Towing: Essential info for South African B and EB licenses - (READ THIS!)

For those of you who are considering a new caravan, but hold a category designation of 'B' on your South African driver's license, read on, because we want to give you hope.  For those of you with an EB license, we want to offer some towing guidance and caution, and reassure you that even our largest caravans will be ready to fully comply with SA's tough towing laws.

FOR EB LICENSE HOLDERS

If you are unaware, in 2000 South Africa rolled out a new licensing system, reclassifying anyone with an 08 driver's license to 'EB' category.  An EB license holder can use a tow vehicle with a tare up to 3500kg, and many South Africans we speak to believe (and many SA websites that offer towing advice indicate) that a caravan can weigh up to 3500kg, so long as the tare of the towing vehicle exceeds the GVM of the caravan. 

Here's where it all blows apart:

If you read the SA government's interpretation of the EB towing restriction, it gives a picture much different than what many local South African auto advocacy websites indicate:

"Code EB:  This is for a light motor vehicle that is articulated (light motor vehicle drawing a trailer) with a gross combination mass not exceeding 3500kg."

And the actual EB regulation is as follows:

"A motor vehicle, excluding a motor cycle, motor tricycle, motor quadrucycle, tractor and a motor vehicle which is a type of mobile agricultural or industrial equipment or machinery not designed principally for the conveyance of persons or goods, being—

(i) an articulated motor vehicle, of which the gross combination mass of the truck-tractor does not exceed 3 500 kilograms;

(ii) a combination of—

(aa) a motor vehicle the tare of which does not exceed 3 500 kg; or

(bb) a minibus, bus or goods vehicle, the gross vehicle mass of which does not exceed 3 500 kilograms,

with a trailer the gross vehicle mass of which exceeds 750 kilograms."

Let's start with gross combination mass (GCM).  GCM is the GVM of the caravan plus the GVM of the tow vehicle.  So, let's say your caravan has a GVM of 1750kg.  According to government interpretation, you are already illegal to tow with an EB license.  Why?  Because you must have a tare of your tow vehicle that exceeds the GVM of your caravan, and therefore the GVM of your tow vehicle will definitely exceed 1750kg, which automatically puts your GCM too high.

Here's a real example.  Say you own a BMW X3, tare of 1770kg, GVM of 2365kg.  Your caravan can have a maximum GVM of 1135kg in order to comply with the GCM rule (3500-2365=1135).  There are very few caravans currently available in South Africa with a GVM of 1135kg or less.

So, for the many customers who have wondered why all our caravans, short and long, are as light as we can possibly make them, the answer is that, in order to make towing fully legal and practical for EB license holders, we wanted the bulk of our caravan range to have a GVM rating at 1100kg or less.  This way, most towing vehicles up to and over a 1700kg tare mass can tow.

To give another example, it would be easier to stay legal with our large Continental model at 1400kg GVM by using a small towing vehicle.  BMW's X1 has a GVM of 2045kg in manual and 2060kg automatic, giving a GCM with our 9 meter Continental of 3445-3460kg - just legal!  X1's tare of 1445kg makes for a perfect (and just barely again legal) towing combination.  Our caravan electronic stability control and anti-sway coupler gives a safer tow for small vehicles. 

If you are convinced that the SA police will never start a crack down weighing GCM, we only urge caution, because we have seen and heard of all the road blocks and weigh bridges that have begun checking caravans for compliance to issue fines for overloading.  And all an officer must do to determine GCM is check the GVM data plates of the car and caravan.

We admit that there is a high level of ambiguity in the actual interpretation of sections (i) and (ii) of the EB towing restrictions, which depends on whether you read them as separate rules or co-dependent rules.  The problem compounds because there is really no such thing as an articulated truck with a GCM below 3500kg, therefore the SA government seems conveniently to have applied section (i) to include 'all' articulated vehicles, including towing a caravan.  

If the SA police believe that many EB license holders are towing illegally by technicality of the GCM restriction, they will have a field day with fines and may set numerous road blocks during busy camping seasons.  Most EB license holders know to check the tare of their vehicle against the GVM of their caravan; we urge you to also ensure your GCM stays within 3500kg.

IF the EB code were to be broadly applied to include towing a caravan in section (i), then just about the only way to tow a caravan with a GVM over 1400kg would be to get an EC1 license.  The EC1 license permits a GCM up to 16,000kg - also great for big 5th wheel caravans.

The crack-down may never happen, and would be most certainly met with legal challenges if it did.  However, if it does, the good news is that big 7 meter caravans from Hoefer Group - even our 9 meter caravans - will be capable of legally meeting the strictest interpretation of the EB regulations for towing.   So you can rest easy, and continue enjoying your camping holidays.

FOR B LICENSE HOLDERS

Word is out there now about the extreme towing restrictions for B category license holders.  When South Africa had its licensing system changeover in 2000, every new driver's license issued defaulted to a 'B' category, unless the driver specifically applied for an EB license.  

Most South Africans 35 and under hold a B license.  This means that:

a) the maximum GVM of a caravan must not exceed 750kg; and

b) the towing vehicle must have a tare at least double the GVM of the caravan if the caravan is not equipped with brakes (and if the caravan has brakes, the towing vehicle tare can match the GVM of the caravan).

In order to make sure that anyone with a B license can buy and legally tow a Hoefer Group caravan, we are offering 3 models, the XTREME Lite, Super Lite, and Corsa Special, all with service brakes standard and a standard GVM of 750kg or less.  By standardizing brakes, our caravans can even be legally towed by compacts such as VW Polo Vivo and Ford Fiesta.

Our offerings mean that anyone with a B license can choose from a range of full height, fixed roof caravans that sleep up to 4 and include fridge, and (with Corsa Special) even a bath.  Our starting prices range from R229,000-R339,000 for these models, so they are easier on budget as well.  These models are full-featured, and will work great for those with EB licenses, too.

We speak to some South Africans who hold a B license, and are convinced they can tow big vans and avoid fines.  And while it may be true that some campers slip past the road blocks, keep in mind that insurance may deny coverage if you are in an accident, and banks are now refusing to finance new vans for a B license if the caravan GVM is over 750kg.