School terms across South Africa end on 24 June and this will undoubtedly lead to a massive increase in traffic on the country’s roads. Many families will be using this break to get away for a holiday, taking their trailers, boats or caravans with them. But, unbeknownst to many of them, is the fact that their current driving licences may not be legal to tow these trailers.
It is assumed by many drivers in South Africa that by passing their driver’s test, they are automatically qualified to tow, and while this was once the case, it has not been for a long time. In 2000 the government changed to the credit card type driving licences. When this happened, all code 08 licences were automatically converted to EB code licences. Since then, all new standard driving licences issued are only code B licences. What this means is that a Code B licence allows a motorist to tow a light luggage trailer weighing less than 750 kilograms (fully laden). To tow a heavier trailer, caravan or boat, a code EB licence is required.
“This change has led to some confusion with many people still assuming that a driving licence automatically allows them to tow any sort of trailer. But this is no longer the case, and code B drivers who are towing trailers heavier than 750kgs are doing so illegally” the AA warned.
To better understand the source of this confusion, the AA contacted 20 testing stations around South Africa to ask them if motorists are allowed to tow caravans with their code B licences. We also wanted to establish what happens when asked about allowing code B licences to be upgraded to code EB, or where code EB licences are being specifically requested by new applicants.
Of the 20 stations contacted, despite repeated attempts, 17 did not answer their telephones. Of the remaining three, the Bloemfontein Testing Station indicated (incorrectly) that motorists are allowed to tow their caravans with code B licences. The Tzaneen Testing Station and the Ladysmith Testing Station provided the most accurate information.
The law does not make provision for a simple upgrade from the code B to the code EB licence. Motorists who want a code EB licence must retake the learner’s licence test and repeat their driver tests, with a trailer weighing more than 750kgs. While all testing stations should be able to accommodate these tests, with such limited response, it is unclear how many actually do. Both the Tzaneen and Ladysmith Testing Stations did confirm that they have the facilities to conduct code EB tests.
“Of concern is that many people simply don’t realise that they are towing illegally. Besides the legal implications, motorists will falsely believe they are covered by their insurance in the event of a crash while the reality is that these claims may be declined. This could lead to major negative financial implications, especially if other vehicles are involved. We urge everyone to check their licences before setting off this holiday to make sure they are legally allowed to tow and, if they aren’t, to make arrangements to ensure they comply with the regulations,” said the AA.
Apart from this, the AA also noted that while the licence issue is very important, it is equally important for motorists to ensure their vehicles, including their trailer or caravan are roadworthy and indeed legally certified for towing. If you are not 100% sure about the roadworthiness of your vehicle or its ability to tow, either have it checked by the franchise dealer or an AA Quality Assured Centre.
From the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA).