The following is a summary of the UK laws applicable to those who wish to tow a motorcycle trailer. However, before proceeding be aware that different rules apply depending on when you passed your driving licence, please visit the gov.uk website (link at the foot of this page) for details.
Bike Trailer Weight
For light bike trailers (less than 3500kg maximum laden weight), there are no specific laws between the weight of the towing vehicle and the weight of the trailer.
For M1 category vehicles (motor vehicles used for the carriage of passengers and comprising not more than eight seats, in addition to the driver’s seat) the maximum heavy haul weight is quoted by the manufacturer. Alternatively, the manufacturer may provide a maximum gross weight (the laden weight of the trailer plus the laden weight of the towing vehicle).
The maximum laden weight of a trailer which may be towed by a light goods vehicle depends on both the stated gross train weight of the towing vehicle (GTW) and the manufacturers recommended maximum trailer weight. Neither the maximum permissible trailer weight nor the maximum gross train weight (the laden weight of the trailer plus the laden weight of the towing vehicle) should be exceeded. It is possible that the stated gross train weight is less than the sum of the stated maximum permissible laden weight of the towing vehicle and the stated maximum permissible laden trailer weight. In this case the towing vehicle and the trailer must be loaded such that each does not exceed its individual maximum limit and the sum of both does not exceed the maximum gross train weight.
It is not a legal requirement to display a notice of the unladen weight of the trailer or the towing vehicle, unless the towing vehicle is either a tractor or a train!
If the towing vehicle has a permissible gross weight in excess of 3 1/2 tonnes the maximum width and length of the trailer are 2.55 metres and 12 metres respectively. If however the gross weight of the towing vehicle is 3.5 tonnes or less then the maximum permissible width and length are 2.3 metres and 7 metres respectively. In both cases the overall length of the towing vehicle and trailer must not exceed either 18m or 18.75m depending on the towing vehicle.
Brake requirements essentially require a trailer with a maximum design laden weight of more 750 kg to be braked and allow an inertia (overrun) type braking system to be used up to a maximum permissible laden weight of 3500kg. In use it is not permitted to use an unbraked trailer the laden weight of which exceeds 50% of the kerbside weight of the towing vehicle. For trailers up to 1500kg laden weight it is permitted to use a secondary coupling, which in the event of separation of the main coupling will retain the trailer attached to the towing vehicle, prevent the nose of the trailer from touching the ground and provide some residual steering of the trailer. Above 1500kg laden weight the trailer must be fitted with a device to stop the trailer automatically in the event of separation of the main coupling and this is normally achieved by a breakaway cable attached to the parking brake mechanism – the trailer becomes detached from the towing vehicle.
The above information relates to basic construction requirements and some aspects of the use of trailers. In addition it is recommended that you check that you have the appropriate Driving Licence entitlement and whether the vehicle or combination of vehicles requires a tachograph to record driver’s hours. The latter will apply to most vehicles and combinations of vehicles above 3500kg gross weight for commercial use.
Warning – make sure your insurance policy covers towing a vehicle!
Note: The information on this page was correct at the time of print and may not be the most up to date with changes in legislation, we take no responsibility for anyone who relies on this information, please check gov.co.uk for the latest legislation.
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