EU legislation governing Boat trailers is changing!


Find out all you need to know.

Unlike almost every other country in Europe there has never been a requirement in the UK for trailers to be registered or go through the equivalent of an annual MOT like your car and this has resulted in some interesting problems on our roads. Some of these have been very serious and some have just been very inconvenient for other road users and now the Scottish and UK government are reviewing the rules to legislation for trailers.

From October 2012 a new pan-European legislation came into force that affects all trailers purchased from that point on. It is NOT retrospective and will only apply to NEW trailers. In effect, non-conforming trailers will be ‘illegal’ and could be removed from the road until the necessary modifications are  carried out.

How it affects boat trailers

Road going boat trailers (i.e excludes yard trailers)  made after October 2012, must have gone through the type approval process. All EU Approved trailers will have a 17 digit identification number on the  plate and trailer chassis.  This number is held on a European database and can be accessed by the relevant authorities to verify the authenticity of the number and that it relates to the actual trailer. This is a very similar system to car manufactures and brings boat trailers in line with the rest of transport industry.


What it involves…

All trailers must now conform to broad guidelines with regard to structural integrity and undergo strictly controlled compatibility tests between all components to ensure optimum operational effectiveness i.e ensure that the boat trailer is fit for purpose.

What this means is that major components i.e axles, wheels, couplings and brakes all perform to manufacturers recommended tolerances.

The manufacturer also has to undergo an inspection in order to obtain Conformity of Production Certification.  This is like a mini ISO standard and requires manufacturers to be able to demonstrate auditable quality and conformity procedures regardless of the number made. For the larger manufacturers building quality trailers this has not been a problem as company’s like SBS and Vanclaes had auditable quality control procedures in place.  It does however stop people making trailers out of bits from their garages and in many cases putting other road users at risk.

Note that these inspections are not a one-off and all boat trailer manufactures will be inspected on a regular basis to ensure that standards are maintained.

The design of the trailers has had to alter and we have moved away from trailers with a single drawbar.  All EU trailers will have an ‘A’ frame style construction and come complete with the necessary side and end marker lights and brake rod systems. Not only is this deemed to be the safest way of making a boat trailer but it also solves the problem of people not being able to drive the trailer in the dark or in poor lighting conditions which should reduce accidents.

The side marker lights are now hard wired to the trailer and are waterproof LED units. The light board is now a much bigger affair and includes end marker and reversing lamps where necessary. Please note that neither SBS or Vanclaes has had a problem meeting these standards unlike some other boat trailer manufacturers.

The wiring harness is based on an EU 13-pin plug common on mainland Europe and indeed on many imported cars – we will offer a 7-pin conversion plug as standard to ensure compatibility with the majority of UK towing sockets.

All the necessary standardised documentation will be supplied with your SBS / Vanclaes boat Trailer.


Interesting to Note

SBS actually achieved type ‘A’ approval last year and were the first manufacturer to do so in the UK. There are a number of private and Government backed organisations that offer the testing service, we have opted to use the VCA.

Vanclaes are based in the Netherlands and have been conforming to this standard for a number of years, hence the new UK legislation has not affected them and there has been no impact on their boat trailer prices.


VCA is an Executive Agency of the United Kingdom Department for Transport and the United Kingdom’s national approval authority for new road vehicles, agricultural tractors and off-road vehicles. Their status allows close links with the UK Government and European policy formulation and enforcement of vehicle safety and environmental standards.

They pride themselves in providing expert international test and certification services for vehicles and vehicle parts. Their approval certificates are recognised without question throughout the European Community and the wider group of countries belonging to the European Economic Area and the Geneva-based United Nations organisation (ECE).