If you passed your UK driving test after January 1st 1997 you have a category B licence with an important limitation. While it is possible to tow a trailer or tow a caravan with a category B licence the combined MAM (Maximum Authorized Mass) of the tow car and caravan must be under 3,500kg. There are several combinations of tow cars and caravans which can come under this limit. However, if you wish to drive for instance a 4WD and a twin axle caravan its highly likely they would be over the MAM of 3,500kg. Therefore, to legally tow such an outfit you would need to pass another test, commonly referred to as the B+E test. With this post, I wanted to summarise information on what’s involved in the B+E test and what you will need to be able to do to pass the test.
I myself passed my driving test after January 1st 1997. Taking (and hopefully passing) my B+E is something I do intend to do at some point. Below I’ve included some videos of how to pass the B+E test and the various towing manoeuvres you will need to demonstrate competency of. Even if you only ever intend to tow small caravans or a teardrop caravan you may still want to consider visiting your local towing driving school. Reversing a caravan is something that I know many of our guests who are caravanning beginners fear. While on-site a motormover can remove the need to reverse a caravan, on the open road that’s potentially not the case. Therefore, visiting a towing driving school to learn how to properly reverse a caravan is valuable. Even if you do not need to actually take a B+E test to tow your caravan.
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Introduction to the B+E Towing Test and Training
For all of the official information on what weight of caravan you can tow with your licence please refer to the .Gov website. It is worth noting the B+E is not just applicable to cars towing trailers/caravans. If you passed your test after 1997 you can drive a motorhome, however, as referenced above the MAM must be under 3,500kg. If you ever wanted to tow with your motorhome (small trailer/car) its highly likely the total MAM would be over the 3,500kg.
Through the government website, you will also be able to book a B+E test. However, taking the towing test without any prior training/guidance you are unlikely to pass. Therefore, you should conduct a Google Search for ‘towing schools’ or ‘B+E towing test’ and local towing instructors will appear on Google Maps. The first video on the B+E test I wanted to share is from Caravan Guard and a quick rundown on what you will be required to do to pass the towing test.
As you will notice at the end of the video, Caravan Guard is offering discounts on caravan insurance for those who have passed the test. Therefore, that is another incentive to take the test even if your current outfit is under the MAM limit of 3,500kg. In terms of what’s involved with passing the B+E test below are the different elements of the test:
- Reversing manoeuvre
- Uncoupling and recoupling manoeuvre
- Checking the trailer/car are fit for the road
- A series of ‘show me/tell me’ questions
- On the road driving test (around 1 hour)
B+E Uncoupling and Coupling Manoeuvre
If you are not new to caravanning or towing a trailer the uncoupling and coupling up manoeuvre as part of the test should not be too challenging. You may have hitched up a caravan many times before. However, as with any test, its all about the detail and the order in which you perform certain actions. For instance, as I’ve discussed in my posts on caravan breakaway cables, standards have changed in terms of how you should secure the cable. I’ve included a video below from NDS who are a driving school based in Nottinghamshire.
If you take your time and think logically about the uncoupling process you’ll be fine. For instance, before you touch the hitch or the jockey wheel you want to lift and handbrake. After removing the electrical cable and using the jockey to lift the hitch off the towbar the last part of the procedure is to detach the breakaway cable. However, in the comments for the video above some other driving schools have mentioned there is another step which must be followed. Before the breakaway cable is removed you must push against the trailer to test the handbrake is properly engaged. Only after the trailer doesnt move once you have pushed against it should you remove the breakaway cable.
B+E Reversing Manoeuvre
I’m willing to bet that a majority of those who have got to take a B+E test are most concerned about the reversing manoeuvre. We have guests here at Horton Common who have stated to me that due to their motormover they have never actually reversed their caravan. Below is another video from NDS on what the reversing manoeuver involves and what will lead to a pass or fail.
So a key point of the reversing test is you cannot let any part of the outfit extend past the outer markers on the right/left of the course. To complete the test the car and trailer have to be between the cones with the rear of the trailer in the hatched area. If at any point during the test you touch a cone it will result in a failer. You have two attempts (shunts) to correct the reversing manoeuvre. I do not believe there is a time limit set on this part of the test. Therefore I think taking your time to really understand where the car/trailer are going is important. What I’m still curious about my self is the use of reversing cameras. In the video above from NDS their tow vehicle is equipped with a reversing camera. I’m not sure if the test conditions state whether they can or cannot be used. So that’s something you may want to ask your local test centre.
Conclusions on How to Pass The B+E Towing Test
While the uncoupling/recoupling and reversing manoeuvre as shown in the videos above are important parts of the B+E test its important to remember that’s only a small part of your time with the examiner. The majority of the B+E test is going to be on the open road. They are going to want to see that you are not only fully aware of the highway code but you can drive accordingly with a trailer/caravan in tow. In other words, frequently checking your side mirrors. Furthermore, when you are approaching turns and junctions you are braking sooner to account for the additional weight of the trailer. You also need to remember with a trailer/caravan in tow your turning radius is increased. You will need to compensate for this or you may clip a kerb etc which would lead to a fail.
I hope the above videos etc provided some insight into what the B+E towing test requires. Once I have taken my own B+E test in the future I’ll update this post with my own experiences of the test. I also hope in the near future you consider coming to visit us here at Horton Common caravan site to experience our amazing views and fully serviced pitches. 🙂