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Trailer Lighting Rules, Regulations and Requirements

Trailer lighting rules, regulations and requirements

Even if you never make use of your trailer after dark, it is a legal requirement for it to be fitted with appropriate lighting.

Proper lighting on trailers does far more than simply let other road users see that you are towing a trailer behind your vehicle. Such lighting also makes it far easier for other road users to determine your intentions, such as whether you are slowing down or turning a corner, and can also make it easier to estimate the dimensions of your trailer for safe overtaking.

Prompt compliance

As they are so essential to your own safety and that of other road users, it's a good idea to check that the lights on your trailer are working properly before the start of every journey. You can use the same opportunity to check that the lighting cables and plugs are both in good condition.

If the bulb in one of your trailer lights fails, it must be replaced as quickly as possible. Damage to the housing of trailer lights must also be repaired promptly to ensure you continue to comply with the law.

What are the requirements?

The exact requirements vary depending on the size and age of your trailer, according to specifications laid down in the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989, but as a general rule, all trailers must be fitted with two red stoplights, two red sidelights, an illuminated number plate and two red reflective triangles.

Trailers also require amber indicators that flash between 60 and 120 times per minute and must feature some means of letting the driving of the towing vehicle know whether or not the trailer indicators are working.

Arranging lights and reflectors

If you have built your own trailer or have made adjustments to an existing one, there are strict regulations about the placement of indicators and other lighting elements. For example, indicators need to be a minimum of 350mm but no more than 1500mm from the ground and a maximum of 400mm from the side of the trailer. The minimum allowable distance between indicators is 400mm.

Trailers need to have a single fog lamp mounted at the rear if they are more than 1.3m wide, but this can be positioned anywhere between the offside edge and the centre point of the trailer. This should be situated a minimum of 100mm from the stop lamp. However, if the vehicle has two fog lamps, these must be separated and fitted to opposite sides of the rear of the trailer. Two lamps are not mandatory, but the regulations state that this is the preferred configuration.

Reflective rear triangles must be no more than 900mm from the ground and no less than 250mm from the ground with at least 600mm of space in between them. The triangles must be no more than 400mm from the sides of your trailer.

Number plates

Trailers manufactured prior to 1st October 1985 do not require illuminated number plates, but all those manufactured after this date do. Ideally, a separate number plate lamp should be used but, in some instances, if a clear window in the rear position lamp has been approved, this can be used instead.