Do you need a new driver's licence to pull a heavy trailer?
Q I am a farmer in my early thirties and have always used my car and farm jeep to pull trailers. I read recently that there are new laws which affect the pulling of trailers without a special licence. I have been driving for more than 10 years, what should I do?
Answer: You are correct as there are new regulations in place that all farmers should be aware of which centre around the type of licence you require in order to pull a trailer.
Most people who hold a driving licence for a car or jeep have a category B driving licence, which allows you to tow a small trailer.
Under this you can drive a vehicle towing a trailer, firstly, where the maximum authorised mass (MAM) of the trailer is not greater than 750kg.
Secondly, in instances where the MAM of the trailer exceeds 750kg, but the combined MAM of the towing vehicle and the trailer is not greater than 3,500kg.
The weight limits apply to the weight of the trailer and contents combined when fully loaded. The minimum age to apply for this type of licence is 17.
As a general rule, a category B licence does not entitle the holder to tow a horsebox or a livestock trailer for bringing animals to the local mart because the combined maximum mass would exceed 3,500kg.
If you hold a category B driving licence and wish to pull a larger trailer, whose combined weight of vehicle, trailer and trailer contents exceeds 3,500kg, you will need to apply for a category BE driving.
You must be at least 18 years to apply for this licence.
Most significantly, like the category B licence you will have to apply for a provisional licence and successfully complete a driving test for this category of license.
The changes to these requirements that were introduced in 2013 require you to hold a learner permit for the category of vehicle and trailer you wish to drive and display 'L' plates until you have successfully completed the test for the correct category.
If you hold a learner permit for a vehicle and trailer category, you are not allowed to drive on a motorway.
More significantly, you must be accompanied, at all times by, and be under the supervision of, someone with a current driving licence for the same category of vehicle and trailer being towed.
Learner permits last for two years, however, you may only apply for a third provisional licence if you can show evidence that you have undergone a driving test in the two-year period prior to the application or have evidence of a forthcoming test date.
An application for a learner permit should be made in person to one of the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) centres.
Also, if you have never completed a driver theory test, you will have to do so before applying for the provisional permit.
The big question for most farmers will be whether or not they should apply for the licence and sit the test.
It is my advice that if you are driving without an adequate driving licence then your car or jeep insurance may well refuse to indemnify you in the case of an accident.
You should also bear in mind that if prosecuted the implications on conviction are very serious.
Theresa Murphy is a barrister based in Co Galway
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