Towing trailers abroad – Do you have what you need?

When it comes to towing trailers abroad, recent legislation means it may no longer be sufficient to display the registration plate from the towing vehicle on the rear of a trailer, as certain trailers will now also need to be registered with their own unique number plate through the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)

This is necessary for the UK to meet the requirements of the UN 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic; an international treaty with which the UK was already broadly aligned.

Does my trailer need its own registration plate to drive abroad?

The new law – which came into effect at the end of March – doesn’t apply to all trailers, or to all countries. Trailers exempt from DVLA registration include:

  • Trailers being used for commercial purposes that have a gross weight less than 750kg
  • Non-commercial trailers with a gross weight under 3,500kg

A list of the applicable countries can be found on the GOV.UK website. Essentially, it applies to any country which must meet the requirements of the treaty (this does not currently include the Republic of Ireland).

What do the new trailer registration plates look like, and what information do I need to apply for one?

The new trailer registration mark will consist of one letter followed by seven numbers arranged over two lines. The plate must be fixed to the rear of the trailer and not obscured in any way. If it’s not possible to fix a registration plate to the rear of the trailer, it should be fixed to both sides of the trailer in an easily legible position. Additionally, the registration plate of the towing vehicle must also be displayed.

Anyone wishing to check if their trailer needs to be registered can do so via the DVLA online portal, but they will need certain information, including:

  • name of manufacturer;
  • chassis number or vehicle identification number (VIN);
  • gross and unladen weight of the trailer; and
  • an email address.

How much does it cost to register my commercial trailer for towing abroad?

There’s a fee of £26 to register a trailer for the first time; £21 to issue a new registration certificate for a new registered keeper; or £10 for replacement of a UK trailer registration certificate.

Once the trailer is registered through the new service, the DVLA will send a digital confirmation of registration enabling the owner to obtain a registration plate to be fitted to the trailer. A secure trailer registration certificate will also be sent by post; this must be available to present to a foreign authority upon request and is valid for 10 years from the date of issue.

Will Brexit have an impact on trailer registration?

In the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, the MIB have confirmed that a separate Green Card will be needed for the trailer, bearing the unique reference number. You should speak to your insurance broker about how to obtain your Green Card from your insurer.