On average there are 4,809 towing incidents annually in the UK, which most commonly occur on motorways and major A-roads. To help motorists stay safe on the road, IAM RoadSmart and the National Trailer and Towing Association have issued the following checklist for drivers to work through before setting off.
Towing a vehicle
The trailer operator or the driver of the towing vehicle has the responsibility for the safe operation of the trailer and needs to carry out the following checks:
- Be sure to check that your driving licence entitles you to tow the combination of a vehicle and trailer.
- Have you checked the weight? Remember to ensure that the load you intend to carry is within the trailer’s official payload.
- Bear in mind that the actual gross weight being towed needs to be within the towing vehicle manufacturer’s recommended maximum towing limit (whether braked or unbraked).
Trailer checks before each journey
- If the trailer is laden, is the load correctly distributed and secure? To stop your trailer from being unstable, spread the load across the board and avoid having too much or too little nose weight. Even a heavy load will need to be strapped down, as gravity itself is not enough.
- Before you set off, check that your lights are working correctly and are damage-free. Whilst doing this, also check that the lighting cable and plug are in good condition.
- Be sure the correct number plate is fitted. This should be the same registration number as your vehicle and needs to conform to DVLA standards.
- Check that your breakaway cable or secondary coupling is undamaged and connected correctly to a suitable point on the tow bar or towing vehicle. As well as inspecting for damage, make sure that the trailer is correctly coupled to the towball or pin.
- The tyre pressure must be correct and all tyres free from cuts, bulges and with adequate tread (including the spare). Remember, tyres must have a continuous tread depth of at least 1.6mm on cars, light vans and trailers, across the centre three-quarters of the width.
- It’s crucial that the wheel nuts and bolts are tightened to the correct torque for safety and for a smooth journey.
- If required, are the mudguards secure and in satisfactory condition?
- Take into consideration the size of your vehicle and the trailer. Is the coupling height correct? Check that your trailer is not excessively nose down or nose up. If your vehicle and trailer don’t align, get an adjustment plate to accommodate this issue.
- Be aware of the national speed limit for a vehicle towing a trailer. The maximum speed limit on a single carriageway road is 50mph, and 60mph on a dual carriageway or motorway.