Requirements for towing


Drivers who have not kept up to date with the regulations for towing trailers or caravans run the risk of having claims denied in the event of an accident. Here’s what you need to know…

When card type licences were introduced, all in possession of the old code 8 licence were automatically converted to code EB, which would allow the licensee to tow a caravan/ trailer weighing in excess of 750kg.

Drivers who obtained a code B license after the conversion may incorrectly assume that they are licensed to tow a trailer/caravan with a GVM or more than 750kg.

Drivers need to be aware that an ordinary driver’s licence (code B) only allows them to tow a trailer with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) less than 750kg. For anything larger, such as a caravan, a code EB is required. Licence codes EC1 and EC also allows for towing GVM in excess of 750kg.

The indicator that one may tow more than 750kg is the “E” in the licence code – EB, EC and EC1. This legislation has been around for some years already, but many are still unaware of this requirement.

Drivers who possess a code B or C licence and needs to tow a trailer or caravan weighing in excess of 750kg, will need to apply for and be tested for a code EB, EC or EC1 licence.

A driver’s licence must not be confused with the vehicle licence. The existence or absence of a vehicle license does not alter the risk for the insurer. It does not have the same effect as a driver’s license and therefore the policy will respond regardless of the vehicle’s license status.

To tow legally, several factors need to be considered. The towing and load specifications of the towing vehicle, the tow bar rating and the specifications of the trailer or caravan must be known.

The following terminology is used in calculating towing equation:

  • Tare: The “dry weight” of the vehicle – the mass of the vehicle without passengers, fuel or luggage, but including standard fittings.
  • Payload: Maximum mass the vehicle may carry, including passengers, fuel and luggage.
  • Gross vehicle mass (GVM): Sum of tare and payload.
  • Gross combination mass (GCM): The sum of the gross vehicle mass of the towing vehicle and maximum towing capacity as stated by the manufacturer.
  • Manufacturer’s maximum towing capacity: Maximum towing capacity specified by manufacturer in kilograms. A distinction is drawn between self-braked trailers/caravans and those without own brakes.
  • Tow bar static load and tow bar maximum drawing capacity: As specified by manufacturer.

If the trailer/caravan exceeds 750kg and has its own braking system, the weight of the vehicle must be equal to or more than the weight of the trailer/caravan.

For trailers up to 750kg, the tare of the vehicle must be double that of the trailer. In other words, should a trailer weigh 750kg, the vehicle must weigh at least 1500kg. Please note that most of the smaller vehicles have a tare of less than 1500kg.

It is important to note that the fitment of extras to a vehicle of trailer/caravan will affect the weight and will necessitate that the tare mass of the vehicle be recalculated.

Important factors to consider

  • The following facts need to be considered when handling a claim where a vehicle towing a caravan or trailer is involved in an accident:
  • Is the driver in possession of the correct licence considering the tare of towing vehicle and GVM of trailer/caravan?
  • Was the maximum towing capacity of the towing vehicle, as advertised by the manufacturer, exceeded?
  • Was the GVM of the braked trailer/caravan more than the tare of the towing vehicle?
  • Was the GVM of the unbraked trailer/caravan more than half the tare?

This article was first published in Santam’s Operational Circular on 20 July 2018

To discuss insurance of your vehicle, caravan or trailer, please feel free to contact us.