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Is it your goal to pass your trailer or HGV test? H&R’s handy guide has all you need to know

Having access to a horsebox or trailer can open up a wealth of new opportunities, from shows to new hacking routes. However, it can sometimes be a little confusing to know what you can and can’t legally drive, and how to go about getting the necessary qualifications.

Anybody who passed their car test after 1 January 1997 holds a category B licence and is required to do a test to drive vehicles not covered by this type of licence, including both horseboxes and trailers. 

Did you know? Maximum authorised mass (MAM) is the weight of a vehicle or trailer, including the maximum load it can safely carry. It’s also known as gross vehicle weight (GVW).

Did you know? When looking at the different licence categories, C means you’ve increased the vehicle MAM allowance of your licence, while E means you’ve increased the towing MAM allowance. 

CATEGORY B

A vehicle MAM that doesn’t exceed 3,500kg and a trailer MAM not exceeding 750kg (such as a small garden trailer). These limitations don’t apply if the combined weight of the vehicle and trailer doesn’t exceed 3,500kg and the actual weight of the trailer doesn’t exceed the weight of the towing vehicle. 

CATEGORY B+E

A vehicle not exceeding 3,500kg and a trailer exceeding 750kg (such as a horse trailer). If you passed your B+E test before 19 January 2013, there is no upper weight limit for MAM as long as it’s within your vehicle’s capabilities. You must hold a category B licence to take the test for this category.

CATEGORY C1

A vehicle with a MAM not exceeding 7,500kg and a trailer with a MAM no higher than 750kg. Drivers who passed their category B test prior to 1 January 1997 are able to drive C1+E vehicles without taking an additional test, but with a 107 restriction code on their licence, meaning they can tow a trailer exceeding 750kg, as long as the train weight (combined actual weight of the vehicle and trailer) is less than 8,250kg. You must hold a category B licence to take the test for this category.

CATEGORY C1+E

A vehicle with a MAM exceeding 3,500kg but not exceeding 7,500kg and a trailer exceeding 750kg. The train weight (combined weight of the vehicle and trailer) can’t exceed 12,000kg. You must already hold a category C1 licence to take the test for this category. 

CATEGORY C

A rigid-bodied vehicle with a MAM exceeding 7,500kg and a trailer with a MAM not exceeding 750kg. You need a category B licence to take the test for this category.

CATEGORY C+E 

A vehicle with a MAM exceeding 7,500kg and a trailer exceeding 750kg. You must already hold a category C licence to take this test. 

Did you know? Sometimes lower categories will be automatically added to your licence if you pass a higher category test. For instance, if you pass the C1+E test, you’ll be automatically upgraded to drive B+E category vehicles.

Towing a horse trailer 

To tow a horse trailer, you need category B+E, C+E or C1+E on your licence, which requires an additional test if you passed your driving test after 1 January 1997. 

What’s involved in the test?

The B+E test lasts around an hour and has two parts. The on-road section involves towing a trailer through urban areas and may include driving on the motorway. You will also be required to demonstrate several manoeuvres at the test centre, including reversing, a controlled stop, hitching and unhitching. The examiner will assess your eyesight, and ask you questions about using and maintaining a trailer and towing vehicle. 

You can practise the on-road part of the test with a laden or unladen trailer, as long as you display L plates on the front and rear of the towing vehicle and trailer, and you are accompanied by somebody who has held a trailer licence for at least three years. 

What it costs?

There’s a test fee of £115 for a weekday test or £141 for weekends, evenings or bank holidays. You’ll also have to factor in the cost of any additional training you’ll need to undertake in order to prepare for the test – expect to pay at least £200 for a one-day course. 

Did you know?

Drivers who passed their driving test prior to 1997 can sit alongside a learner B+E driver – this is known as having grandfather rights. However, it doesn’t apply to any other licence categories. Supervisors for these must have passed the relevant test in order to accompany a learner. 

Driving a horsebox

To gain a category C1 or above licence, you’ll need to take the driver certificate of professional competence (CPC) tests. If you will be driving your horsebox solely for personal use, then you need only take two of the four parts of the test. 

What’s involved in the test?

In addition to applying for your provisional licence and taking the tests, you first have to pass a medical examination – this includes a discussion with your doctor regarding your medical history and a physical examination. As long as you’re in reasonably good health, you shouldn’t need to worry about failing the medical, but it’s important that you’re open and honest with the doctor conducting the examination about any existing conditions. 

There are two separate tests that you’ll need to take in order to upgrade your licence to a category C1 or above for personal use. First is the theory test, which is similar to the theory test for a car licence and includes both multiple choice questions and a hazard perception test. Next, you’ll be required to demonstrate your driving abilities. The test takes around one-and-a-half hours and you’ll be asked to drive on urban roads, including 10 minutes of independent driving. You’ll also perform off-road exercises at the test centre, including reversing and an emergency stop, and answer some vehicle safety questions. If your test has a towing element, you’ll also be asked to demonstrate hitching and unhitching a trailer. 

What it costs?

The theory test costs £37, while the driving ability test costs £115 for a weekday slot or £141 for weekends, evenings or bank holidays. You can expect to pay around £200 for a one-day intensive C1 course, with the cost increasing for the higher categories.

Did you know?

To drive a horsebox for commercial purposes, you’ll need to complete the full CPC test, which includes answering questions relating to case studies and a practical demonstration of skills that you might need in a commercial situation, such as loading goods and assessing emergency situations. 

Top tip – to find out more about each of the tests and different licence categories, visit gov.uk. 

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