Is your Lorry or Trailer Still Legal for Season Ahead?

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For many of us, our lorries and trailers have probably stood idle for a few weeks and, most likely, months since the last events and shows of 2017.  



That’s fine on the one hand as it’s kept diesel costs down but what deterioration may have occurred to the vehicle whilst being stood?  Did you end last year with a good clean out and check-up, was it stored under cover?

Have you bought a new horse or pony, are you now wanting to go to events on your own as you’ve passed your test?  These are great and liberating but do you know if you are overweight or driving on the correct licence?

We don’t want to bore you with going over old ground but here’s some refresher bullet points to make sure you are keeping within the law and able to enjoy your season’s events without fear of being pulled over!

  • Roadworthiness and Plating
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When is your lorry plated?  Do you get it done at the end of a season so you can take your time with any potential repairs or do you get it done at the beginning of the year so you know it has a clean bill of health?  As per VOSA’s recommendations, having your lorry properly checked and serviced by a qualified mechanic BEFORE the annual test will help to ensure it is in good enough condition to pass.  VOSA carries out a test every year on your vehicle (excluding 3.5t lorries and under) to make sure it meets minimum road safety and environmental standards.  Additionally, VOSA undertake regular roadside checks throughout the entire GB road network, where your vehicle could be the subject of a routine inspection.

The same applies if you are towing.  That vehicle needs its’ regular MOT and the trailer needs checking over – the floor is crucial in a trailer or any vehicle carrying horses; the towbar on a trailer, check for condition and security – is the breakaway cable properly attached.

  • Vehicle Weights

Weighbridge 150x100 - Is your Lorry or Trailer Still Legal for Season Ahead?Horsebox users should be vigilant to maximum vehicle weights as many could be unwittingly overloaded on a regular basis.  With a lorry, you should find the manufacturers or ministry plates fixed to the inside of the passenger door frame.  They will give you the following information :

  • Gross vehicle weight is the maximum weight of the vehicle on its own plus any load
  • Gross train weight is the maximum weight of the vehicle and any trailer that is attached plus any load
  • Axle 1 is the maximum weight for the first axle
  • Axle 2 is the maximum weight for the rear axle

These weights must not be exceeded on public roads.  The weights include the driver, passengers, gear and fuel.  Check your trailer for the maximum weight they can carry too together with maximum capacity for each axle.  Remember also that the bigger the trailer… the bigger the vehicle needed to tow it!

  • Have you got the correct Licence?

The good news is that the driver of a vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of up to 3.5t requires only a Category B licence (ordinary private car licence).

Vehicles between 3.5t and 7.5t can be driven by holders of C1 category licences.  Drivers covered by this category are permitted to tow trailers of up to a maximum gross weight of 0.75t.  With the exception of those drivers with Category C1 entitlement, all drivers of goods vehicles with a maximum gross weight of more than 3.5t require a Category C licence.  Drivers who passed their tests for a Category B licence AFTER 1st January 1997 stopped receiving automatic entitlement to drive Category C1 vehicles.

  • Do I need an Operators’ Licence?

In deciding whether or not you need an Operators Licence; first make sure your equestrian activity is confined to a hobby and if you are classed as ‘Amateur’ status.  It is likely then that your expenditure will vastly outweigh any potential winnings, which if you did win could be considered incidental and therefore, no Operators licence is required.  HOWEVER where the user and rider has turned professional, where their success has attracted corporate sponsorship or they are receiving any other form of corporate support, then this may be perceived as having a commercial element and so an Operators licence would be required.

  • Watch your speed

From 1st January 2008. All goods vehicles with a gross weight in excess of 3500kgs are required to have a speed limiter installed and working. 

References :

Excerpts taken from VOSA: A guide for Horsebox and Trailer Owners

For more in-depth guidance on driver licensing please refer to the website at

For more information on speed limiters go to

For more information on Operator licencing go to

Question and Answer

Equestrian Life put a series of questions to, a free resource designed to keep drivers and owners fully up to speed on vehicle law and legislation, including horsebox, trailer owners and drivers.

Q : I’m 18 and have just passed my test, do I need to take any other tests?

If you have just passed your test this will give you a B category licence which entitles the holder to drive vehicles up to 3.5t. There is no requirement for any other vehicles tests, however hopping from a small car to a large van/lorry type vehicle carrying a load requires familiarisation as the handling and braking characteristics are vastly different from that of a small car.

Q: I’ve got to 16.2hh horses, both weighing around 550-600kgs depending on the time of the year; with all my tack and accessories, am I going to be overweight for a 3.5t?

You must know the total laden weight (Unloaded weight) of your vehicle before going on the public highway. You should weigh the vehicle with a typical load which includes driver, passenger, full tank of fuel and any other tack you may carry. This is the unladen weight of the vehicle. Then add the weight of the horse and this will then give you total weight of the vehicle. Let’s say your vehicle weighs in at 2800kg with driver, passenger, fuel and tack it means you can carry up to 700kg. 2800kg + 700kg = 3500kg. In most towns and cities there are public weigh bridges or local companies which may allow you to weigh your vehicle for a small cost. You can generally find one from a search engine search. Remember if your vehicle is overweight you could be fined or if you have an accident your insurance could be invalid.

N.B. Most 3.5t boxes are advertised as 2 boxes, however with 2 fully grown horses, most 2 boxes would go overweight.

Q: Do all garages offer the same level of service and how can I ensure I find the best ones to check my lorry?

Not all garages offer the same level of service and a lot of garages do not understand the intricacies of Horse Boxes. Most counties have specialists which will cater for service and general repairs for Horse Boxes. 

Q : A friend and I share my lorry to events to keep the costs to a minimum – do I need an Operators’ licence?

The million-dollar question! Simply if you are gaining an income from the use of the horse box and this more than your hobby, yes you may require an Operator’s Licence, however if it purely a hobby no you won’t. Instead of your friend paying you any money ask them to pay for fuelling it up or any maintenance and this will avoid any money changing hands.

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