A MAJOR new driving law for towing caravans and trailers that was set to come into force today has been DELAYED.
Drivers who passed their test after January 1, 1997, would have been allowed to tow heavy loads without taking a specialist test if the rules had come in as planned.
UK drivers were warned about the new law in September, but after being challenged in parliament, the changes have been delayed.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) said: “The rules about towing a trailer or a caravan with a car will not be changing on 15 November 2021."
They added that Government recommendations will be made by the end of the year, subject to parliamentary approvals.
A notice on the Government's website states: "The rules about what you can tow will not be changing on 15 November 2021.
"The change will be introduced at a later date, and as soon as possible.
"You must continue to follow the current rules until the law changes."
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Under existing rules, some drivers are required to take a driving test to tow a trailer, depending on the size of their car, how heavy the load is and when you got they got their licence.
But if given the green light, the new rule change will mean anyone can start pulling trailers weighing up to 3,500kg maximum authorised mass (MAM) without training, experience or supervision.
The DVLA would update driving licences automatically to reflect the change.
That means if you currently have a license, you'd get a category BE added when you next update your photocard.
Reacting to the delay, AA spokesman Luke Bosdet, said: “Even with the new rules delayed, it still makes sense for less-experienced drivers to approach trailer training companies and pay for a private session to reinforce their towing skills and confidence.
“Getting it wrong on the open road can be frightening and costly, with potentially tragic consequences in the worst incidents.”
In response to road safety concerns, the DVSA said it was working with the trailer industry to develop a voluntary training scheme for drivers wanting to tow a trailer of any size for business or leisure.
A DVSA spokesperson said: “Road safety continues to be of paramount importance and all car drivers will still be encouraged to undertake training to tow trailers and caravans.”
It comes as drivers are warned of towing in winter, as conditions on the road can become more difficult and you could find yourself at risk.
The National Accident Helpline is urging first-time towers to be careful on the roads.
Jonathan White, Legal and Compliance Director at National Accident Helpline said: “We are urging people to take extra care and follow important safety rules when towing a caravan or trailer this time of year.
“While we understand the new changes to the law, we’re also concerned that the freedom to tow a caravan or trailer for the first time could present additional risk.
"Without formal training, paired with a shift to ‘staycations’ we’re calling on first time users to be responsible and extra vigilant."
The National Accident Helpline's top tips to stay safe include:
The government says that even though special licenses will no longer be compulsory, it still makes sense to have proper training. But there is no information on how drivers can access this.
Jack Cousens, head of roads policy at The Automobile Association said: "The Government's intention is to create a non-compulsory course which people can opt to take, but doing so may lead to cheaper insurance.
Check your insurance
Anyone thinking about driving a caravan or trailer should check they are covered by their insurance policy.
Typically drivers don't need specialist cover, but it may be worth informing your provider if you're planning to use a caravan or trailer.
An ABI spokesperson said: “Providing you have the minimum third-party liability motor insurance, there is no additional legal insurance requirement for towing a trailer.
"You should check your motor insurance policy to see if you need to inform your insurer if planning to tow a trailer or a caravan. And of course, all drivers should be confident in towing a trailer, and drive with extra care.”
You may also want to consider bespoke insurance to ensure your caravan is covered in case of damage.
Florence Codjoe, car insurance expert at Uswitch.com, says: “Separate caravan insurance isn’t compulsory.
"That being said, like home contents insurance, getting relevant caravan insurance quotes is worth considering - as your car insurance won't cover any damage to the caravan itself, or offer any protection at all once it's static or detached from your vehicle."
“A caravan shouldn’t be confused with a motorhome or campervan. These vehicles are built on a truck or bus chassis... Unlike caravans, insurance for a motorhome is compulsory.”
Other drivers should also be cautious on the road, as there may be an influx of new trailer drivers towing for the first time.
The change was due to come into force today, November 15.
However, it's been delayed. MPs will scrutinise it further in Parliament over safety fears.
Here are the rules as they stand:
Licenses issues before January 1, 1997
Anyone whose licence was issued before January 1, 1997, doesn't need to worry as the rules won't changing for them, and they can already tow without a special test.
You can drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250kg MAM or a minibus with a trailer over 750kg MAM.
Licences issued from January 1, 1997 to January 18, 2013
People who got their licenses between Januarry 1997 and January 18, 2013, can already tow some trailers and caravans without a test, depending on weight.
The current rules say you can drive:
You currently need a car and trailer driving test if you want to tow anything heavier.
Licences issued from January 19, 2013
If you passed your test after January 19, 2013, you can currently drive:
You need to pass a car and trailer driving test for anything heavier.
If the changes do come into force, drivers will be able to tow trailers weighing up to 3,500kg MAM - much heavier than before.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency will automatically cancel and refund all booked car and trailer driving tests if it goes ahead.
Unfortunately, you can't get a refund or compensation for any training that you’ve already taken to help you get ready for a trailer test.
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