MLAs lobby on trailer test rules
MLAs William Irwin and Jim Allister have both contacted the Infrastructure Minister Nicola Mallon on changing the rules around towing a caravan or trailer with a car.
In England, Scotland & Wales the law will change this Autumn, removing the need for drivers to take a driving test for towing a trailer or caravan. Mr Irwin argued in the Assembly this week that Northern Ireland should follow suit.
He said: “This is an important issue and one where I believe the changes coming to main land GB should be replicated here in Northern Ireland to provide a much simplified, uniform approach to driving regulations. Minister Mallon at this stage has ruled out an immediate change and I would urge her to reconsider this issue and I have indicated this to her both in a number of written questions and also in the Assembly this week in Topical Questions during Question Time in the chamber.”
He added: “If such fundamental change is being introduced to England, Scotland and Wales, there really is no good reason why we in Northern Ireland should not have these same changes implemented. It would of course remove another layer of costly bureaucracy for motorists and of course with the constituency of Newry & Armagh being so rural, the benefit to our agriculture community would be important given the importance and reliance of jeeps and trailers around the farm and for transportation on a daily basis.
“I will continue to make representations on this issue and I have also raised the issue of a divergence in the law with the Minister when for instance a family on holiday from mainland GB take their car and caravan to Northern Ireland, having not had to take a test due to the rule change, will they be within the law in Northern Ireland if our rules remain unchanged? The Minister was unable to answer this question adequately in the Chamber on Monday and I have also raised this concern in writing to her. I await her response and I trust that she will move to apply a uniform approach to the trailer towing rules and have continuity with the rest of the UK.”
Meanwhile, TUV leader Jim Allister asked Minister Mallon for an update on the steps are being taken to catch up with the practice in GB for no need for a separate test for those towing trailers.
In her written reply she said: “I became aware, following the announcement, that GB is introducing changes to Class B+E trailer tests to try to help the sector tackle the lorry driver shortage. The implication of these changes for road safety will need further consideration, and so there are currently no plans to replicate these changes here.
“The specific changes announced to Class B+E trailer tests will mean that GB licence holders, who passed their driving test from the 1 January 1997, will no longer have to pass a test to gain the B+E entitlement. The B+E category will automatically be added to their driving record. The date the law in GB will change has not yet been confirmed but it is expected to come into force later in autumn 2021. GB and NI driving licences, and licence categories, are mutually recognised. The Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1981 permits a GB licence holder to drive in NI, any vehicle as authorised by the GB licence – Article 19E specifically refers.
“My officials are liaising with DfT officials to understand the position further, which will inform whether automatic B+E holders will be permitted to drive a car with a trailer on NI roads. The Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA) has already taken a range of measures to maximise the availability of Large Goods Vehicle (LGV) driving test slots. In addition to normal weekday slots they also now offer LGV driving tests on a Saturday and on Sundays where it is suitable to do so without compromising the integrity of the test. However, uptake from the industry, particularly on Sundays, has been less than expected, given the demand for these types of tests.”