This is a little complicated, but if you are ever going to pull any trailer with a van, a 4×4 or a pick-up truck, you really need to read this, then take what ever action you need to as ignorance of the law will be no defence should the worst happen.
On the up-side if you get caught you are looking at a £200 on the spot fine, whilst on the worst side, if there is a fatality, your company could be charged with corporate manslaughter, so you must ensure you’ve got this right.
I am not putting this forward as the definitive guide to this issue, but just to make you aware there is an issue, a potentially very serious one! I suggest you read the following then check both your vehicles specification, your trailers specification and the driving licences of anyone who might pull a trailer on your behalf.
There are two strands to this and the first one is about gross vehicle weights (which can get you an instant £200 fine), whilst the second is about holding a licence to pull a trailer of any sort, as you might find that if your drivers passed their driving tests after 1997 they are most likely not legally entitled to pull a trailer unless they have taken a further driving test to obtain categories B+E and if that’s the case, they are breaking the law and worse still, because their licence does not cover them, they are also uninsured as well and if you are their employer, you are responsible.
Taking the weight issue first, the law says that a tow vehicle can have a gross vehicle weight of up to 3,500kg without a tachograph being required. Now whilst you might think your vehicle is easily inside of that weight, by the time you hitch a trailer up, their combined gross weight can easily exceed 3,500kg and therefore, your vehicle MUST be fitted with a tachograph.
Whilst it’s understandable that you might not have realised that, ignorance of the law is no defence, particularly as this law has been around for many years. Truth is, its only been vigorously enforced since May 2009, when VOSA introduced a new fixed penalty scheme, allowing Police Officers to impose on the spot fines and make no mistake, people are already getting fined for it.
The driving licence part of this, is far more serious, and the £200 fine for the breaking the tachograph law will seem like “small potatoes”
To drive a vehicle with a trailer you have to have classes B+E on your driving licence. Before January 1997, if you took a car driving test, well you automatically got groups B+E, but after that date, it needed the driver to take an additional “car & trailer” test and frankly, not many have. I read some statistics saying that there are around 600,000 new drivers passing the driving test each year, yet only around 4,000 take the test for groups B+E and of that 4,000, only around 1800 actually pass the test, which equates to about 0.05% of the people that take the car driving test. Clearly, the likelihood is that at this point, that if you employ anyone younger than around 30 years old, its unlikely they will have these all important group B+E.
The following is the Governments explanation of what group B+E means:-
If you passed a car test on or after 1 January 1997 you’re limited to vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes maximum authorised mass towing a trailer up to 750kgs, or a vehicle and trailer combination up to 3.5 tonnes MAM providing the MAM of the trailer doesn’t exceed the unladen mass of the towing vehicle. You will need to pass an additional driving test in B+E if you wish to tow a caravan or trailer combination which exceeds these weight limits.
If your driver does not hold the correct licence, it invalidates the vehicles insurance also, which means that if the vehicle is in an accident, well they are not going to pay out. Ramp that up a bit and assume there is a fatality, well there is every chance your company will be prosecuted for “Corporate Manslaughter” as it wouldn’t be too hard to prove negligence as you have sent an unlicenced, uninsured (and in consequence) illegal driver out to do a job for you and as a reminder, just one of the punishments for “Corporate Manslaughter” is listed as ‘unlimited fines’ so that could put you out of business.
So I guess in summary, what we are saying is even things like 4×4 double cab pick up’s or Transit type vans or even a 4×4 Land Rover type vehicle can fall foul of the legislation once they have a trailer behind them, so you need to check your own position, by finding out if you contravene the regulations and they are not easy to interpret and of course, you need to inspect the driving licences of anyone you might be putting behind the wheel.