The Government were disappointed to announce that the p**s up they had planned in a local brewery has been cancelled, due to inadequate organisational resources.
The Gov.UK web site has, recently, received a subtle, but alarming update, which has caused massive concern amongst certain members of the caravan fraternity.
In the section of the site entitled; Towing With A Car, there is a sub section entitled; Width And Length. This has always read as follows:
“The maximum trailer width for any towing vehicle is 2.55 metres
The maximum length for a trailer towed by a vehicle weighing up to 3,500kg is 7 metres”
However, a couple of weeks ago, this was amended, with the simple addition of the sentence; “This includes the A-frame”.
Whilst not a major issue for those of us with a folding camper, this would render half of the new caravans, on the market today, illegal, if being towed with a ‘standard’ family car.
The Government web site is renowned for its inaccuracies, although it would be unusual, even for them, to take a previously ambiguous, but not incorrect statement, and to ‘clarify’ it by adding a sentence that makes it completely wrong.
Naturally, this immediately caused much concern, and debate, within the caravan fraternity, so I decided to try and establish the true position. Having failed dismally, in the past, in attempting to get any meaningful information from either VOSA or DVLA, I, initially, went direct to the Department for Transport, who had been extremely helpful (albeit not quickly) in the past.
On answering my call, the first operator advised me that it was nothing to do with them, and that I needed to speak to VOSA. I suspect that may be a fairly stock response, as she had the number right in front of her.
Another phone call, this time to VOSA. “Sorry. We only deal with HGVs, and similar. You need to speak to the DVLA”. (Again, the number was, immediately, to hand).
Phone call number three, to DVLA. “Sorry. We don’t deal with that. You need the DVSA. Here’s the number”.
By this point in time I was losing the will to live, so failed to pick up on the fact that the DVSA is, simply, the new name for VOSA, and, so, I was, once again, through to the same department I had spoken to on my second phone call. Sensing my frustration, I was put through to a very helpful gentleman (they do exist) who advised me that it was, definitely, DVLA, and that they would try and fob me off, but that I needed to speak to a Policy Advisor, as they would be able to clarify it for me. He said that I was not the first caller of the day, on this matter, and he had already discussed it with his Manager, and that, as far as they were concerned, the 7 metre rule included the A frame. He said that it didn’t include moveable draw bars on draw bar trailers, but it did include A frames on caravans, as they were fixed, and, therefore, an integral part of the caravan. OK. Not sounding too good, so far, but he did say that I should, really, speak to a policy officer at DVLA, in order to be 100% sure.
Phone call number 5, and I’m back on to the DVLA. “Sorry Sir. That’s not out department you need to speak to…” “No. I really don’t. What I need is to speak to a policy officer, if I could please”. (and I explained why).
After around 10 minutes, I was through to the Policy Advisors’ office, speaking to one of the Policy Advisors. She advised me that this had caused “much discussion” in the office, and that they were, all, unanimously, agreed that the 7 metres definitely included the A frame.
OK, so we now have a major conflict. The newly updated Gov.UK web site, the DVSA and the DVLA are all saying; Yes. It definitely includes the A frame. Everyone else (Caravan Club, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, and the National Trailer and Towing Association, to name but three) is saying the opposite.
If the DVLA etc are correct, then this would wipe out the UK caravan industry in one go, a fact confirmed to me, by Kelly Henderson, Technical Advisor at the Caravan Club, when I spoke to her, yesterday. She further confirmed that the Caravan Club, along with the other major motoring / caravanning organisations have written to the Government, asking them to change their web site to; “This does not include the A frame”.
So. Another spate of confusion and chaos caused by the infamous Gov.UK web site. What the truth of the matter is, we have yet to discover. Is it that the 7 metre length genuinely does include the A frame, and the Government have waited until now to clarify it on their web site, or is it yet another error on a site that so many people are supposed to rely on?
Both the DVSA and the DVLA advised me, in no uncertain terms that it DOES include the A frame, but are they (as one DVLA employee implied to me last year) no longer receiving the training they once were, and are they now relying more and more on the, inherently flawed, Gov.UK web site for their answers?
The final outcome remains to be seen. Even if this ‘law’ is genuine, I can’t see it being enforceable, as it would render half the modern family caravans on the road illegal, so, more than likely, it is another error on the Government web site, that is, perhaps, we might speculate, being relied upon a little too heavily by its own employees.
I, for one, will be watching the Gov.UK web site very closely, to see if the “This includes the A-frame” comment remains in place, or if it is either amended or removed. Either way, I suspect it will be a while before the local brewery receives any firm bookings from our friends at the Government.