IF YOU want to tow a trailer with your van, there are safety and legal issues you need to know about.
First, are the van and the trailer compatible?
Is the coupling height correct? This is essential for ensuring the towbar and trailer meet safely and effectively and can prevent issues such as ‘snaking’ at high speed.
What’s the towing capacity of your van and the towing capacity of the trailer? And does your licence allow you to drive it?
Drivers without a BE entitlement on their licence are not permitted to tow a trailer weighing more than 750kg, and will need to pass a separate test for this (read What Van can I Drive? for more on this).
The same is true if you want to tow a trailer weighing more than 3,500kg – for which you’ll need a BE and C1E entitlement. If you’re unsure of your entitlements you should check the rear of your photocard licence, where you’ll find all the necessary detail.
Of course it is also important to check the trailer is roadworthy. This means lights and brakes must be in working order, and numberplates visible.
There are other legal considerations for bigger trailers.
If the trailer’s unladen weight is more than 1,020kg and that unladen weight takes the total weight of van and trailer over 3.5 tonnes, the vehicle may be in scope for operator licencing. Without an operator’s licence you risk having your vehicle seized by enforcement officers.
Vans with trailers might also be subject drivers’ hours. In the same way that coaches and HGVs are governed, you may need to use and abide by a tachograph to keep a log of hours spent at the wheel.
Finally, it is essential you are aware of the different speed limits applied to vans drawing trailers. While a solo van is permitted to do 70mph on motorways and dual carriageways, one drawing a trailer is restricted to 60mph. On other roads, where cars and vans can do 60mph, a 50mph limit is enforced for those towing a trailer.
If you’re in business van management, make sure you and your drivers are aware of all the pitfalls surrounding towing trailers – before you hitch up.