The importance of weight: caravans

A weighty decision: the new driving licence category B 96.

It is a fact that cars and caravans are becoming increasingly heavy. Mandatory safety equipment and new mod cons really pile on the kilos. A paradoxical trend given that the authorised weight of a caravan rig affects both the required driving licence category and the speed limit on German motorways.

Holders of the old Class 3 driving licence needn’t worry about their trailer, as they are permitted to drive any car/caravan combination. For those who passed their driving test after 1999, however, it’s a different matter. In their case the options are very limited.

Which vehicles or vehicle combinations can you drive or tow in each licence category?

Driving licence category B
Vehicles weighing up to 3.5 t with max. 9 seats (incl. driver)
Trailers up to 0.75 t
Trailers over 0.75 t, if the maximum authorised mass of the tow vehicle and trailer combined does not exceed 3.5 t

Driving licence category B 96
The extension of the existing B-category driving licence introduced from 2013 also allows the holder to drive combinations with a maximum weight of over 3.5 t but no more than 4.25 t, and thus applies to anyone who acquired their licence after 1999 and is now therefore only permitted to drive combinations up to 3.5 t according to the then newly introduced category B.

To acquire a B 96 licence, you do not have to take another test, but you are required to complete at least seven hours’ training. This consists of a 2.5 hour theory component and 3.5 hours of practical exercises plus a one-hour drive in traffic accompanied by the driving instructor.

Driving licence category BE
To drive caravan rigs with a maximum authorised mass of over 4.25 t, you will need a BE category licence, which, among other conditions, requires you to pass a practical driving test.

You can find further information on driving licences in general and the new B96 licence here.

“Tempo 100” approval for caravan rigs With effect from October 1998, car and trailer combinations may drive at 100 km/h on German motorways and dual carriageways. “Tempo 100” approval for caravan rigs is subject to compliance with various conditions, however, e.g. the maximum authorised mass of the trailer must not exceed the mass in running order of the towing vehicle. Further information and regulations concerning Tempo 100 approval can be found here.

Always bear in mind that different laws may apply in different countries. This ADAC table. shows the speed limits which apply to car/caravan combinations within Europe.

Information on optimal drawbar loads
In the case of caravans, the drawbar load also has important implications for driving stability. The drawbar load is the force exerted by the trailer drawbar on the tow ball. The relevant data can be found on the tow vehicle near the trailer hitch or in the accompanying user manual, and on the drawbar of the caravan. You can find a guide to determining the drawbar load of your caravan along with lots more useful information here.