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Horseboxes as HGVs – Am I Legal?


If you own or operate a horsebox, or are thinking of doing so, it is essential to ensure that you are not accidentally doing so illegally. The rules and regulations governing horseboxes are in many cases the same as those that govern the operation of HGVs and buses and there is often much uncertainty amongst horse owners on the subject. Be warned however, getting it wrong can lead to a summons to court and criminal convictions!


There are two key questions every horsebox driver or operator should ask themselves:

  • what driving licence category do I have?  and
  • should I be holding an operator’s licence?

We shall look at each of these in turn below:


What sort of Drivers’ Licence do I need to Drive a Horsebox?

Have a look at the back of your driver’s licence and see what categories you have there. The type of licence you need depends on the Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM). This is found on either the manufacturer’s plate or the ‘Ministry Plate’ for vehicles over 3,500kg. Be warned however, MAM includes the weight of the vehicle, trailer, fuel, any passengers AND the weight of the load being carried.


Category B

This is the standard car licence entitling you to drive vehicles with a MAM of 3,500kg or less. In addition, it also allows you to tow a trailer with a MAM not exceeding 750kg.


You can tow a trailer over 750kg MAM but only if the combined MAM of the trailer and towing vehicle is no more than 3,500kg (this is relatively easy to exceed as some large SUVs can weigh more than 2,500kg by themselves). You must not tow a trailer that is heavier than the car towing it – Minis and horseboxes do not mix!


A standard horsebox of 3,500kg MAM or less can be driven on this category


Category B+E 

Those of us who are older and wiser and passed our driving tests before 1st January 1997 will have this as standard on our licenses. Those who are younger will not; they must pass a test to get this entitlement. A category B+E entitlement  allows vehicles with a MAM not exceeding 3,500kg to tow a trailer exceeding 750kg.


Category C1   

This category allows vehicles with a MAM of 3,500kg to 7,500kg to tow a trailer with a MAM not exceeding 750kg. Those who passed their test before 1st January 1997 will have a C1+E entitlement with a “107” restriction which limits the weight of the combination to 8,250kg but within that the trailer can have a weight of more than 750kg. Those who passed their test after 1st January 1997 will have to pass a medical and a test to gain this entitlement


Category C1+E

This covers vehicles exceeding 3,500kg up to 7,500kg. A trailer exceeding 750kg may be towed but the vehicle and trailer combination must not exceed 12,000kg. Requires medical and test. Be careful – check that you do not have a “107 Restriction” (See above).


Category C

This entitlement permits the driving of vehicles with a MAM exceeding 7,500kg – you also can tow a trailer not exceeding a MAM of 750kg (This covers rigid HGVs). To get this entitlement requires a medical and test.


Category C+E 

This allows vehicles with a MAM exceeding 7,500kg and trailers in excess of 750kg MAM (This covers articulated lorries and drawbar trailers – not really horsebox territory!)


Do I need an Operator’s Licence to drive a horsebox?

 You need an Operator’s Licence if:


  • Your horsebox is over 3,500kg gross plated weight or, if there is no plated weight, where the vehicle has an unladen weight of 1,525kg, and
  • It is used to transport goods, in this case horses, haybales harness etc,
  • For hire or reward, or
  • In connection with a trade or business.

Vehicle and trailer combinations will usually require a licence if the combined gross plated weights of the trailer and vehicle exceed the above weights.


This is simple enough: if your vehicle is plated at 3,500kg or less then you do not need an Operator’s Licence.


Hire or Reward

If your vehicle is plated at over 3,500kg and you use it to transport other people’s goods, e.g. horses, haybales, harness etc, for hire or reward then you need an Operator’s Licence. This is straight forward if you are being paid for transporting goods but may also come into play if you accept petrol money from a grateful friend whose horse you are transporting as a favour.


Trade or Business

If your vehicle is plated at over 3.5 tonnes and all you do is transport your own horses and their equipment and it is not in connection with a trade or business (and this includes hunts) then you do not need an Operator’s Licence.


You might want to consider your position, for example, if you ride competitively for cash prizes or rewards for this becomes a matter of degree. A £5 book token won at your local gymkhana is unlikely to be taken, even by the most zealous DVSA employee, to be “in connection with a trade or business.” If you earn your living on your horse’s back, however, then this is far more likely to be “in connection with a trade or business.”


What Type of Operators’ Licence Do I Require for my horsebox?

Once you have established that you need an Operator’s licence, the next step is to establish what type of Operator’s licence you need. They  come in three types: Restricted, Standard National and Standard International.



If you are only moving your own goods then this is for you. This would be appropriate for someone moving their own ponies in a pony trekking business or a professional rider moving his own horses to and from competitions. The goods must belong to you and not to others.


Standard National

This is the licence for those who move other people’s goods for hire and reward. This would be appropriate if you are moving other people’s horses or equipment.


Standard International

Like a standard licence but allows the vehicles to travel abroad.


What should I do?

Unsurprisingly, for many people the laws and regulations governing the movement of horseboxes can appear overly complex and fraught with risk. If you drive vehicles exceeding the maximum weights permitted under your licence entitlements, or fail to have an operator’s licence in circumstances in which you should hold one, you can find yourself committing a criminal offence.


The important thing is not to leave it to chance. If you have any concerns make sure you contact an expert Road Transport Lawyer today. At Smith Bowyer Clarke our transport lawyers are experts in the field of operator licensing, vehicle overloading, and road transport offences. Call us today for a free initial consultation or take a look at our “Recent Cases” to find out more about what we do.




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