Judging from the feed back I have received about the opening remarks in the last issue, which concerned what those with category C1E driving licences could legally drive, they really did touch a raw nerve. They were about those who passed their driving test in a car and not about those of you who have passed an HGV test or acquired such a licence under 'grandfather's rights' who may have category CE as they are unaffected. What follows is about those with a photo card licence that has the entitlement to drive categories C1 or C1E on the reverse, but do note that any codes in column 12 by the C1E entitlement that limit trailer weights or other restrictions. There are a few of you who still hold the old paper licence and have not yet had to replace it so may also be affected.
Category C1 entitles you to drive vehicles between 3,500 and 7,500kgs with no more than eight passengers (plus yourself, of course) and a trailer up to 750kgs. If your licence has C1E it is as C1 with the addition of permitting a trailer over 750kgs if the combined vehicle and trailer weight does not exceed 8,500kgs, but It is important to understand that the restriction codes 79 or 107 will still limit the combined weight of the vehicle to 8250 kgs, unless, as is my understanding, you passed your test prior to January 1997. If you did so the effect of this, depending on the restriction on your licence will be to allow a trailer heavier than 750kgs to be towed but the plated weight of the towing vehicle must be reduced by a similar amount so that the maximum 8250kgs is not exceeded.
The DVLA also state that the weight of the towing vehicle is the Gross weight as shown on the ministry plate, regardless of the actual weight of the vehicle and load when inspected, so for most of us that will be 7500kgs whether laden or not. The same logic is applied to the weight of the trailer, so most caravans will exceed the 750kgs allowance.
Last time I said that I had written to Ian Edmunds of the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs for assistance as to the definitive answer to our entitlements. He has always been very helpful and I have received a very clear if not entirely welcome response, the relevant section of is reproduced below:
"The Drivers Policy section of DVLA advise that it is the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) i.e. the total weight of the vehicle plus the maximum load it can carry, that is relevant when determining the correct driving entitlement of a vehicle and not its actual weight on the day.
So in that respect the DVLA inspector was correct, however we believe he was incorrect with regard to the trailer weight. Your friend was entitled to tow a trailer that exceeded 750kg provided the total MAM of the combination did not exceed 8.25 tons.
It has also been pointed out to me that road traffic offences are almost all strict liability offences, that means that it is quite irrelevant whether or not you intended to commit the offence, if you did it quite unintentionally you are just as guilty as someone who deliberately committed it."
If this affects you there appears to be two possible ways to go depending on the weight of the unladen lorry, the caravan and that of the load to be carried. Either take a 'trailer' test that then allows you to achieve a category C1+E licence giving the entitlement to drive a vehicle over 3500kgs but not exceeding 7,500kgs and a trailer over 750kgs up to a maximum combined weight of 12,000kgs. Or if your lorry's load is sufficiently light consider down rating the gross weight of the lorry so that its gross weight when added to that of the caravan is under the 8,250kgs that you are entitled to drive.
This is my understanding of the position and I hope it makes matters clearer but I fear that towing trailers with cars and duel purpose vehicles will continue to be an on going problem. So do make sure you neither exceed the manufacturer's recommended towing weight for your vehicle nor the maximum combined weight of the combination you are entitled to tow.