B+E, need clarity? When is B+E entitlement required?

B+E flow diagram (open)  The Trailer Towing Training Centre

As well having to deal with generating revenue, marketing, the health and safety involved with your business, paperwork and possible staffing issues, it is nice to know that at the end of the day, all you need to do is attached your trailer and head back home to relax.

Well, that is if you are legally allowed to tow? 

For many years, as drivers, we just climbed in out cars, vans or small lorries and drove to jobs, then drove home again and did not really think too much about it; why should we?  We have all passed the driving test so driving is not much of an issue.

Unfortunately if driving is part of your duties, or you ask someone to drive on behalf of the company, even if driving is not a direct activity of the business, there are a number of ‘issues’ that must be addressed. 

Driving Licence requirements

Until the 2nd January 1997, anyone who passed their car driving test was also issued acquired rights or ‘grandfather rights’.  This allowed the holder of the car licence to tow a trailer over 750kg as well as allowing the driver to drive a small lorry.  The driver could also tow a trailer over 750kg behind the lorry as well.

On the 3rd January 1997 things changed due to EU Directives.  From then on when the driver passed their car driving test they were issued a car licence, classed as a category B licence.  This only allows the driver to drive a vehicle up to a maximum weight of 3500kg.  If they need to tow a trailer over 750kg they must pass a separate category B+E test.  If they need to drive a small lorry between 3500kg and 7500kg they must pass a separate category C1 test and if the need to tow a trailer with the C1 vehicle, another test is needed, C1+E.  That would be simple enough…but matters had to become complicated.

Towing on a category B licence since 1997

First of all we need to establish the jargon that is used when talking about towing and vehicle weights.  As far as VOSA and the DVLA are concerned the term used is Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) which is the total ‘capable’ weight of the vehicle/combination including passengers and load.  This has superseded the older terms Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) – the maximum weight of the vehicle plus the payload – and Gross Train Weight (GTW) – the maximum combined weight of the vehicle and trailer plus payload.

The basic rule is that if the trailer MAM is over 750kg, a driver will need to upgrade their driving licence to B+E, however, if the combined MAM of the vehicle and trailer is less the 3500kg and the trailer weighs less than the kerbside weight of the towing vehicle – the weight of the vehicle, with driver and fuel – then this combination can be driven on a category B licence and no upgrade of the driving licence is required.

An example will be a Ford Transit Connect Van LBW, which has a vehicle MAM (previous GVW) of 2340kg and the combined MAM (previous GTW) is 3140kg*.  This vehicle can tow a chipper/shredder up to 800kg in weight and it is perfectly legal to drive this as a combination on a category B driving licence.

A Ford Transit van SWB has a vehicle MAM of 3500kg and a combined MAM of 6300kg*.  To drive this vehicle the driver MUST have B+E entitlement to hitch up a trailer over 750kg.  Even though the weight of the trailer may only be 800kg, because the MAM of the vehicle is 3500kg, the trailer would take the combined MAM to 4300kg (Vehicle MAM + trailer weight).

*Figures source: ford.co.uk/commercialvehicles

VIN platex (open)

To work out the Maximum Permissible Towing Weight (MPTW) for the vehicle deduct B from C.                 

B – C = MPTW (Trailer MAM)

The MAM of the trailer must not exceed the MPTW of the towing vehicle, failure to comply with this may lead to an offence being committed, an unsafe and unstable combination being driven on the highway as well leading to unnecessary wear and tear to the clutch and braking system as well as increasing fuel consumption.

Finally, if the licence was issued before 3rd January 1997 B+E entitlement will be in place as long as the driver has not been disqualified from driving since 1997.  If they have, then normally all acquired rights are withdrawn including B+E.  Therefore that driver will now need to successfully pass the B+E test if they wish to continue to tow a trailer if the combined MAM is over 3500kg

The most important consideration is to always ensure that staff are correctly trained to conduct their duties safely, which includes driving for work. Just because someone owns a driving licence or has B+E entitlement on their licence does not mean that they are correctly trained to conduct that duty.  Due diligence and duty of care relating to driving for work must be always be addressed.  This will be discussed later.

To follow: the legal requirements for C1 and C1+E, when a Tachgraph is required in a car, van or pick-up and the legal obligations relating to driving for work.

The Trailer Towing Training Centre conduct training in Surrey, Sussex, Essex, London, Kent and the whole south east of England soon to be expanding nationwide