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Equine Law Blog May 2015: Towing Horse Trailers – The Myths

PLEASE NOTE: Information in this article is correct at the time of publication, please contact DFA Law for current advice on older articles.

If you are an avid follower of online equine forums you may well have heard about the 85% towing rule which states that the weight of the trailer and its cargo should not exceed 85% of the kerb weight of the towing vehicle. The 85% rule seems to have caused widespread confusion and alarm amongst the equine community because if the rule applies to horse trailers it would appear that most towing vehicles are apparently not suitable for towing.

Having recently upgraded to a new larger trailer with living I had to upgrade my towing vehicle and, applying the 85% rule, I was alarmed to find that there was not a non- commercial vehicle on the market which allowed me to legally tow my new trailer and stay within the 85% rule! I started to smell a rat. It made no sense whatsoever for the UK’s leading manufacturer to invest years in developing a trailer only to find there was no towing vehicle capable of towing it!

After carrying out a bit of research and applying some old fashioned common sense the origins and application of the 85% rule became clear.

The 85% ‘rule’ is not a rule at all. It was simply a recommendation by the Caravan Club to its inexperienced members towing with an ordinary 1600cc to 1800cc saloon car. The recommendation was made to ensure complete stability when towing caravans on steep gradients and difficult conditions. This makes complete sense. Caravans are much lighter than horse trailers and generally have only one axle compared to horse trailers which have at least two. Caravans, by their very nature are much less stable than horse trailers.

Does the 85% rule apply to horse trailers?

The BHS towing guidelines make no reference to the 85% ‘rule’ and the Government’s own website simply states that to tow legally you must not exceed the owing weight limits recommended by the manufacture of the towing vehicle. Provided that you do not exceed the recommended train weight of the vehicle (that is the weight of the fully loaded car plus weight of a fully loaded trailer) then you will be towing legally.

Will my insurance pay out in the event of an accident?

If you are towing within the legal limits, driving with due care and attention, your towing vehicle and trailer is properly loaded and well maintained it’s unlikely that in the event of an accident your insurance company could refuse your claim even if you were towing at 100% of your vehicle’s towing capacity.

If you have any query regarding towing legally please contact Clare Towers.




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