Are you towing legally

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Are you towing legally

Postby kfxnando » Tue Oct 23, 2012 8:09 am

It is a little-known fact, but not all cars on the market are able to tow a trailer, and a growing number of cars are legally defined as non-towing vehicles. In addition, not every driver's licence is an automatic passport to towing.

The basic "B" licence only allows a motorist to tow a light luggage trailer weighing less than 750kg (fully laden). If one wants to tow a caravan or braked trailer, say, with a boat on it, then one would need an "EB" licence.

An "EB" licence allows you to tow a vehicle with a gross combination mass (the combined tare weights of the tow vehicle and caravan) not exceeding 3500kg. This could fairly comfortably be exceeded if you were using a top-end SUV (which can tip the scales somewhere in the region of 2500kg) to tow a large, twin-axle caravan that weighs in the area of 1500kg. Therefore, if you have a "B" licence and tow a rig similar to that outlined above, you will be illegal on two counts.

All licences issued prior to the year 2000 and the change-over to the credit card system, were issued with a numerical coding, and 08 licences were automatically converted to "EB" licences. However, most motorists who have taken the test since then have the basic "B" licence, which means a retest is required to qualify for an "EB". Essentially, you need to go back to the testing station (making sure beforehand that you have selected one where the instructors and facility are equipped to carry out the test) and redo the test.

"It is not just the licence issue that needs to be considered. There is also the question of how suitable your vehicle actually is for towing," says Gary Ronald, Head of Public Affairs at the Automobile Association (AA). "A number of car models on sale in South Africa, most small cars or hybrids, cannot be fitted with a tow bar, either because of structural or cooling limitations, or both."

Motorists considering purchasing these cars, either new or second-hand, often don't know they are categorised as non-towing cars by their manufacturer, and cannot legally pull a trailer — ever. It could theoretically be done by having an ad hoc tow bar made up, but doing so could invalidate the vehicle's warranty and also potentially compromise vehicle stability.

"When considering a new car, check its towing capability and confirm if a tow bar can be fitted without voiding the warranty. Obviously if you don't plan on towing anything, then the choice is even simpler," explains Ronald.

If you are planning on getting a towbar fitted (on a vehicle that is designed for such a fixture), make sure that the ball doesn't obscure the numberplate, otherwise you can expect trouble from the law. A towbar with a removable "neck" is an option, and you simply clip it in place when needed. When not in use, store it securely under the boot floor with the tools — don't leave it lying around in the boot of the car... in an emergency situation it can become a dangerous missile.


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