Trailer towing test scrapped: equestrians warned not to be caught out ahead of law change

  • The car and trailer towing test has been scrapped as part of Government plans to tackle the HGV driver shortage crisis, with equestrians wondering if they need a particular licence to tow a horse trailer being warned not to be caught out by jumping the gun before the change in law later this year.

    The decision directly affects the horse world in several ways. It means people who have not shelled out for training and testing, previously a legal requirement for anyone who passed the driving test after 1 January 1997, will be able to tow a trailer up to 3.5T maximum authorised mass (MAM) when the law changes.

    It also affects equestrians seeking their HGV licence, as the towing test was scrapped to make way for 50,000 extra lorry tests.

    The initial response on social media has been mixed. Those who have already paid for training and undergone testing will not be eligible for refunds, although there are some specific exceptions for people with upcoming tests booked. There will also be a significant knock-on effect for towing training firms. Safety concerns have also been voiced.

    The new specifics of the new regulations have not yet been released, but it appears that the law will not be a complete blanket rule for those holding a valid car licence. The current law on who is allowed to legally tow what weight and size of vehicle varies depending on whether you passed your driving test before 1997, between 1 January 1997 and 18 January 2013, or from 19 January 2013. The Government website states the new rules will still depend on when you originally passed your car driving test.

    When will the trailer towing laws change?

    The most important unanswered question is when exactly the new law will come into effect. No further trailer tests will take place from 20 September, yet the Driver Vehicle and Standards Agency (DVSA) guidance states that car drivers will be able to tow a trailer up to 3.5T MAM without the need for an additional test “when the law is changed”. There is no specific date set other than it will be “as soon as possible” and is expected in the coming months.

    “Until the law changes later in autumn 2021, you must continue to follow the current rules about what you’re allowed to tow based on when you passed your car driving test,” it states.

    “You can be fined up to £1,000, be banned from driving and get up to six penalty points on your driving licence if you tow anything heavier before the law changes.

    “You’re only allowed to tow anything heavier if you’re being supervised. When you’re being supervised, you must: display L plates to the front of the car and the rear of the trailer [and] be accompanied by a person who’s at least 21 years old and has had category BE on their driving licence for at least 3 years.”

    The DVSA’s explanation states the change follows a public consultation involving 9,541 responses.

    “These changes will not change the standard of driving required to drive an HGV, with road safety continuing to be of paramount importance,” added the DVSA statement, issued on Friday (10 September).

    “Any driver who does not demonstrate utmost competence will not be granted a licence. All car drivers will also still be encouraged to undertake training to tow trailers and caravans. We’ve already delivered 50% more [HGV] tests than were available before the pandemic, but today’s additional measures will deliver yet more tests.”

    The DVSA’s advice to those who offer towing training states: “Professional training is still important for car drivers who want to tow a trailer, so we will continue to encourage those wanting to tow to seek training before towing a trailer.

    “We encourage you to talk to your car and trailer pupils to explain what they will no longer need to take a test and will be able to tow a trailer that’s up to 3,500kg maximum authorised mass when the law changes. You can also signpost your pupils to our towing guidance.”

    Read the full guidance on the upcoming trailer towing law changes on the Government website

    • Will you be affected by the Government’s decision to scrap the car and trailer towing test? If you would like to share your views on the decision, send your thoughts to lucy.elder@futurenet.com for possible inclusion in a follow-up article

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