Towing a Light Trailer – Are you legal?

By November 8, 2017Blog, News

When towing a trailer of any description with a car or light van, it is important for the driver to ensure that he/she is legally compliant.  There are a number of checks that need to be carried out prior to going on the road.  We’ve outlined these checks in the following blog.  Always remember, the speed limit for a car or van towing a trailer of any size is 80km/hr.

Trailer Categories
Light trailers that can be towed by cars or light vans are categorised in two groups.  O1 trailers are those with a maximum allowable mass (MAM), also known as the design gross vehicle weight (DGVW),  of no greater than 750Kg.  O2 trailers have a MAM above 750kg and not greater than 3,500kg.

O1 Trailer Example with a MAM of 750kg and an Unladen weight of 210Kg

O2 Trailer Example with a MAM of 3,500kg and an Unladen weight of 1,295Kg

Licence Categories
Firstly, drivers should ensure they have the correct licence (category) to tow a trailer with a car/light van.  Drivers with a car/light van B driving licence only are permitted to tow an O1 trailer with a maximum allowable mass (MAM) of not greater than 750kg.  B driving licence holders are also permitted to tow small O2 trailers.  If the MAM of the trailer is more than 750kg (O2 trailers), a B driving licence holder is permitted to tow this trailer if the combined maximum mass of the towing vehicle and the trailer is not greater than 3,500kg. Furthermore, the unladen (empty) weight of the towing vehicle must be equal to or greater than the MAM of the O2 trailer.

A driver with a category BE driving licence is permitted to tow a trailer up to a maximum mass of 3,500kg (O1 or O2 trailers).  The weight of the trailer that can be towed is restricted by the manufacturer of the towing vehicle but cannot exceed 3,500kg for drivers and vehicles in the EB licence category.

Weight Plates
Drivers must ensure they don’t overload the trailer. The MAM of a trailer can be found on a small aluminium plate usually located on the hitch or front panel of the trailer.  The MAM printed on this plate is the maximum allowable weight that the trailer is designed to support (including the weight of the trailer).  To work out what (pay) load you can carry on the trailer you must subtract the empty weight (Unladen) of the trailer from the MAM.

Trailer Plate Example (MAM 3,500kg)

Drivers must also ensure they are compliant with the towing capacity of the vehicle, referred to as the Gross Train Weight (GTW).  The GTW is printed on the vehicle weight plate, commonly located inside the front passenger or driver’s door of most cars and vans.  The Gross Train Weight (GTW) is the manufacturer’s maximum weight specification that the combined weight of a loaded vehicle towing a Loaded Trailer must not exceed.  This is also known as Gross Combination Weight (GCW).  More detailed towing and safety information can be found in the Drivers Manual located in the vehicle glove compartment.

Vehicle Plate Example (GTW 3,280Kg)

Van drivers should be aware that vans generally don’t have a high Gross Train Weight.  The reason being that the GTW is directly related to the empty (unladen) weight of the towing vehicle. To maximise their carrying capacity, vans generally have a Light unladen vehicle weight which means a low towing capacity. Vans are designed primarily for carrying and not for towing.

Braking and Lights
Braking systems are required to be fitted to O1 Trailers with MAM greater than half the MAM of the towing vehicle.  All O2 Trailers require a braking system.  It is important for a trailer braking system to include a Service Brake, a Parking Brake and a device capable of automatically stopping trailer if it becomes detached while in motion (i.e. breakaway cable or secondary coupling). More stringent requirements are required for certain trailers. Please consult your manufacturer or refer to the RSA website for more details.

As a minimum all trailers should display the following lights as part of their lighting system:

  • 2 red rear reflectors
  • Left & right directional indicators
  • 2 Red rear tail lights
  • 2 Red rear stop lamps
  • Number plate & number plate lighting

RSA Resources
The Road Safety Authority (RSA) provide some excellent learning resources for drivers wishing to find out more about towing trailers with a car or a light van.  Click on the following link to go to this RSA website of trailers.  http://www.rsa.ie/en/RSA/Your-Vehicle/About-your-Vehicle/Example-of-non-Dup/Trailers-/Advice-and-Checks-for-Trailers-/.

The RSA has also provided a series of 6 short you tube videos covering all aspects of towing a trailer. Click on the following link to go to these you tube videos. https://youtu.be/HhHyUMSn31s.  There is some important information on the coupling and uncoupling as well as safe loading and unloading of trailers that all drivers should be aware of.

Swilly Group provide pre-test and advanced driving tuition for drivers of vehicles towing trailers.  If you have any further questions or queries don’t hesitate to call into to the Swilly Group office on Business Park Road in Letterkenny, give us a call on 074-9151212 or email us on info@swillygroup.com.

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