South African drivers who have not kept up to date with the regulations for towing trailers or caravans, run the risk of having their insurance claims denied in the event of an accident. This according to George Davis, Head: Engineering and Construction at RBS, who states that a surprising number of motorists are currently unaware that they may be towing illegally.
Davis points out that legislation is constantly amended without promulgation. “It means that drivers could be acting legally one day and illegally the next - without being made aware of the fact. The onus is on the individual to keep up to date with traffic ordinance.”
“To start, drivers need to be aware that an ordinary driver’s license (Code B) only allows them to tow trailers lighter than 750 kg. For anything larger, such as a caravan, one requires a Code EB license. This legislation has been around for some years already, but we still find that a vast many drivers are unaware of this requirement,” Davis says.
Additionally, Davis says that the Tare (license weight) of the vehicle, needs to be double that of the trailer (for trailers up to 750 kg). "In other words, for a 750 kg trailer, the drawing vehicle must have a Tare of 1 500 kg. To put that into perspective: a BMW 325 Touring has a Tare of 1 425 kg, which means that it would be illegal if it tows a 750 kg trailer.”
According to Davis, the regulations are somewhat different for drivers in possession of Code EB licenses. “An EB classified driver’s licence allows the driver to tow up to 3 500 kg. If the trailer exceeds 750 kg and has its own braking system, the weight of the vehicle must be equal to, or more than the weight of the trailer. Your motor vehicle insurance policy requires you to have a valid driver’s license and that you act within the law. Every insurance policy will also expect you to disclose every material fact that would increase the risk which they have accepted to cover.
"Consequently, if you have an accident at the time you are not adhering to the regulations (towing illegally for instance), your insurer may have cause to repudiate your claim,” Davis warns.
Davis states drivers also need to take note that when they buy a standard caravan or trailer and opt to add extras, the Tare mass needs to be recalculated.
“When all the optional extras are taken into account, there may be a risk of overloading the car’s suspension after the trailer has been loaded. Again this may affect your claim after a possible accident,” says Davis.
“This law extends to anyone who received their licenses after the new codes were introduced. Drivers with a Code B license will unfortunately need to complete their learner’s test again and do the driving test for the EB license. Older drivers have a slight advantage however, needing only to apply for an exemption in order to obtain theirs. With that said, older drivers still need to have obtained the exemption or risk having their claims repudiated,” concludes Davis.