Citroen H Van Vehicle Movement on a Trailer
An unladen standard H van as it came out of the factory is about 1370Kg, this is without fuel, driver, etc. A Horsebox can be upto 500Kg heavier. When the average Catering conversion is performed on a H van, the weight rockets up.
When you then also add Water, Gas bottles, stock, 3 people at 240kg, Fuel, etc they are often right near their limits of 2950kg and beyond the towing capability of almost all vehicles, including the mighty Mitsubishi Shogun.
If a Commercial organisation is stopped by the Police towing an unsafe load the penalties can be severe. In some circumstances you can lose your License along with punitive fines.
I know, I got stopped towing an H van and almost fell foul of the Law.
Taking an H van to an event on a Trailer.
There are two legal aspects to Towing an H van on a Trailer, the first is who can Tow via their Driving License entitlement. The second is the weight limits that dictate what is safe to tow.
The law on who can tow a trailer and the capacities allowed can be different dependent on when you passed your Driving test, in simple terms those who passed their test prior to 1997 can tow a Trailer with a Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) of 8.25 tons for Tow car + trailer + Trailer Load.
Those passing their License Test after 1997 but before 2013 are restricted to a MAM (Tow Car + Trailer + H Van) of 3,500kg.
Passing your test after January 2013 restricts you to a Trailer (including the load) of no more than 750Kgs. This is a very simple interpretation, CLICK HERE for the full details on Towing with a Car.
When towing with MAM of over 3500kg in connection with a business, i.e. towing a commercial Catering H van that you intend to operate, there is usually a requirement for a Tachograph. With this goes restrictions on how many hours you can drive in a day/week.
Penalties for breaking the towing laws can be pretty punishing on both your pocket and your License, especially if towing in connection with your business. The outfit can also be hit wih an immobilisation order.
This law was intended to cover those who tow vehicles as their business, but the Law itself is vague and could be applied to towing "in connection with any business", not just the business of towing. If your business involves towing the vehicle to events, we suggest you ensure you understand the implications of this?
In addition to the Licence entitlement there are additional restrictions on weight combinations for safety. Each Tow vehicle has a maximum tow weight limit and a Train weight limit or MAM (Tow vehicle + Trailer weight + Trailer Load)
Example Combinations towing a 950kg trailer and 2,990 HY Catering van.
The very capable Nissan Navara 4 x 4 has kerb weight of 2,000kg, a maximum tow limit of 2,600kg, yet a typical heavy duty twin axle transporter trailer at about 950kg and a 2,990kg Citroen H Catering van would give a combined Trailer + Load weight of nearly 4,000kg so way over the 2,600kg towing limit, hopelessly illegal and dangerous.
A Mitsubishi Shogun weighs around 2,300kg, has a towing weight limit of 3,500kg, but still can't cope with a Catering van and trailer weight of 3950kg.
A Shogun is probably the most capable tow car around yet you would be breaking the law trailering a typical Hy heavy Catering van. If you had this combination and passed your test after 1997 you would be also be breaking the Driving License MAM limit of 3,500kg.
To further complicate matters your twin axle trailer and tow car will have individual axle weight limits so the weights must be balanced across the axles. For example a twin axle trailer may have a 3,000kg tow limit, with 1,500kg spread evenly across each axle. If your H Van has a wood burning Pizza stove at the front of the van then you may find you have 2,000 kg on the Trailer front axle and 1,000kg on the Trailer rear axle so be breaking the Law, even if you are within the overall limits.
You should never trailer a Citroen H van with the engine/gearbox weight at the back of the trailer, it should always be winched on front first.
These are figures for a standard van, imagine the weight of a long wheel base van with so much more inside.
In 2015 we received an email that said,
"Not sure whether you collect data on H van weights, but we just got ours weighed (as we are thinking of taking it on a trailer to events over about 50 miles). We were surprised that she weighed in at about 2580kg! Much more than we expected".
While the preceeding documents the legal requirement there is also a Duty of Care on the Driver to ensure the Outfit is safe. An unstable towing outfit has the potential to kill.
Most motoring organisations recommend a towed load should be a maximum 100% of the weight of the towing vehicle which can be half the actual legal limit. Exceeding this recommendation could mean prosecuation and loss of Insurance in the event of an accident if the weight of the Towed Load was considered to be unsafe, unsuitable or a contributory factor. It is your duty to ensure it is both legal AND safe.
Many Motoring organisations argue that a Towing vehicle must be heavier than the load, regardless of legal limits, to control situations where instability might occur. They advocate a total load (Trailer and H Van) at 85% of the towing vehicle weight. Ignoring this recommendation puts you in a difficult position if things go wrong.
While it might be legal AND Safe to carry a 3300kg load of something like rocks/rubble behind a Rover Discovery when the load is evenly distributed on the trailer with all the weight low on the bed and between the wheels, an H van on a trailer is anything but stable.
We would suggest that a Hy van is one of the most unstable loads you could carry. It would be nose heavy, very tall and flat sided. A trailer loaded with such a vehicle places enormous forces on the tow car such that the risk of instability/snaking is high.
In the event of an incident it could easily be argued in Court that any H van being towed on a trailer should be regarded as unsafe if the Trailer weight + the H van weight exceeds 100% of the tow car. Your Insurance company might have an excuse not to pay a penny for either the destruction of the van, tow car, trailer or injuries that may have resulted.
Being stopped and having a prohibition order slapped on the outfit is not funny, we know it happened to us.
I got stopped driving a LHD Peugeot 2.5 turbo Diesel Van (2,800kg towing limit) pulling a trailer of 750kg and a bare, empty van of 1400kg. Because the Peugeot was not officially imported into the country it was not on the VOSA list.
I got stopped at 11:49, half an hour from my destination, but eventually got home at 23:43. I had to unload the van off the trailer and get both trailer and van recovered on a flatbed. Expensive!!
I was lucky because I was subsequently able to prove I was within the law so not prosecuted, not fined, no points added to my Licence. I had the prohibition of movement lifted.
While I was waiting for the Police/VOSA to decide my fate, I saw a lot of Trailers and Vans being brought in by VOSA/Police and a lot of massively overloaded vehicles which were dangerous beyond belief. Disappointed as I was at my situation, I could see how what they were doing was making the roads safer.
The Police officer in charge said they targetted me because the load was an H van which they are aware are often over the limit with all the Catering equipment and stock. One H van they stopped had over 200kg of water in tanks, 96kg of Gas bottles and 300kg of stock which was mostly drinks. When you consider a Citroen HZ only has an 800kg payload (which remember includes driver, fuel and passenger) and you can see they were running close even before all that heavy Stainless Steel catering conversion went in!!
If your Catering business requires a lot of heavy stock, consider alternatives to heavy Stainless Steel, speak to your local Council first. Stainless Steel isn't always the only option.
Motorhomes and Caravan have Kitchens, yet all the Kitchen Worktops, cupboards, etc are light weight wood with plastic wipe down surfaces. Lots of Aluminium. Nothing is Stainless Steel.
I would urge anyone thinking of towing a trailer loaded with H van not to, especially if doing it as part of a business as there are very few H van Car/Trailer/H van combinations that would be legal and the Police know it.
Stop Press : Someone has emailed to say that their 7.5ton Scania truck tows an H van on a Trailer without issue and is legal.
So that is the way to go then?