No change to trailer test in NI

It has been recently announced by the Driver and Vehicles Standards Agency (DVSA) that the need to complete a test to tow trailers up to 3,500kgs Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) using a car in England, Scotland and Wales will be removed.

The law is expected to change later this Autumn and will see the B+ E category being automatically added to drivers’ records, and licenses updated when they are renewed.

The changes in Great Britain (GB) were discussed at the recent Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) legislation committee and the committee are keen to lobby government to apply the same changes here in Northern Ireland (NI). However, Department of Infrastructure Minister Nicola Mallon, has already outlined that she does not intend to make any changes to current trailer test requirements in NI.

One of the reasons behind the government’s decision to remove the trailer tests in GB, is to support the haulage industry. It is well known that the haulage industry has been facing significant pressure due to a shortage of labour, with increasing pressure now in the run up to the busy Christmas period. Through scraping trailer tests, an additional 50,000 HGV lorry tests will be made available in GB each year to support the industry and wider society.

Like the rest of the UK, drivers in NI are facing long waiting lists for car and HGV tests. The removal of trailer tests would free up examiners to complete more HGV and car tests and help relieve the backlog caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whilst the test will be removed in England, Scotland and Wales, government have advised that those who intend to tow a trailer or caravan should complete training. The UFU are supportive of this advice and agree that it should apply in NI should trailer tests be revoked.

As Minister Mallon does not intend to bring about the same changes here in NI, frustration and confusion remains that a GB license holder will be able tow a trailer up to 3,500kgs MAM in NI, whilst NI license holders will not be allowed to do this in England, Scotland and Wales. This causes issues for a range of reasons, however, it does not seem fair that NI drivers should have to complete a trailer test whilst GB drivers do not and can tow a trailer up to 3,500kg MAM in NI.

The UFU have written to Minister Mallon to request that trailer tests be scrapped in line with the rest of the GB. In the meantime, it is important to remember that the changes do not apply in NI and anyone who wishes to tow a trailer that weighs more than 750kg MAM with a car, must have completed a trailer test and have a B+E category on their license. T

owing a trailer greater than 750kg MAM risks up to £1000 fine, a driving ban and up to six penalty points on your driving licence.