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A-frames in Europe update


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From the latest C&CC magazine :


"Club members are being advised not to use an A-frame to tow a car in Europe, following new guidance from the Department for Transport (DfT)


The 1968 Vienna Convention on road traffic says a citizen of one state may use a vehicle in another state as long as it is legal in his or her own country. However, the DfT says the assumed protections offered by the Treaty do not cover A-frames because they post-date it and are therefore outside its scope.


The Club's Technical Team has been told the UK doesn't intend to implement recent changes to EU light trailer brakes regulations. This means A-frames will remain acceptable within the UK.


Following this clarification, the Club strongly recommends that if members wish to tow a car behind a motorhome in mainland Europe then it must be on a trailer. "


Posted for information, as this topic seems to appear regularly - I don't tow a car, so have no direct interest.

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I do, (tow my car behind my Motorhome) but have no intentions of doing so, across the water, so it doesn't really bother me. But I would never use a trailer, even if i could, too much 'hassle' Loading and Securing, and then storing the thing, at home and on site, but I cannot anyway because I don't have the 'Load margin'.

I must admit I don't understand all the 'Vienna Convention' terms and Conditions ? Does this mean Foreign caravanners will now have to display their towing vehicles registration number at the rear of the unit, as we have to ? or an instant fine ?? >:-) Ray

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I think it means that in the absence of EU-wide laws permitting and regulating A Frames, national laws apply. In some European countries (eg Spain) it's illegal to tow a car behind a car except for breakdowns unless a trailer is used, so the A frame never could have been legal. In UK A Frames were never illegal, so they sort of became legal by the back door.
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The relationship of the Vienna Convention and UK motorhome A-frame towing was mentioned here




In January 2012 the following question was put to the Commission of the European Parliament


"I am writing to you on behalf of a constituent, who was recently issued with a fine for towing a car on an A-frame behind a motorhome while travelling on holiday in Germany. As I understand it, the UK’s Department for Transport finds that where an A-frame is attached to a vehicle (e.g. a motor car) and towed by a motor vehicle, the A-frame and the car become a single unit and as such are classified in legislation as a trailer. The UK Department for Transport concludes that the car and the A-frame satisfy the legal requirements for trailers both under UK law and EC law. However the German authorities refute that this is legal in Germany, arguing that it is not legal to tow a car behind a motorhome in Germany and that this is fully compatible with EC law.


For the sake of clarity, could the Commission clarify whether or not it is legal for a UK citizen to tow a car on an A-frame in Germany, as well as in the rest of the EU?”


The Commission’s February 2012 response was


"The specific technical provisions for passenger cars that may freely circulate on public roads in the European Union are not defined by EU legislation but by an agreement under the auspices of the UN-ECE, the so-called ‘Vienna Convention on Road Traffic’(1) to which the individual Member States are contracting party.


According to this Convention the vehicle combinations admitted to circulation in international traffic must be made up of a motor vehicle and a trailer designed to be coupled to a motor vehicle.


As this is not the case in the situation described by the Honourable Member, a vehicle combination of two motor vehicles attached to each other by an A-frame may only circulate in those Member States where the relevant national legislation contains respective provisions.”


As a caravan is definitely "a trailer designed to be coupled to a motor vehicle”, caravanning in Europe will be covered by the Vienna Convention and, if some EU countries (like France) have regulations that demand that caravans towed by ‘nationals’ have their own registration number, that will be OK legally if the ‘foreign’ caravanner tows in countries (like the UK) where the caravan is not separately registered.


But a car is definitely not "a trailer designed to be coupled to a motor vehicle”, so A-framing won’t be covered by the Vienna Convention and, as StuartO says, national towing laws will apply. Consequently, if an EU country (like Spain) has a national law that forbids one motor vehicle from towing another, practising A-frame towing in that country will be illegal.

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