Can you legally tow? It’s not as simple as you think

School holidays across South African ended today and this has undoubtedly lead to a massive increase in traffic on the country’s roads. Many families used this break to go on holiday, taking their trailers, boats or caravans with them. But, unbeknown to many of them, is the fact that their current driving licences may not be legal to tow these trailers.

In 2000 the government changed to the credit card type driving licences. All code 08 licences issued before this date were automatically converted to EB code licences. Since then, all new licences issued are only code B licences. A Code B licence allows a motorist to tow a light luggage trailer weighing less than 750 kilograms (fully laden). To tow a heavier trailer, caravan or boat, a code EB licence is required.

There is some confusion regarding this because many people assume that a driving licence automatically allows a motorist to tow any sort of trailer. But this is not the case, and B code drivers who are towing trailers heavier than 750 kgs face two problems: they may be fined for breaching the law, and if they are involved in a crash, their claims may be repudiated by their insurers because they are not legally allowed to tow heavier items.

We urge everyone to check their licences and make sure they are legally allowed to tow and, if they aren’t, to make arrangements to ensure they comply with the regulations.

The AA contacted 20 testing stations in South Africa and asked if motorists are allowed to tow caravans with their code B licences. In addition we wanted to establish to what extent they are allowing code B licences to be upgraded to code EB, or where code EB licences are specifically requested by new applicants, whether they are available.

Of the 20 stations contacted, 17 did not answer their telephones, despite repeated attempts. Of the remaining three, the Bloemfontein Testing Station indicated (incorrectly) that motorists are allowed to tow their caravans with code B licences. The Tzaneen Testing Station and the Ladysmith Testing Station provided the most accurate information, referencing the fact that only code EB licences can be used to tow vehicles.

The law does not make provision for a simple upgrade from the B code to the EB code licence. Motorists who want an EB code licence must retake the Learner’s Licence test and repeat their driver tests, with a trailer weighing more than 750 kgs. It is unclear how many testing stations make provision for this. The Tzaneen Testing Station says it does conduct their tests while Ladysmith Testing Station says it has the facilities to conduct these tests.

Of concern is that many people don’t realise they are towing illegally. Besides the legal implications, motorists will falsely believe there are covered in the event of a crash while the reality is that these claims may be declined. It could lead to major negative financial implications for these drivers, especially if other vehicles are involved.

Apart from this, we also note that while the licence issue is important, it is equally important for motorists to ensure their vehicles are capable of towing, as there is a growing number of cars that are legally defined as non-towing vehicles in South Africa.

Source : AA South Africa