also applies on roads where the posted road sign speed limit is higher. As always drivers are subject to the lowest posted speed sign so it will not always be possible to travel at 80km/h
Frequently Asked QuestionsFAQs-on-Light-Trailers