Towing a trailer on public roads: What you should know

Towing a trailer on public roads with a car, van or 4×4 is a key part of modern-day farming for most Irish farmers today – but how well up are you on the rules and regulations that are part and parcel of doing so?

First off, it is important to know how much your vehicle can tow.

According to the Road Safety Authority (RSA), all vehicles should have a plate stating its towing capacity.

The plate is normally located inside the passenger door or under the bonnet. As shown in the image below, you subtract figure 1 (1,820Kg) from figure 2 (2,930Kg) and the answer (1,110Kg) is the weight your vehicle can tow, or its towing capacity.

Source: RSA

It should be noted that it is illegal to exceed the stated towing capacity, which is the maximum weight the vehicle can draw.

The next step is to calculate the weight of one’s trailer. The Design Gross Vehicle Weight (DGVW) – also known as the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) – should be stated on the trailer’s plate.

You can also contact the trailer manufacturer or an authorised distributor, the RSA says.

The MAM is the weight of the trailer, including the maximum load it can carry, as per the manufacturer’s design specifications, the authority notes.

All new light trailers sold after October 29, 2012 must be legally plated. In the case of home-made trailers, the RSA advises that you can contact an existing trailer manufacturer to see if they will plate the trailer for you.

Turning to the question of which licence you need, for light trailers weighing no more than 3,500kg, you need either a B or a BE licence.

A standard “B” car driving licence is sufficient to tow a trailer whose DGVW is no more than 750kg or, should the trailer’s DGVW be more than 750kg, if the combined weight of the vehicle and trailer does not exceed 3,500kg.

Meanwhile, a “BE” licences is sufficient to tow a trailer whose DGVW is no more than 3,500kg or, should the trailer’s DGVW be above this, if the combined weight of the vehicle and trailer does not exceed 7,000kg.

The speed limit for towing trailers is 80kph unless a lower speed limit sign is posted, the RSA says.

All trailers with a design weight of more than 750kg must have brakes. The type of brakes needed will depend on the year of manufacture.

Finally, it is important to remember that it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure a trailer is roadworthy.

If you’re towing a trailer, it is your responsibility as the driver to ensure that both the towing vehicle and trailer are safe and mechanically sound, fit for purpose, and legally compliant with all relevant Road Traffic legislation.

This, the RSA notes, includes basics such as ensuring that: tyres have adequate tread depth and are free from defects; lights and brakes are working; and the hitch is in good condition.