With different rules for towing a caravan or trailer depending on when you passed your driving test, it has been confusing knowing what you can and can’t do when it comes to towing.

However, the government has announced that from later this autumn the rules will be changed to allow drivers of all ages to tow heavier trailers and caravans.

The move has been announced to free up more HGV tests as the government pushes more people to get their lorry licence to help solve the widespread shortage of truck drivers across the UK.

But what are the rules now, and how will they be changing? Let’s take a look.

What can I tow now?

If you passed your car driving test before 1997 there are very few limits on what you can tow with a car or van, provided you don’t exceed the vehicle’s maximum towing capability, and that the car and trailer combination doesn’t exceed 8,250kg.

However, for drivers who passed their driving test on or after January 1, 1997, they are limited to driving the following:
A car or van up to 3,500kg maximum authorised mass (MAM) towing a trailer of up to 750kg MAM – not exceeding 4,250kg in total.
A trailer over 750kg MAM, as long as it’s no more than the unladen weight of the towing vehicle (up to 3,500kg in total).

For anything else above that, an additional driving test would need to be passed.

What is changing when it comes to towing a caravan or trailer?

As part of changes, drivers who passed their test from January 1 1997 will now be able to tow a trailer up to 3,500kg, which will prove plenty for the vast majority of laden horsebox trailers and caravans. It means that if you want to drive any of these – even commercially – that no test will need to be taken.

The DVLA will automatically update its records to reflect this and when you get a new photocard driving licence it will show ‘category BE’ which is the one that includes towing.

When will the rules change?

The government hasn’t actually announced a specific date for when the changes will come into effect, and UNTIL that date is announced and reached, you’ll have to continue being limited by the current practises.

We can’t stress enough that this rule has NOT yet come into force, as you could 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.

Should I do any training before towing a caravan or trailer?

Though not mandatory, it’s recommended that you get training to tow a trailer if you’ve never done it before. That’s because you really need to know the important safety checks to do before setting off with a trailer, as well as understand how to safely carry out manoeuvres with a trailer, as it’s rather different to driving without a trailer or caravan attached.

Trailer driving instructors can be found across the country, and will be more than happy to help make sure you have the skills and knowledge needed to tow safely.

Key elements to be aware of before towing can be found here, while you should make sure to carry out a range of safety checks before setting off for both your own benefit and those of other road users.

What if I already have a trailer test booked?

If you have a trailer test booked, the government has confirmed that you can cancel it if you no longer want to take it. For those taken up to and including September 14, you’ll have to contact the Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) for a refund, but tests up to Friday 19 will be automatically refunded when you cancel it.

On or after September 20, your car and trailer test will not go ahead and will be automatically cancelled, and you should receive a full refund within five days.

The government has confirmed that no refunds or compensation will be given for any training you’ve been doing to prepare for a test or if you’ve recently passed it.

Are any other changes being made to driving tests?

With trailer tests being cancelled, the government has said that this will help to free up an extra 30,000 HGV tests each year.

HGV tests are also being streamlined, with the reversing element and ‘uncoupling and recoupling’ elements being removed.