When revisions were made to the to the road traffic act in 1998, the old numerical licence codes were switched to the letters that are in use today. But there are some among us who want to legally tow our caravans to holiday destinations in and around the country. Here’s how to do it the proper, legal way.
First of all, you’re going to have to check your existing driver’s licence code. If you don’t know where this is, it’s right in the middle of your card alongside the word “code”. If you’re under the age of 40, the chances are high that when you passed it was for a Code B licence, which enables you to drive a light motor vehicle legally and tow a trailer with a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) not exceeding 750 kg.
But most caravans have a GVM higher than that, and an EB licence means that you are legally allowed tow an articulated vehicle or a rigid vehicle and trailer up to a Gross Combination Mass (GCM) of 3 500 kg, which would be the added-up maximum of most SUVs and bakkies available in our market with a fairly big caravan, too.
If your licence says EB, then you don’t have to read any further, unless you want to send your spouse or child for the EB to help with towing duty in future. In that case, you’ve come to the right place.
If you’re 30, like me, and have been casually towing your dad’s old Penta with your KB down to the coast for Christmas, you’re probably on the wrong side of the law, because your driving test did not include a trailer hitched to the rear of the vehicle you were driving.
HIT THE BOOKS
The bad news is that if you’re already a B licence holder, you’re going to have to check in at your nearest Traffic Department or Driving Test Centre and book a learner’s licence test date. That means you’re going to have to do the written test again. You’ll need to take your identity document along, two ID photos (35 mm x 45 mm) and the application fee of R68.
You’ll also need a proof of address, such as a utility bill or a letter from your bank confirming your residential address. Some of the better equipped government houses use a new numbered queuing system that speeds up the application processes. You will also do an eye test with your application.
Once you’ve made the appointment, it’s time to start studying. There is the official K53 Learners and Drivers Made Easy book, which you can find in a bookshop or at a newsstand. I borrowed a copy from a colleague, who also shared a few old exam papers and answer sheets with me so I could “practise” writing the test.
But by far the easiest method is digital, because there are a number of apps you can download that will help you prepare for writing your test. I purchased one called K53 Questions & Answers. The version you can download for free is just 25 MB. It will have a trial list of 25 multiple choice questions you can answer. The aim is obviously to answer all the questions correctly.
You will get bombarded with notifications thereafter warning you that you might fail if you don’t buy the other seven sets of question papers. It’s just R30 and, once you pay, you get a password that you insert once you reopen the app. Then, all the questions and answers are there forever until you delete the app.
The required pass mark is high, and rightly so. We wouldn’t want to risk having new drivers on our roads who aren’t familiar with basic road signs. The K53 app will definitely enable you to pass your learners but, to truly gain plenty of insight, perhaps invest in the official K53 Learners and Drivers Made Easy books. Or buy the official K53 app (R40 on Google Play).
If you’ve been driving for a while, you’ll be very familiar with the usual signs you come across on your daily routine, and probably surprise yourself at what you’ve forgotten over the years. For example, you’re supposed to stop at least a car’s length between you and the vehicle in front of you. For the purposes of passing your test, you have to be able to stop safely and demonstrate that you are able to do so while in full control of your vehicle. This means that you cannot coast in neutral before stopping. Either gearing down or come to a complete stop in your current gear and then pull up the parking brake before selecting first gear and doing your observations and setting off again. >
TRAINING WHEELS. The first step is obtaining a learner’s licence, which includes a lot of theory. You don’t need to memorise the entire book though (above). It’s far simpler to rather purchase an app with a few question papers that will prepare you for the test within hours of downloading it.