2 DRIVER’S LICENCE, PLEASE...
If your driver’s licence harkens back to a time when it still had pride of place in your ID book, you’re allowed to tow a caravan without any additional paperwork – your old Code 08 driver’s licence was converted to an EB driver’s licence.
And if you obtained your licence after 1998 (when the newer card system was implemented) and you tow nothing bigger than a small luggage trailer on the open road, or use it to get rid of garden refuse, you can also relax. The Code B driver’s license is quite sufficient.
However, if you currently only have a Code Bdriver’s licence and you want to tow a caravan or off-road trailer, actually, anything with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) exceeding 750 kg, you should make an appointment at the traffic department and get the right licence to tow.
STEP-BY-STEP TO A LICENCE
Write your ‘learners’. The first step to obtaining a Code EB driver’s licence (the one that allows you to tow), is to qualify for an EB learner’s licence. This test is identical to the one you had to pass for your Code B driver’s licence. You must pass the test again, even if you already have a Code B driver’s licence.
Big red L... While towing a trailer as a learner driver, you must be accompanied in the vehicle by a person who is in possession of a valid licence to tow. You should also affix an L sticker to the back of the trailer.
Practice makes perfect. Once you’ve qualified for your learner’s licence, you can make an appointment at the traffic office. You may even go to practice in their yard. There are time slots reserved for this.
Test time. A towing test will typically be completed in less than an hour. The yard test lasts about 20 minutes and the road test less than half an hour. Invest in a set of those round blind-spot mirrors and stick them to your extension mirrors. They don’t cost much, but help a lot during the test.
Who’s in and who’s out? The GCM (gross combination mass) of the towing vehicle for this test may not exceed 3 500 kg, while the GVM (gross vehicle mass) of the trailer must be more than 750 kg. The trailer used during the test is not required to contain a load.
It’s who you know... Complete the test with a towing vehicle and trailer that you are familiar with. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a small car towing a small trailer will make the test easier. Keep in mind that the closer the trailer’s wheels are to those of the car, the sharper the turning angle of the trailer will be when you reverse. Given the choice between a road caravan and an off-road caravan, choose the latter. They’re narrower, simplifying things when you are instructed to reverse into a tight space. >
Slowly does it... The full yard test must be completed within 20 minutes. That is the combined stopwatch time of each of the six items being tested. The road test is done outside the test site and it must last longer than 20 minutes, but less than 45 minutes.
Belt free. You may drive the vehicle without your safety belt during the yard test.
Mix and match. The yard test items can be done in any sequence, and it depends on the test centre.
Drive accident-free. If you cause an accident during the road test or are involved in one that could have been avoided, you’ve blown it. If the collision was unavoidable and the vehicle is still roadworthy, you’ll be allowed to continue the test.
THE YARD TEST
Pre-trip inspection. Before getting into a vehicle, you have to perform an inspection to make sure your towing vehicle is roadworthy. Should anything be amiss – for instance bald tyres or broken signal lights – the test official will regard your vehicle as unroadworthy and will stop the test immediately.
Apart from the inspection on your towing vehicle, you will need to check your caravan as well. This involves checking that the jockey wheel is raised and in place, that the manual brake is released, that the wheels and lights are in order and that the corner steadies are completely raised and secure.
Parallel parking. For this exercise, you will be required to unhitch the caravan and park the towing vehicle parallel to the left and to the right. Once you have passed these tests, you may commence the next assessment.
THE ROAD TEST
Keep in mind that although it is always safer to drive courteously and carefully, you may lose points for driving too slowly for the surrounding traffic. The test drive must include the following scenarios:
A part of the route must consist of at least two lanes where you’ll be required to change lanes.
You with musta four-waypass throughstop and an at intersectionleast four intersections that have a stop sign or a traffic light (you will also be required to make a right turn at two of these.) You will also need to pass through two yieldcontrolled intersections where you and oncoming traffic receive precedence – that is, right of way.
You may not approach any crossing along the route more than once coming from the same direction.
You must cross at least two intersections with two-way traffic.
SUPPOSE I HAVE A HEAVY VEHICLE DRIVER’S LICENCE?
Heavy vehicle driver’s licences are categorised as C, C1, EC and EC1. With a C and C1 driver’s licence, you’re not allowed to tow, but if you have an EC1 licence, you may tow a combination of which the GCM can be up to 16 000 kg. For anything heavier, you’ll need an EC driver’s licence. ( And a huge parking spot. – Ed.)
WHAT ABOUT MOTORHOMES?
Most motorhomes are built on the same chassis used by delivery vehicles with a GVM of more than 3 500kg. Usually, the driver of such a vehicle would hold a C1 driver’s licence, but the moment that a vehicle is classified as a motorhome, that restriction falls away and the tare requirement is applicable. As long as the tare doesn’t exceed 3 500 kg, you may drive a motorhome with an ordinary B licence.
WHAT DO I DO ACROSS THE BORDER?
SA forms part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the driver’s licences of all member countries are recognised mutually. You don’t need an international driver’s licence to drive in our neighbouring countries.
REMEMBER HER BIRTHDAY...
Your driver’s licence expires every five years. When you apply for a new card, you can still legally drive for three months with your old one after it has expired. Just keep your old card and the receipt that you received with your renewal application with you.
WHAT IF MY DRIVER’S LICENCE IS MISSING OR STOLEN?
These things sometimes simply go missing. Get a temporary driver’s licence at the test centre while waiting for your new card to be issued.
AND IF I LOSE MY DRIVER’S LICENCE IN THE BUNDU?
If you’re too far from civilisation to apply for a temporary driver’s licence, you may take a sworn affidavit at a police station. You may then drive around with this affidavit for up to three days until you can get to a licence test centre. Make sure the contents of the affidavit address the following:
Why you no longer have your driver’s licence card. It’s going to be hard to convince a traffice official that a leopard ate your licence, but you have to try, at least.
The code of your current (lost) driver’s license. Don’t even dare to pretend that you are also licenced to operate a heavy vehicle or a motorcycle when you don’t.
Any restrictions on your driver’s license. This includes having to wear spectacles when driving or being qualified to drive only automatic vehicles.
Where the driver’s licence was issued. This enables a traffic officer to joke about which province has the best drivers.