A trailer is a great piece of kit but what is the correct way of towing a trailer and how do I keep legal when doing it? Sterling insurance answers some of your frequently asked questions about towing a trailer.
A good trailer allows you to get all sorts of jobs done. From moving home and disposing of garden rubbish, to hauling hobby equipment such as boats and bikes and packing up the family for a holiday. You can do all sorts of things with the right trailer.
But towing a trailer takes quite a bit of getting used to and is fraught with extra risk, especially for the novice. According to Highways England they have to deal with around 4,000 trailer and caravan related incidents every year, that’s 11 every day. They involve trailers of every description, from horsebox trailers to builders’ trailers and teardrop caravan trailers.
To help reduce that extra risk there are a whole heap of things you need to know before you actually hitch up and take to the road.
Do I need a special driving licence for towing a trailer?
That depends on when you passed your driving test and what you want to tow.
If you passed on or after 1 January 1997 you can:
You will have to pass the car and trailer driving test if you want to tow anything heavier.
If you passed your test before 1 January 1997 you’re usually allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250kg MAM. You’re also allowed to drive a minibus with a trailer over 750kg MAM.
If you need to tow a heavier combination check out the Department for Transport advice.
Are there any trailer towing safety guidelines I need to know?
Assuming I have the right licence, the right towing combination and I’ve hitched up correctly, what else should I look out for?
Are there any other safety or security measures I should consider for my car or trailer?
Do I need to alter my driving style when towing a trailer?
Yes, you will. The added weight and the extra space your combined vehicle and trailer will take up will make even relatively simple motoring tasks such as turning right across oncoming traffic seem more difficult. Here’s how to perform key manoeuvres.
It will take more time to build up speed, which you’ll have to allow for when pulling out at junctions or overtaking an obstacle. When overtaking you will have to remain in the overtaking lane longer than you would normally to ensure you have cleared the obstruction you are going by.
In a manual you will need to stay in lower gears for a little longer before shifting up. If yiu are driving an automatic you may need to engage the manual selector to control gear changes, especially when going uphill.
Generally you should moderate your speed. Trailer speed limits on UK roads are 60 mph for motorways and dual carriageways and 50mph on single carriageway roads – but you don’t have to go that fast! Slow down to a speed that you, your car and your trailer are comfortable with.
The added weight of towing a trailer will affect your braking distance. You must leave far more space between you and the car in front so you have plenty of time to react.
The length your trailer adds to your vehicle means you will have to take corners wider than you would normally to prevent trailer wheels mounting the kerb.
Reversing a trailer or caravan is by far the trickiest manoeuvre to master because the trailer turns in the opposite direction to the direction in which you’re steering. Try reversing in an empty car park, yard or other open space. It can be frustrating but practice makes perfect.
It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway, you will need far more room to park if you are towing a caravan and, depending on your trailer, you may stick out more if you are parking by the kerb. You are better off going to a car park where there are often dedicated areas for longer vehicles and vehicle/trailer combinations.
Towing a trailer for long distances, for long periods of time, or in heavy traffic, can be very tiring, especially if you are new to towning. You will need to make regular rest stops.
Do I need to insure my trailer separately from my motor insurance?
It is not a legal requirement to take out separate insurance for your trailer, but if you tow a trailer to transport goods either commercially or domestically, you should seriously think about it.
Most comprehensive car and van policies cover trailers, but usually only for third party liability. It means you would be covered for any injury to another person or damage to their property, but not if your trailer was damaged in an accident that was your fault. Third party cover also excludes theft and fire damage.
Trailer insurance will solve these problems and provide complete peace of mind, whatever you need to transport.
Sterling’s trailer insurance starts at £90 a year but discounts are available for trailers fitted with data tag security.
Cover is available for commercial and domestic use of trailers up to the value of £40,000. It includes up to £1m public liability cover and European cover for up to 30 days is included.
Sterling has specialised policies for boat trailers, builders’ trailers, flatbed trailers, garden trailers, horse trailers, luggage trailers, teardrop trailers and trailer tents.
‘Check it before towing it’
Highways England’s Strategic Road Safety Lead Stuart Lovatt said: “Thankfully incidents are very rare but now is the time to remind motorists of the need to make sure you have carried out proper checks and have loaded the trailer or vehicle correctly.
“We have all sorts travelling on our network including horse boxes, trailer tents and leisure vehicles such as boats and caravans. Our message is really simple, check it before towing it. so everyone gets home, safe and well.”
Sterling offers specialist policies for all sorts of trailers, including boat trailer insurance, builders trailer insurance, flatbed trailer insurance, flatbed trailer insurance, garden trailer insurance, horse trailer insurance, luggage trailer insurance, teardrop trailer insurance and trailer ten insurance. Policies start from £90.