AS changes to trailer towing rules have been relaxed, NFU Scotland is still urging members to undertake voluntary towing training.

The union welcomed the announcement that, from autumn, 2021, there will be an automatic ability for those with a full car driving licence to tow a trailer with a car without an additional test as part of Government efforts to free up the reported backlog in driving tests.

The exact date that the law will be changed has yet to be confirmed and it will only apply where the trailer is up to a Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) of 3500kg.

So, until such time as the exact date change is known, members are advised that those who passed their driving test after 1997 must not tow unless they have undertaken the test. Doing so risks a fine of £1000, driving ban, or six penalty points.

In the interests of road safety, as well as to help comply with Health and Safety legislation, members are being encouraged to ensure that all staff who may have cause to tow a trailer with a car undertake additional training. Combined with regular maintenance of trailers, this should ensure that the risk of accidents when towing is minimised.

The changes are the result of a recent government consultation and will enable more lorry tests to be offered instead, helping to combat the shortage of lorry drivers in the UK.

Currently, only drivers who passed their car tests before January, 1997, can tow a trailer weighing over 750kg. Anyone who passed their test after this date has had to pass a trailer test to add the category B and E to their licence.

In a statement, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) confirmed that it will update driving licence records with the new allowances automatically and category BE will be added to driving licences when a new photocard driving licence is ordered.

Tests booked for September 20, 2021, onwards will be automatically cancelled and refunded. Those who have already taken a trailer test will not receive a refund and there is no compensation for any training that has already been paid for.

The DVLA statement added that drivers must continue to follow the current rules about what you are allowed to tow based on the date you passed the car driving test.

When responding to the Government's consultation on the proposed change to trailer towing, NFUS’s Legal and Technical committee welcomed the costs savings for businesses, but also highlighted significant concerns regarding road safety and the need for training.

Its chair, Tom French, said: “The fact that the UK Government is looking at ways to address test backlogs is welcomed. However, there are significant concerns over road safety on rural roads with potential for more inexperienced drivers towing trailers.

“For this reason, we are urging members to ensure that anybody towing has had adequate training. Voluntary training will remain available through the usual training providers and undertaking this will ensure that businesses reduce the risk of accidents and do not fall foul of health and safety legislation,” concluded Mr French.