Using your van or pick-up for towing should be straightforward, but there are a few steps to follow before you set off in order to stay safe and legal. Honest John Vans has scoured the finer details of the towing rulebook to give you five crucial tips before you hit the road with your vehicle and its extra cargo.
Do you have the right type of licence?
A normal car licence is fine for most vans under 3.5 tonnes, but towing heavier trailers and/or loads can put you over the limit of what you’re legally allowed to drive. If you passed your driving test before 1997 then you may automatically be able to drive vehicles weighing up to 7.5 tonnes. If you passed after 1997 you will probably need to pass a further test to drive vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.
Know your weights
The individual and combined weights of the vehicle and the trailer are among the most important things you need to know before towing. It’s vital that you stick to them; exceed them, and you’re breaking the law. The Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) tells you how much a vehicle or a trailer can legally weigh in order to be used on the road, while the Gross Train Weight (GTW) is the total permitted weight of the vehicle, the trailer and everything it’s carrying. You can find these figures on the van or trailer’s chassis plate.
Test the brakes
Trailers with a GVW of 750kg or less are not legally required to have brakes, but those over this limit must have independent brakes. These are known as ‘braked trailers’. Braked trailers are usually fitted with overrun brakes, which operate automatically via a mechanical linkage connected to the tow bar.
Know your limits
Speed limits are different for vehicles towing trailers. Unless the signage says otherwise, cars and conventional light vans are limited to 60mph on single carriageways and 70mph on dual carriageways and motorways. When you’re towing, those limits change to 50mph on single carriageways and 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways.
Do you need a tachograph?
Building firms are legally obliged to fit a tachograph if the vehicle weighs more than 3.5 tonnes. These are usually associated with the likes of builders’ merchants and small lorries. However, many modern vans and pick-ups can easily tow more than two or three tonnes, so you might need a tachograph if you plan to use this sort of vehicle for towing materials or site equipment. As well as a tachograph, you might need an operator’s licence if the Gross Combination Weight (GCW) of the van and the trailer exceeds 3.5 tonnes and the purpose of your trip is for business. The driver may also have to adhere to drivers’ hours regulations.