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10 questions and answers on the regulations currently involved in towing a trailer


Long haul: The Skoda Octavia Combi. Licensing regulations around towing have become more complex in recent years

Long haul: The Skoda Octavia Combi. Licensing regulations around towing have become more complex in recent years

Long haul: The Skoda Octavia Combi. Licensing regulations around towing have become more complex in recent years

The chances are you have had a trailer on tow today or de-hitched one before you sat down to read your Farming Independent. Most of you probably use one on a frequent basis. But you may not be properly set up to do so.

There is anecdotal evidence, at least, which would suggest there is something of an information gap.

Essentially the core question is: What licence do you now need to tow what trailer?

It is not as straightforward as it seems.

So here are some details followed by a Q&A which we thought would be helpful as it will test your knowledge and maybe fill in one or two areas as well.

A Category B driving licence, as it is called, allows you to tow a small trailer.

That means you are legally okay to drive a vehicle and tow a trailer but the following criteria have to be met where:

  • The maximum authorised mass (MAM as it is called) of the trailer is 750kg or over.
  • The MAM of a trailer is above 750kg but the combined weight of it and its towing vehicle must be less than 3,500kg.

You have to be 17 to apply for this licence.

It is generally reckoned that a Category B licence won't do for towing a horsebox or livestock trailer for bringing cattle to the mart as the combined mass could exceed 3,500kg.

The proper licence for this is a Category BE and you have to be 17 to apply for one.

As is the case with Category B, you need to apply for a Learner Permit and get your driving test for the BE. That means getting a learner permit and always being accompanied by someone with a full licence for the particular towing category.

Additionally you may have to undertake a driver theory test before applying for the learner permit if you haven't had one before.

People are being advised to apply for the licence and sit the test because their insurance may be affected in the event of an accident - not to mention that you could be prosecuted.

So, after all that, here are 10 questions and answers that might test and improve your knowledge of what regulations are currently involved in towing a trailer.

Q What is the maximum speed limit for travelling while towing a trailer on a motorway?

A The maximum speed limit for towing a trailer is 80kmh. This applies on roads where the posted road sign speed limit is higher. As always, drivers are subject to the lowest posted speed sign so it will not always be possible to travel at 80kmh.

Q What is meant by "Vehicle Unladen Weight"?

A The weight of a vehicle or the trailer without its load.

Q What is the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) you are permitted to tow with a standard category B-licence?

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A You can tow a trailer that has a MAM up to 750kg; if the trailer exceeds this weight, the maximum combined weight of the vehicle and trailer can not exceed 3,500kg.

Q What is the maximum Gross Design Vehicle Weight (GDVW) permitted for an unbraked car trailer?

A An O1 Trailer has a Gross Design Vehicle Weight (GDVW) of 750kg or less.

An O2 Trailer has a GDVW of at least 750kg, but does not exceed 3,500kg.

Essentially, the main difference between the manufacturing requirements for O1 and O2 trailers is that the latter must be fitted with brakes by the manufacturer.

Q What minimum licence is required to drive the following arrangement:

A Toyota Land Cruiser (2,740kgs) with 2-Axle Cattle Box (900kg) and 2 cattle @ 400kgs each on board? BE, B or Other?

And what minimum licence is required to drive with the following arrangement: Skoda Octavia Scout (1,385kgs) with 2-axle cattle box (900kg) and 2 cattle @ 400kgs each on board?

A As a general rule, a Category B licence does not entitle the holder to tow a horsebox or a livestock trailer because the combined maximum mass would exceed 3,500kg.

In the case of the Octavia Scout, plus trailer, plus livestock (total 3,085kg) you are under the max of 3,500kg.

However, a Land Cruiser plus trailer plus livestock = 4,440kg - and that exceeds the maximum. Verdict: You would need to do the test to receive the BE licence.

Q Do I have to complete any mandatory lessons when I am preparing for my Car&Trailer licence?

A No. However, you are advised to take some lessons with an RSA-approved driving instructor to ensure a good outcome to your test.

Q What do you need to consider before you make the following journey? Land Cruiser (2,740kgs), Tri-Axle IFOR Williams (785kg), sand (1,715kg). Delivery of sand required to Christchurch in Dublin today at 2pm.

A Heavy Goods Vehicles (gross weight is more than 3,500kg) with 5+ axles are not permitted to enter a restricted area of Dublin City between 07.00 - 19.00 (7 days a week). You need to apply for a Load/Unload permit available from

Q I know a man who can build a trailer. He is fairly handy and has been making trailers for years for people in the area. Is this permitted?

A No. Not permitted for sale unless it is approved. For safety, environmental, and trade reasons, the EU has set common construction standards for motor vehicles and trailers. Any trailer that has been approved to these standards can be first licensed in the state in the case of heavy goods trailers, or sold in the case of light trailers. From October 29, 2012 onwards, trailers have had to comply with these standards, known as European Community Whole Vehicle Type Approval (ECWVTA).

Q You buy a trailer from someone and for some unknown reason it is involved in an accident. Who is responsible?

A The law says every vehicle owner must ensure that his or her vehicle or combination of vehicles complies with all applicable regulations. These are outlined in three main pieces of legislation.

They are:

  • Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use of Vehicles) Regulations as amended.
  • Road Traffic (Construction and Use of Vehicles) Regulations as amended.
  • Road Traffic (Lighting of Vehicles) Regulations as amended.

A substantial part of this Q&A is based on a demonstration provided by SKODA Ireland to heighten awareness of the changes and the rules involved in towing today. Thanks to Skoda for its presentation and to Hynes Quinn Driving School which helped on technical and legal elements.

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