A FAST TRACK GUIDE TO PASSING THE
UK TRAILER TEST

If you plan on towing a trailer or caravan at any point in the future, you will most likely need an additional entitlement added to your car licence. Getting that entitlement requires taking and passing the trailer test at an approved testing facility. While training is not mandatory, it is always recommended given the fact that towing a trailer is not as easy as it may appear. The good news is that the Specialised Training Services (HGV Training Centre) offers courses for drivers interested in preparing for the trailer test.

Trailer owners should understand that the licencing requirements do not apply just to professional drivers. This is one of the most common mistakes trailer owners make. Many of them do not even know about the licence requirements until they have a run-in with police. We want to give you all the information you need about licencing and the trailer test so that you can be legally compliant whenever you tow your trailer.

For the purposes of clarification, what we will address in this guide covers utility trailers, caravans, horsebox trailers, and any other kind of trailer a person might own. Our focus here is on non-professional drivers who have a Category B licence to drive a car.

UR Trail Test

Licence Requirements for Trailers

Being legally entitled to tow a trailer starts with having a car licence. In other words, you cannot even think about trailer towing unless you possess a valid Category B licence at a minimum. From there, licencing requirements for trailer towing depend on when you earned your car licence.

Those requirements are as follows
  • On or After 19 January 2013 – If you gained your licence within this time frame, you would need a Category B+E licence to tow a trailer. This licence will entitle you to tow trailers no heavier than 3,500 kg MAM, with a combined weight of both the trailer and tow vehicle not to exceed 7,500 kg. Anything heavier will require a category C1+E licence.
  • Between 1 Jan 1997 and 19 Jan 2013 – If you earned your licence within this time frame, you would also need a Category B+E licence to tow a trailer. This licence will allow you to tow heavier trailers, such as caravans, but with some restrictions. For example, the unladen weight of a caravan may not exceed 85% of the weight of the tow vehicle.
  • Before 1 January 1997 – If you obtained your car licence prior to this date, you automatically have an entitlement to tow trailers that fall within the modern B+E and C1+E entitlements. This includes heavier trailers and tow vehicles with weights of up to 8,250 kg.  You may no longer qualify under this category if your car licence has been restricted in the past.

You should know that all of the weights listed above are based on something known as 'maximum authorised mass' (MAM). This is defined as the total amount of weight encompassed by the vehicle and all of the cargo being carried. This means that an MAM of 3,500 kg for a trailer dictates that the trailer and all of its contents do not exceed 3,500 kg. Manufacturers routinely display weight limit information on their trailers.

Obtaining Your B+E Licence

be-licenceAssuming you are one of those drivers who needs a Category B+E licence for trailer towing, we have a training package that is right for you. Our training teaches everything you need to know to pass the trailer test the first time. We utilise DVLA approved experienced instructors who have all towed trailers themselves, instructors who know what it takes to tow a trailer safely.

Drivers can start training with the Specialised Training Services (HGV Training Centre) as soon as a new class gets under way. You will be happy to know that the size of our operations – we currently operate more than four dozen facilities in the UK – allows us to begin new classes on a regular schedule. You can complete your training in as little as three days if you are a quick learner and you apply yourself.

What will you learn in our training? In the simplest terms possible, everything you need to know to pass your trailer test.

  • Proper driving techniques
  • The physics of towing (Braking, Steering, Accelerating)
  • How to conduct a walkthrough check
  • Proper coupling of your trailer
  • Principles of adapting to bad weather and driving conditions
  • Techniques for manoeuring trailers in tight spaces.

All of the things we teach you will be tested on when you take the actual trailer test. You will have to demonstrate to the examiner that you possess both the physical skills and knowledge to be a safe trailer operator. Your test will be comprised of two parts: physical skills and practical demonstration.

The physical skills portion of your test should be self-explanatory. The examiner will take you out on the road and put you through a series of tasks designed to prove you have the necessary skills. The practical demonstration portion of the test is a 'show me, tell me' exercise in which the examiner will ask you to demonstrate your knowledge through oral explanation and physical demonstration. For example, you might be asked to explain and demonstrate how to determine your trailer is coupled correctly.

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Preparing for the Trailer Test

The Specialised Training Services (HGV Training Centre) can help you prepare for the trailer test only insofar as teaching you what you need to know and giving you the opportunity to practice your skills. There are certain requirements of the test that you will be responsible for. For example, you will need to bring with you a car and trailer combination suitable for the licence you are attempting to obtain along with your current photo card licence or your old-style paper licence and a valid passport.

Additional requirements for the trailer test are as follows:
  • Trailers – The trailer you bring to the test must have a minimum real weight of at least 800 kg and an MAM of at least 1,000 kg. Furthermore, it must be carrying either 600 kg of aggregate, a single 600 kg unit of water, or a bulk container of at least 1,000 kg. These requirements are necessary in order to prove that you can safely tow a trailer fully laden with cargo.
  • Brakes and Couplings – Your trailer and tow vehicle combination must be fitted with appropriate brakes and couplings as indicated by the size and weight of the vehicles.
  • Tow Vehicle – Your tow vehicle must be fitted with externally mounted nearside and offside mirrors; the offside mirrors are for the examiners use. You will also need an electronic device that demonstrates your vehicle's indicators are working properly (most modern vehicles have this device built-in).
  • Cargo Trailers – Dimensions for cargo trailers must be at least as high and wide as the tow vehicle; the cargo area must be a closed box area.

If you have any questions about the requirements for the trailer test, do not hesitate to ask us. During the course of your training, we will ensure that you know what is required of you at testing time. We want you to be confident when you arrive for your trailer test, so we will do everything within our power to make sure you know exactly what you need to know.

Taking and passing the trailer test is not necessarily difficult if you undergo training first. If you own a trailer or caravan, we encourage you to contact the Specialised Training Services (HGV Training Centre) to sign up for one of our classes right away. Whatever you do, do not attempt to tow a trailer without the proper licence. You don't need the trouble that comes along with being caught driving illegally.

Learn More about the Trailer Test

The following additional articles may help you to decide whether training for a trailer licence is right for you.

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