For many divers, towing a boat is an essential part of being able to go diving. However, it’s crucial to understand the legal requirements to ensure you can tow your boat safely and legally. This article aims to provide an overview of the current laws and regulations surrounding boat towing, helping you navigate through the complexity of towing laws while enjoying your diving adventures.
Legal Responsibility: Know the Rules!
While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided, it’s ultimately your responsibility to understand and comply with the relevant towing laws. Ignorance of the law is no excuse! Keep in mind that legislation changes from time to time, so it’s important to stay updated. At the end of this article, you’ll find useful links to official sources where you can find more information.
Understanding Driving Licences
To determine the towing entitlements for your driving licence, you need to consider when your licence was issued. The driving licence categories have been revised over the years, especially to align them with EU standards.
If your Category B (car and small vehicle) licence was issued after January 19th, 2013, you have the entitlement to:
- Tow a small trailer weighing up to 750 Kg
- Tow a larger trailer as long as the combined weight of the vehicle and trailer is less than 3500 Kg
For Category B licences issued before January 19th, 2013, there’s an additional condition. If you’re towing a trailer weighing more than 750 Kg, the weight of the trailer must not exceed the unladen weight of the vehicle.
However, if your licence was issued before January 1st, 1997, you may have more comprehensive entitlements, including the ability to drive vehicle and trailer combinations up to 8250 Kg MAM.
Remember that all vehicle and trailer weights must remain within their respective MAMs.
Provisional Driving Entitlement
Some driving licence categories serve as provisional licences for higher-level categories. These provisional entitlements are indicated on the paper part of your driving licence.
For those with a Category B licence obtained after January 1997, it can be used as a provisional licence for obtaining a Category B+E entitlement. This means you can drive a vehicle and trailer combination weighing more than 3500 Kg but less than 8250 Kg, under specific conditions:
- You must be supervised by a driver who has held a Category B+E entitlement for at least 3 years. The supervision must be continuous and active.
- The supervising driver must be at least 21 years old.
- “L” plates or “D” plates (in Wales) must be displayed on the vehicle and trailer.
Provisional B licence holders under the above conditions are also allowed to drive on motorways.
Non-UK Driving Licences
Driving licences issued outside the UK are generally recognized for the entitlements they grant in the issuing country. However, some vehicle categories may be unique to specific countries. This is unlikely to be an issue when towing a boat or trailer combination with a car or small vehicle.
For UK residents holding driving licences issued in another EU country, the licence is valid for three years from the date of taking up residence in the UK or until the age of 70, whichever occurs first. After this period, the licence must be exchanged for a UK driving licence, usually preserving the original entitlements.
For UK residents with driving licences issued outside the EU, the licence is valid for one year from the date of taking up residence in the UK or until the age of 70, whichever comes first. After that, the licence must be exchanged for a UK driving licence, preserving the original entitlements.
Factors to Consider: Evaluating Your Towing Capability
Towing legality depends on various factors, such as vehicle capability, trailer capability, trailer brakes, and trailer size. Let’s explore these factors in more detail:
Every vehicle has a defined towing capability, which is specified by the manufacturer. It’s crucial to consult your vehicle’s Owner’s Manual to understand the towing capacity and any limitations. The maximum trailer weight and tongue weight should not be exceeded to ensure safe towing.
Similar to vehicles, trailers have defined capabilities set by the manufacturer. The Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) and unladen weight determine the maximum permitted load. To accurately assess your boat/trailer combination weight, it’s recommended to weigh the trailer at a public weighbridge.
Trailers with a MAM greater than 750 Kg must be equipped with a functioning braking system.
Trailer size is subject to legal limits, including maximum lengths, widths, and load projections. Ensure your trailer complies with these dimensions to avoid legal issues. Additionally, maintaining good rear visibility is essential, which may require the use of mirror extensions.
Make sure your trailer has a visible rear number plate that matches your towing vehicle’s registration. The rear of the trailer must also have the necessary lighting and markers, including sidelights, stop lights, reflectors, turn indicators, and fog lamps if required.
Speed and Lanes
When towing a trailer, additional driving restrictions apply. On single carriageway roads, the maximum speed is 50 mph, while on dual carriageways and motorways, it’s 60 mph. It’s important to note that trailers are not allowed in the third lane (outside lane) of motorways.
Conclusion: Towing Your Boat Legally and Safely
Before embarking on your diving adventures, it’s crucial to ensure you meet the legal requirements for towing your boat. Understanding the capabilities of your driving licence, vehicle, and trailer is essential for safe and legal towing. Remember to always stay up-to-date with any changes in towing laws and regulations.
For more information and detailed guidance on driving licences and towing, visit the East Coast Paddle Sports website.