Latest News: Forums General Towing a trailer without the boat, in UK and France

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    We’re just planning for the forthcoming Dover Calais event and I’ve been searching for info about towing regs for a combi-trailer without boat in the UK and France. With the boat I can work it out, I’ll just check any specific requirements for “standard” towing. I’ve towed caravans and other trailers in France before. All sources I have found draw no distinction between the two modes of towing and therefore it appears that the full lighting etc. requirements apply to the combi on it’s own. As the combi does not obscure the car number plates and lights (with the mast support removed) I have trailed it short distances in the UK, in daylight, with a marker like a red rag to warn of the low slung obstacle trailing behind me. One document I have read (not the official regs) mentions a red light (which could be a cycle lamp I guess) as a nighttime requirement but this could be balony and I don’t want to be nabbed by the gendarmes.

    Can anyone point me in the right direction please?


    How difficult is it to tie your lighting board to the trailer instead of to the stern? That is what I do.
    I have found using bungee cords, the short ones with hooks or balls at the end, to be the easiest solution as they don’t slacken after a few miles of bumpy roads.

    Colin Parkstone

    Its something thats always bugged me about trailer makers, no way to put a lighting board on a combi without string and bungee.
    I would not trail in France without the lighting board, to many horror stories about the cops and what they decide is right and wrong with regards to a fine!!!
    I also chance it in this country on short trips home but its going to catch me out one day.
    How about a double trailer, Im sure there is one in the class somewhere.
    Have a good trip!


    Thanks for the replies. Any more on french regulation appreciated. No problem doing the trailer DIY, though my boat lighting board has a downward projection for pintles that will make it difficult to adapt. I have another small lightboard and will fit a timber adapter board. I intend this to fit either the combi or road base alone. My real concern is knowing the regs in France and the only sources are the UK Construction and use and vehicle lighting regs. I’ve now had a go through those. (Ugh). They require the same lighting as any other trailer, though reading literally there are some requirements few of us adopt. they require the board to be higher than the combi axle member. I’ll ignore that I think. I’m not making a cumbersome frame. They also require trailers wider than 1.6m to have forward facing white positioning lights, extra reflectors in certain cases and various other details boats could fall foul of.

    I just had an inkling there was something about small trailers that don’t obscure the car lights, and there are some ambiguous references on various websites but I think these sources are unreliable. More important is the need not to miss something, like complete sets of spare bulbs for everything, and for all drivers towing or not red warning triangles and hi-viz jackets reachable in the car not kept in the boot. Many Brits fall foul of some of this.


    Dave Bevan

    And breathalizers…..


    The hull support of the trolley is a good place to tie the lighting board to if there is no boat on it.

    In general a car or trailer has to meet the regulations of the country of origin. As long as you are only visiting another country you do not have to comply to the local rules and in your case British rules apply in France too. It would be very impractical otherwise, rebuilding the trailer at every border you pass?

    But there are some pitfalls. For example in Germany you are not allowed to drive at the same speed as the Germans unless your trailer meets German high speed trailer regulations (requires a MOT like test). Officially in Germany your maximum speed is the same as your trailer is allowed to drive in your own country provided it does not exceed the German speed limit. However, most policemen don’t know your local rules and it is best to not exceed 80 km/h, the maximum speed allowed for trailers that do not comply to the German high speed trailer regulations.

    Another example is Denmark where the lighting board must be fixed to the trailer directly (not to the boats transom). Also it has to be the most aft part of the combination, forcing the Danes to use long steel poles to connect the lighting board to the trailer. If I go there I always drive with my lighting board attached to the transom because that is how we legally do it over here and the Danish police accepts that because I am just a visitor.

    So, if in doubt, always tell a French police officer convincingly, that “it” (what ever “it” is) is not only allowed in England but “it” is common practice and everyone does “it”. šŸ˜³


    Thanks, that makes sense.
    I have seen one of those trailers with lights on the long poles and wondered what it was about.


    Maybe you should visit the web site of the caravan club?
    These people travel all over Europe and deal with foreign traffic issues all the time.


    Yes, As a long time CC member I’d previously checked their website but since have spoken to their helpline after drawing a blank about the specific issue on their web. They do know the issues, many members have folding vans which are very similar in size to boats. They have reiterated the regs I previously mentioned – as you said earlier your own nation’s regs are generally sufficient and the exceptions are the non-towing matters such as hi-viz jackets and spare bulbs. There is no dispensation for smaller trailers and obstruction or otherwise of the tow vehicle’s lights and number plates are irrelevant. I finally found a website that summarised the position as far as UK are concerned. it’s at

    Points of interest are:
    1. Fog lamp required (+ 1.3 m wide) Many UK light boards either don’t have one or have a single one fitted on our “offside”. I’m not going to change mine for this short trip but If was going for an extended trip I might fit a second lamp on the other side.
    2. Boats are specifically excluded from the need for a front positioning white lights
    3. Forward reflectors required (I am fitting them on the front face of my mudguards.)

    An extract is below with some of the irrelevancies removed. All apply to our trailers with or without boat or launching trolley:

    Trailer Lighting Requirements

    Trailers must have on the back two red sidelights, two red stop lamps, an illuminated number plate and two triangular red reflectors plus amber indicators designed to flash between 60 and 120 times per minute. If they are more than 1.3m wide, they must also have at least one red fog lamp. All trailers built after Sept 30th 1990 require front reflectors. They must have front reflectors and, if they are more than 1.6 metres wide, front position lights.

    Trailers manufactured after 1 October 1985 require numberplates, illuminated by an ‘E’ or ‘e’ marked lamp. If a clear window in the rear position lamp is approved, this can be used instead of a separate numberplate lamp but must be fitted to the manufacturer’s instructions with regard to distance from the numberplate.
    At least one rear fog light is mandatory on trailers over 1.3 m wide. Two lamps are preferred but, if only one is fitted, it must be to the offside or on the centre line of the trailer.
    No maximum distance from the outer edge of the trailer is stated for a fog lamp(s) but there must be a minimum distance of 100mm from the stop lamp.
    The distance of the direction indicator from the side of the trailer may not exceed the actual distance of the rear lamp by more than 50mm.
    Trailers manufactured after 1 October 1985 which are more than 1600mm wide, (except boat trailers) require front position lamps (clear lens).

    I haven’t checked the full position on the matter but I intend to fit a breakaway cable, which although on large trailers is used to actuate trailer brakes, is still a useful safety measure and adds to the look of competence of the outfit.

    Other issues to be aware of include transport of petrol. 2x9l in proper containers max. Enough to get me across the channel with my 2.5 horses! Technically the number plate should have a national id or there should be a GB plate. My car has this and I’ll stick one on the lighting board.
    Remember headlamp adjusters.
    As a strange outfit you are likely to attract attention and although I love the French and France, there seems to be a policy of relieving visitors of euros with spot fines on the port approach roads. Perhaps some of us deserve it for speeding for the ferries.

    Thanks to contributors, I hope this post is useful to others in future.

    Any more detail or corrections still appreciated.


    Re foglight:

      AFAIK the directive does not clearly state where the foglight is to be operated. A quick solution is to put a foglight in parallel with the normal lights using a switch on the lightboard. Just remember that if the trailer’s foglight is on, the car’s foglight must be off.

      A more advanced solution makes use of a switch inside a car’s trailer socket. The foglight is wired to what used to be the constant 12V pin. The plug operated switch in the socket switches of the car’s foglight when the plug is inserted. Obviously old sockets do not have the plug operated switch and have to be replaced.

      On the continent where the foglight needs to be on the left side, there is no need to rewire a UK lightboard. Just turn it around and flip the number plate upside down.
      Edit: Oops, that doesn’t work, the blinkers would work the wrong way.


    Re: fog lamp. in the UK, if a single lamp It’s fitted to offside or centre line of trailer, so the easiest legal fix would be to move the lamp to the centre, in my case perhaps fixing it to the pintle fixing plate to avoid the number plate. I’ve got space to add a lamp on the left if I ever thought of this mod. There are two ways of killing the car’s fog lights, and some variations on whether the UK eight pin or EU 13 pin sockets are used. The socket can be wired (using pin 8 in the UK) to cut the car’s fog lights whenever a trailer plug is inserted. This has the limitation of killing them whether or not the light board has a fog light. The better solution is a load sensing relay, nowadays generally fitted as part of the little electronic box that includes the indicator “beep”, secondary charging relay etc. So if you have towing electrics set up for towing something like a modern caravan, horse box etc. you will have these anyway. Worth checking if you have a simpler/older system. Good grief, Listen to me…..I never wanted to be that kind of caravanner. This sort of thing must rub off on you.

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