Towing a trailer on public roads with a car, van or 4×4 is a key skill for most farmers in Ireland today, from transporting livestock to picking up animal feed and supplies at the local agri store – but you need to have the right licence to do this legally.

First off, it is important to know how much your vehicle can tow, depending on the licence you currently possess.

According to the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS), if you have a category “B” driving licence (car/jeep) you can tow a small trailer. If you want to tow a larger trailer you must have a category “BE” licence.

A standard B car driving licence is sufficient to tow a trailer whose Design Gross Vehicle Weight (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 licence is required 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.

You can find the towing capacity – also known as the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) – of one’s vehicle on the manufacturer’s plate, located inside the passenger door or under the bonnet.

To obtain a BE driving licence you must:

  • Hold a current full category B driving licence;
  • First pass a driver theory test in the category B (if not already passed to obtain your category B licence);
  • Apply online or in person at an NDLS centre for a category BE learner permit;
  • After passing the BE driving test you can then apply to add category BE to your full driving licence.

In terms of other factors affecting your right to tow a trailer, even if you have the correct licence, the type of trailer will also depend on your vehicle specifications, the NDLS notes.

The owner’s manual generally sets out a towing capacity or towing weight for the vehicle. Some small vehicles might not be allowed to tow any trailer while larger vehicles have restrictions set by the manufacturer.

In all such cases the type of trailer you can tow will be the lesser of that allowed by your licence or the towing capacity of your vehicle, the authority says.

Finally, in terms of positioning, a load should always be placed safely, securely and evenly distributed across the trailer and positioned in such a way to keep the nose weight – i.e. weight of the trailer drawbar on the towing bracket – within the recommended limits for the towing vehicle.

You should consult your owner’s manual for this figure, the NDLS adds.