October 20, 2021 Daan Lap

What rules apply to lighting on a trailer?

If you have bought a new trailer, you can't avoid it; trailer lighting. To ensure safety on public roads, it is very important that your trailer has high-quality lighting which does not let you down when you are driving on the motorway in the dark. In this blog, we will take you through the rules that apply to lighting on a trailer. We will discuss which lighting is compulsory by law, which categories are compulsory and which categories are optional for your trailer.

Rules Lighting Trailer

Trailer lighting legislation

What requirements must the lighting of a trailer meet according to legislation on public roads? The definitive answer to this question has been drawn up by the RDW (Dutch Government Department for Road Traffic) and can be found in the Vehicle Regulations, Article 5.12.51.

Requirements for lighting of trailers and interchangeable towed machinery

According to this manual, a trailer must be legally equipped with the following lighting:

  • Two lights at the front of the trailer, if the vehicle is wider than 1600m;
  • Direction indicators on both rear left and right sides;
  • Rear lights on both the left and right sides;
  • Brake lights on both the left and right rear sides;
  • Licence plate lighting to ensure good visibility of the licence plate in the dark;
  • Two white retro-reflectors at the front of the vehicle if the vehicle was put into service after 31 December 1997;
  • Amber/orange side-marker lamps on the long side of the vehicle;
  • Two red retro-reflectors at the rear of the vehicle;
  • A reflector triangle at the rear of the trailer;
  • Two front position lamps and two rear position lamps if the vehicle was put into service after 31 December 1997 and is wider than 2.10 m, or put into service before 1 January 1998 and is wider than 2.60 m;
  • One reversing lamp if the vehicle was put into service after 31 December 2012;
  • Line marking at the rear, if the vehicle is wider than 2.10m, was put into service after 31 December 2012 and the sum of the permitted axle loads exceeds 3,500kg; Additional permanent requirements, Article 153, apply;
  • Line marking on the side if the vehicle is longer than 6.00 m, was put into service after 31 December 2012 and the sum of the permitted axle loads exceeds 3,500 kg; additional permanent requirements, Article 153, apply.

Requirements lighting trailer

Is licence plate lighting on a trailer mandatory?

When you are on public roads with a trailer, you are obliged by the rules for trailer lighting to equip your trailer with licence plate lighting. This type of lighting, also called number plate lighting, ensures that the number plate of your trailer is clearly visible in the dark. It is important that the LED licence plate lighting makes the licence plate visible/readable in the dark from a distance of 20 metres. In both the Netherlands and Belgium license plate lighting is compulsory on a trailer. This is also part of the general lighting requirements for trailers during the APK inspection.

If you do not comply with these rules, for example by installing incorrect or no licence plate lighting on your trailer, this can result in a fine. In the TRALERT® range we also have combination rear lights with integrated licence plate lighting.

Side lights trailer mandatory

Are side lights on a trailer mandatory?

As already described above, it is compulsory to fit side-marker lights on your trailer if the vehicle was put into use after 31 December 1997 and is longer than 6.00 m. The side-marker lights are also compulsory on the trailer. The additional permanent requirements of the RDW apply here. These additional requirements state the following.

Where should the side-marker lamps be fitted on the vehicle?

According to the rules for trailer lighting, side-marker lamps must be installed on each side of the trailer. They must be positioned on the trailer in the following way.

Installation of side-marker lamps:

If the vehicle is longer than 6.00 m, one side-marker lamp and one retro-reflector must be fitted to the trailer. This is mounted in the middle third of the vehicle. Furthermore, it is important that the mutual distance between the side-marker lamps and the retroreflectors does not exceed 4.00 m. In addition, the distance from the most distant point to the most distant point of the trailer must not exceed 4.00 m. In addition, the distance from the most forward position of the side-marker lamp and the retro-reflector to the extreme front of the vehicle must not exceed 4.00 metres. Finally, the distance between the most rearward side-marker lamp and the most rearward retro-reflector to the extreme rear of the vehicle must not exceed 1.00 m.

An exception to this is that if the vehicle length is not more than 6 m, also known as a bare chassis, then, when the vehicle is divided in three equal parts, one side-marker lamp is located on the front third and one side-marker lamp on the rear third of the vehicle length. In this situation one side-marker lamp is sufficient.

Furthermore, the side-marker lamps and the amber retro-reflectors must be fitted at a height of not less than 0.25m and not more than 1.5m above the road surface. If it is not possible due to the construction of the vehicle, the side-marker lamps may be installed at a height of more than 1.5 m. However, they may not be installed higher than this. However, they may not be placed higher than 2.10 m above the road surface.

 

Is a rear fog light obligatory on a trailer?

Depending on the type of trailer you have, the rules around having a fog light are different. For example, the rules for trailers up to 750 kg differ from the rules for trailers heavier than 750 kg (own registration number). Below, the rules concerning the lighting of the trailer are further specified.

Rules on trailer lighting for trailers up to 750 kg

According to the lighting regulations for trailers up to 750 kg, trailers must be fitted with one or two rear fog lights as of 1 July 2006. This applies to all trailers, regardless of the year of construction. There is one exception to this rule, namely that if the drawing vehicle does not have a rear fog light, the trailer does not need to have one.

Rules on trailer lighting for trailers over 750 kg

The category of trailers that have a higher maximum permitted mass of 750 kg and therefore have their own registration plates must have at least one or two rear fog lights fitted to the vehicle. This only applies if they were built after 31 December 1997. If the trailer was built before this date, other trailer lighting rules apply. In this case, the trailer does not have to be fitted with a rear fog light.

What colour is a rear fog light for a trailer?

The rear fog light is red and is usually mounted on the left side of the trailer. The rear fog light is a very bright light with the purpose to be well visible on public roads when there is thick fog. The bright red colour of the rear fog light ensures that your trailer is clearly visible, even in bad weather conditions.

On which side should the rear fog light be mounted on a trailer?

In general, when a trailer has one rear fog light, it is placed in the middle or to the left of the middle at the rear of the vehicle. If the trailer has two rear fog lights, these are placed on the left and right rear of the vehicle.

Is contour lighting compulsory according to the rules on trailer lighting?

Having contour lights on a trailer is compulsory under certain circumstances. Before we delve deeper into what contour lighting is and what rules apply, it is good to answer another question first. What is contour lighting? Contour lighting is a synonym for LED marking lights. This category of LED lights on a trailer can be found on the front, side and rear of the trailer. When we talk about the legal requirements for contour lighting on a trailer, the following rules apply.

Contour illumination on front and rear of trailer

For trailers wider than 2.10 metres, two marking lights must be fitted at the front and rear of the trailer. As usual, the colour of the front of the trailer must be white and the colour of the rear LED warning lights must be red.

Contour lighting on the side of the trailer

Orange/amber-coloured LED markings must be placed on the side of the trailer if the trailer is longer than six (6) metres.

Rules Lighting Trailer

Which reflectors are mandatory on a trailer?

The purpose of reflectors is to make the trailer more visible in addition to the lighting. Reflectors also enable other road users to better estimate the width and length of the trailer. This may mean that it is not always clearly visible on a dark road. Reflectors are compulsory for every trailer.

Mandatory reflectors on a trailer:

  • Two (2) white reflectors on the front (not triangular). These reflectors must be mounted at least 250 mm and not more than 900 mm from the ground;
  • One (1) orange/yellow reflector on both sides of the trailer (not triangular). These reflectors must be mounted at least 250 mm and not more than 900 mm from the ground. An additional rule for lighting on trailers is that the reflectors must not be more than one metre from the rear. There must also be no more than three metres between the reflectors on the side.
  • Two (2) red reflectors at the rear. The red reflectors must be mounted at least 350 mm high from the ground and may not be higher than 1500 mm. There must be at least 600 mm between the reflectors. For trailers that are narrower than 1300 mm, there must be at least 400 mm between the two reflectors.

If you want to make your trailer even more visible, it is also possible to mount extra reflectors on the trailer. This is not compulsory according to the rules for lighting on a trailer, but it is certainly possible. However, it is strongly recommended to use the correct distances. In general, this is not very strictly controlled, but it is good to stick to the rules. Besides reflectors, you also have reflective tape. This looks good on a trailer and can also ensure even better visibility.

Types of reflectors on a trailer

Reflectors come in different sizes and shapes. The shape of reflectors is important because it contains different functions. It is also important to mount the right reflector in the right place. Reflectors are mainly found in three shapes, namely round, rectangular and triangular. The round and rectangular reflectors are supplied in different colours. The round reflector is available in the colours red, orange/yellow and white, the rectangular reflector is available in the colours orange/yellow and white and the mandatory triangular reflector is only made in the colour red. Some LED lamps in our range have the reflector already built in. Take for example the VC-2000 or the VC-2701B5CAN.

Trailer lighting compulsory?

LED wide-angle lights on trailers up to a maximum width of 1.6m are not compulsory according to the rules for trailer lighting. However, with this category of trailers it is important to indicate the width of the trailer in another way. This is done by means of the reflectors described above. When a trailer is wider than 1.6m, wide lights are compulsory on a trailer.

Connecting trailer lights: how does it work?

In this blog, you have read all about the different rules that apply to lighting on a trailer. Besides having lights, it is also very important to connect them in the right way. There are various types of cables and connections that apply. Do you want to know more about the connection of trailer lighting? And the corresponding wiring diagrams? Then read our other article about trailer lighting.

Want more information? We are happy to help

At TRALERT® we are constantly writing new relevant information from the industry. As a supplier of LED vehicle lighting, service and quality are of paramount importance to us. In addition, as a specialist we always strive to be the first to come up with the new rules regarding lighting. If you are missing any information in our articles, please let us know. We will be happy to answer your questions.

Do you have questions about our product range or are you looking for specific LED lighting for your trailer? Then feel free to contact our technical experts. They will be happy to help you find the right LED lighting for your vehicle.