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  • A Guide to Towing with Commercial Vehicles

    Towing a vehicle can be difficult to do, but once you've mastered the basics of towing with commercial vehicles, there are also other things to keep in mind so both you and your passengers stay safe and legal on the road.

    Towing with Commercial vehicles

    We have compiled a list of some of the most important tips for towing with commercial vehicles.

    Check your commercial vehicle’s towing capacity

    Your van's ability to tow something behind it will be limited by the size and weight of your commercial vehicle. Towing capacity is 85% of the vehicle's weight when it's just sitting there with no cargo or passengers inside.

    To find out how much your vehicle can tow, you will need to know its weight. How much your van weighs without anything in it is called kerb weight. Kerb weight includes the vehicle's standard equipment, a full tank of fuel, and oil coolant, but not passengers or other cargo. You can check your handbook for the exact weight of your vehicle in this state. Once you know what the kerb weight of your vehicle is, multiply that number by 0.85 and that's the maximum amount it can tow.

    Here are the definitions you need to know for towing with commercial vehicles:

    • The Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM), or Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW), is the maximum amount a vehicle or trailer can weigh while being driven on public roads.
    • Gross Combination Weight (GCW) or Gross Train Weight (GTW) is the total legal weight of a vehicle, trailer, and its cargo.

    Be careful not to overload your trailer

    It’s common to see loads poking out of the back of a trailer, but it should not overhang by more than 3.05 metres – and any cargo that does stick out needs to be secured tightly.

    Is a licence required to tow?

    Drivers who passed their driving test before January 1997 are legally permitted to drive and tow up to 8,250kg.

    However, if you were licensed after January 1997, you may drive a vehicle weighing up to 3.5 tonnes and tow up to 750 kilograms. For anything heavier, you will have to take another test with the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

    Do I need special insurance to tow with a commercial vehicle?

    In most cases your fleet insurance will cover towing another vehicle, but if you are towing another car it will need to be insured because there’s still a chance it could be involved in an accident and damaged while in transit.

    Does my trailer need brakes?

    Some trailers come with brakes, but it depends on their weight and the gross vehicle weight. If your trailer weighs less than 750 kilograms (about 1,653 pounds), you don’t need to install extra brakes—the van will handle stopping duties.

    If you’re towing a trailer with your vehicle and the trailer weighs more than 750 kg, it needs to be fitted with its own brakes. These are known as "braked trailers". Braked trailers are similar to cars with handbrakes. An unbraked trailer needs wheel chocks after levelling to prevent movement when unhitched. There are fewer hassles associated with braked trailers.

    Do you need a tachograph fitted when towing with commercial vehicles?

    Companies are legally obliged to fit a tachograph if you are towing with commercial vehicles of more than 3.5 tonnes. If you are towing a trailer with a commercial vehicle less than 3.5 tonnes, you don't need to have a tachograph fitted.

    The tachograph records the distance that your vehicle travels along with its speed and engine usage over a period of time. This information is important because it helps companies ensure that their drivers aren't breaking any rules by working too many hours without rest or driving dangerously at high speeds.

    Having a tachograph fitted isn't something you should avoid or try to swerve if possible; by law, companies that do not have a tachograph fitted in their vehicles can face substantial fines if they are caught breaking this rule.

    Be careful and drive safely

    It is important to give yourself plenty of room when towing with commercial vehicles. Towing a trailer is also limited to 50mph on single carriageways, and 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways if no lower limit is in effect.

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