Let’s Talk About Towing Trailers: A Guide To The Change In Law

So, what has changed?

The change in towing law on 16th December 2021 allows anyone with a standard car license to legally tow a trailer up to 3.5T Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM), without the need for them to have passed an additional test. Previously, a car license holder either had what was generally known as ‘grandfather rights’ (having passed a test prior to 1st January 1997), or they were required to pass a towing test before they were able to legally tow.

How does this impact horse owners?

The towing tests were scrapped in September 2021 in order to free up examiners for HGV test slots, as the UK was in desperate need of more HGV drivers. This in turn is a real benefit to those looking to take their horse(s) out and about in a trailer, as it has removed the cost of a trailer test and also the wait time involved to secure a test slot. A horse owner looking to start towing, bear in mind that the 3.5T maximum weight refers to the amount of weight you can legally tow, not including the weight of the vehicle you are towing with.

Is there anything you need to do before starting to tow?

Before loading up your horse and hitting the road, there are various things you need to do and be aware of:

  • Whilst it’s not a legal requirement, getting some lessons when you first start out is highly recommended. Our horses are our pride and joy, there is no benefit of rushing to get them out and not having the experience of towing that you need. There are various factors that you may bypass in the excitement, such as hitching up and unhitching as well as reversing which can take some time to master.
  • You must find out your car’s Gross Train Weight to confirm the weight your car can actually tow. The gross train weight is the weight of the fully-loaded car plus the fully-loaded trailer and must not be exceeded.
  • You do not need to contact the DVLA for an updated license. They will automatically update their system to show you are now able to tow, there is no need to send off your license for this to be recorded.
  • When you feel ready to load your horse, why not have a practice without the need to get to a competition venue by a certain time? Removing these pressures and having a trial run will give you and your horse a stress-free experience and leave you both full of confidence for your next trip.

What else should you consider?

If you are looking to purchase your own trailer, consider taking a mechanic with you to ensure the trailer is as advertised. Ask if the person selling the trailer has any service history or tyre replacement history. Look at the floor, ramp, walls, electrics, and underneath of the trailer. Pay particular attention to for any soft spots on the trailer sides, ramp or floor, especially if the floor is wooden and not aluminium as in older models. Check hinges on the ramps and jockey door as these can rust and fail, which is not ideal if it happens whilst away from home.

If you find the right trailer and decide to go ahead, insurance should be the next thing on your to-do list. There are two types of policy to consider, insurance for the trailer itself for accidental damage, fire and theft and then also trailer breakdown cover.

Let’s talk about Trailer Insurance…

At KBIS, Trailer Insurance starts from as little as £67.20 for the year and covers social, domestic and pleasure uses. The exact premium will depend on the value of the trailer itself but you can get a quote and insure your trailer online instantly (subject to KBIS being in receipt of the serial or chassis number to be covered for theft). It is important to note that when you are not using your trailer, you must secure it with either a hitch lock or wheel clamp.

Make sure you check that the insurance you have for the towing vehicle covers you to tow as trailer policies do not cover third party damages. This is because it is the towing vehicle that is in control of the trailer, rather than it being the trailer itself that would be able to cause any third party damages such as reversing into a fence and breaking it.

And what about breakdown?

Breakdown cover is a really key consideration, as there is nothing worse than the thought of being stuck at the roadside with horses on board and no plan of action as to how you are going to get them safely home again. It is vital to check the breakdown policy you have allows you to tow and will include recovery of your horse(s) if needed. You may find standard breakdown policies will only cover the vehicle, or some may include the trailer too, but if your horses themselves are not included it may be time to look for an equine specific breakdown policy.

The KBIS Trailer Breakdown policy costs £132.08 for the year and even covers your car when you are not towing, replacing the need for multiple breakdown policies for the same vehicle. It includes home start, roadside assistance, and recovery of you, your horse(s), your trailer and your vehicle. If the person sent to fix the issue cannot repair the problem at the roadside, alternative transport will be sent to get you and your horses to a destination of your choosing. At KBIS, we always try to send the same type of transport as you were travelling in originally, as we know some horses can be tricky loaders or have their preferences when they are on the move.

There are several other benefits to the policy, such as lost key cover, misfuelling and emergency accommodation (hotel and stabling) if you are stuck over 50 miles away from home.

With so many things to consider when towing a trailer, the bottom line is to take your time and ensure you feel confident about the whole process. From towing for the first time to purchasing a trailer, your first trip on the road with your horse to heading out weekly, make sure you have cover for when you need it most. Got a query that isn’t answered here? Call our helpful team on 0345 230 2323.