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Check your driver’s licence, does it say EB or B? Regulations require drivers to be in possession of a code EB to tow trailers, boats or caravans more than 750 kg. Many South African drivers are unaware that they might be towing illegally, which could have devastating consequences for their insurance.

As the end-of-year festive season draws nearer, many South Africans (including many Land Rover owners) will take to our roads resulting in increased traffic – many of them will be towing trailers, boats and caravans.

But many users might not be aware that their current driving license may not be legal to tow these trailers. It’s assumed in South Africa that by passing their driver’s test, drivers are automatically qualified to tow and while this was once the case, it has not been for a long time.

In 2000, South Africa switched to the current credit card type driving licenses. When this occurred, code 08 licenses were automatically converted to EB code licenses. Since then, new standard driving licenses issues are code B. What this means is that a code B license allows a road user to tow a light luggage trailer weighing less than 750 kg (fully laden).

_dsc0041According to the Automobile Association, to two a heavier trailer, caravan or boat, a code EB license is required.

The change has led to some confusion with many people still assuming that a driving license automatically allows them to tow any sort of trailer. But this is no longer the case, and code B drivers who are towing trailers heavier than 750 kg are doing so illegally.

Subsequently, South African drivers who have not kept up to date with the regulations for towing trailers or caravans, run the risk of having their insurance claims denied in the event of an accident.

George Davis, divisional head of engineering and construction at Risk Benefit Solutions (RBS), states that a surprising number of motorists are currently unaware that they may be towing illegally.

“If you’re involved in a big accident, you may find yourself in a position where you’re not adequately insured. The consequential damage is that you still might have a vehicle under a higher purchase agreement and you then have to rectify the damages to your vehicle or continue paying those instalments for the duration of the loan agreement,” says Davis.

He adds that the legislation is constantly amended without promulgation. “It means that drivers could be acting legally one day and illegally the next – without being made aware of the fact. The onus is on the individual to keep up to date with traffic ordinance.”

He says that it doesn’t extend to your damages only. “When the accident involves a third party vehicle or person, you then have the added responsibility to rectify the third party’s vehicle – if you were at fault. It’s a chain of events that can really hurt your bank balance and put you in a difficult situation with authorities,” he says.

Davis says that RBS receives several claims recently where the licensing requirements were not fully understood by the license holders. He is of the opinion that the responsibility not only rests with the general public to be aware of what their license can tow or carry, but it’s also the responsibility of those who underwrite the risk to make clients aware of this. “I think authorities also play a part in making people aware of the licensing requirements.”

Additionally, Davis says that the Tare (license weight) of the vehicle, needs to be double that of the trailer (for trailers up to 750 kg). In other words, for a 750 kg trailer, the drawing vehicle must have a Tare of 1 500 kg.

According to Davis, the regulations are somewhat different for drivers in possession of Code EB licenses. “An EB classified driver’s licence allows the driver to tow up to 3 500 kg. If the trailer exceeds 750kg and has its own braking system, the weight of the vehicle must be equal to, or more than the weight of the trailer.”

“Your motor vehicle insurance policy requires you to have a valid driver’s license and that you act within the law. Every insurance policy will also expect you to disclose every material fact that would increase the risk which they have accepted to cover. Consequently, if you have an accident at the time you are not adhering to the regulations (towing illegally for instance), your insurer may have cause to repudiate your claim,” Davis warns. 

iforwilliamshorsetrailerDavis states drivers also need to take note that when they buy a standard caravan or trailer and opt to add extras, the Tare mass needs to be recalculated. “When all the optional extras are taken into account, there may be a risk of overloading the car’s suspension after the trailer has been loaded. Again this may affect your claim after a possible accident,” says Davis.

“This law extends to anyone who received their licenses after the new codes were introduced. Drivers with a Code B license will unfortunately need to complete their learner’s test again and do the driving test for the EB license. Older drivers have a slight advantage however, needing only to apply for an exemption in order to obtain theirs. With that said, older drivers still need to have obtained the exemption or risk having their claims repudiated,” concludes Davis.

“The aggregate of the vehicle mass as well as the trailer or caravan mass plus the content thereof could put you at risk if you’re not properly licensed. It’s Important to understand the load that you’re allowed to carry in terms of the trailer and vehicle’s loading capacity. Make a decision from there if you should be going on holiday with that excess load that could put you in a risky situation,” he concludes.

TOWING LEGALLY

To shine some light on South Africa’s towing regulations, be aware of the following:

Codes for towing:

As a motorist you must make sure you are able to pull a trailer with your license and more specifically, what size trailer:

Code B – tow trailer with maximum GVM of 750 kg

Code C1 – tow trailer with maximum GVM of 750 kg

Code C – tow trailer with maximum GVM of 750 kg

Code EB – tow trailer that can exceed GVM of 750 kg

Code EC1 – tow trailer that can exceed GVM of 750 kg

Code EC – tow a trailer that can exceed GVM of 750 kg

What is Tare?

Tare is the actual weight of the vehicle as displayed on your license disc. It includes spare wheels and anything that’s a permanent part of the structure of the vehicle or anything attached. It doesn’t include your fuel or temporary attachments.

What is GVM?

It stands for Gross Vehicle Mass – the maximum mass of the motor vehicle and its load as specified by the manufacturer.

How much you can tow, legally?

Regulation 151 of the National Road Traffic Act breaks it down as follow: To tow a trailer of 750 kg, the Tare of the towing vehicle must be double the gross vehicle mass of the trailer. If the trailer’s GVM does not exceed half the Tare, the trailer must be equipped with a parking brake.

What if you want to upgrade your licence?

According to the AA, the law does not make provision for a simple upgrade from the code B to the code EB licence. Road users who want to obtain a code EB licence must retake the learner’s licence test and repeat their driver tests with a trailer weighing more than 750 kg.