Trailer theft is now as prevalent as motor vehicle theft, and as these vehicles are not registered with DVLA they are seen by the criminal as a much easier target, quite often trailers are stolen along with the plant or machinery they carry, and are then disposed of at a later date.
Partly due to recent changes in towing law (there is a good guide to this on the Ifor Williams web site) and partly because of increased awareness in the area, police officers are now paying more attention to the light trailer sector, and are stopping and checking more vehicles with trailers.
All Ifor Williams Trailers are registered with TER when first sold . TER (The equipment register) are a national plant and equipment register who hold details of genuine owner details as well as reported stolen trailers and work closely with the manufacturers as well as UK and International police forces, regularly exchanging data and updating the stolen/recovered lists.
A line up of current (2007) Ifor Williams models (L-R HB505 / TA5 8'/ GD105 / TT105 / Eurolight)
BEFORE BIDDING OR BUYING
Ask the seller for the serial number, this is the last 6 digits of the 17 digit VIN number or the last 7 for newer Horsebox and LT/LM models, if in doubt ask for all seven digits.
1. Call TER (The equipment register) 01225 464599 To check that the seller is the legal owner.
2. Alternatively check directly with Ifor Williams Trailers, they should have the sellers name on file against the warranty registration details
(If he bought it new).
3. Check where the seller claims to have bought it from, and call them direct - All genuine trailer dealers should have records of owners on file
for all trailers they have sold (both new & used)
In some cases there may be a small charge for this service, a small price to pay considering what you stand to lose if you get it wrong and are found to be in possession of a stolen vehicle.
Also when checking a trailer confirm all the details, for example Blue HB505R with split ramp, if your serial number comes up on their system as a different spec (i.e. a red HB510R with a conventional ramp) then BEWARE this could be a stolen trailer wearing a plate lifted from a genuine trailer (which is still around somewhere) or even a false plate with details copied from another trailer (this happens - frequently).
SELLER WARNING SIGNS
Beware of sellers who little or no feedback score, who have joined very recently with no previous activity or appear to be hiding their true location.
Beware too of those who may even be 100% positive but have built their reputation buying or selling e-books or very low value items over a very short period of time.
If the seller refuses to tell you where he bought it, or to tell you the serial number or claims to have “lost” the trailer type-plate - Don’t buy it - Report it !
DOCUMENTATION AND EVIDENCE
Assuming you have convinced yourself the seller and the trailer are probably genuine, and decide to buy it, you should print off the ebay listing and keep this safely along with any seller details you have picked up along the way: name, address, phone numbers etc... Once you have met the seller and verified that he is who he says, ask for any other paperwork relating to the trailer, The original bill of sale is best, but failing this anything that helps build a connection between this “owner” and the vehicle, This may help your defence, or or at least go some way to proving “due diligence” should you ever be accused of handling stolen goods!
THE BUYING PROCESS
Always insist on picking the trailer up from the sellers home or registered address, never agree to a sellers request of meeting half-way, or at a motorway services, this is often a ploy to stop you turning up at the address given, which may be real (it may be where the trailer was stolen from) of may be a totally fictitious address. Even if you arrive at the address, and are met outside try to get access (need the loo?) to verify the seller actually lives there, and has not just parked the trailer outside a random address that he has sent you to !
KEEP AN EYE ON THE FINAL VALUE
I have seen many trailers that are clearly 5-6 years old selling for higher prices that the equivalent new models!
HOW OLD IS THE TRAILER?
With no registration mark to go on, sellers can and often do lie about the age of the trailer, or say things like “only 200 miles from new” - that may be the case but it could still be 5 years old, Look carefully at the pictures for signs of ageing, very dark galvanising, faded out stickers, heavy wear marks on floors and inside walls - remember a heavily used trailer that is just 2-3 years old may well need new tyres, brakes & Bearings or coupling damper, and trailers that are over 10 years old may use some components that are no longer available, meaning a costly conversion to the newer spec. Please bear these potential additional costs in mind when bidding.
Pre 1992 Style Horseboxes have springs on the front ramp & 2 post partitions. Newer models have gas-struts and swinging partitions
GROSS WEIGHTS & STAYING LEGAL
When you pick up the trailer (and indeed once you start using it proper) you will need a vehicle that can tow it legally, this means the trailer Gross weight (MGW, or GVW as it is sometimes stated) needs to be less than the limits imposed by the towing vehicle’s manufacturer.
The Maximum towing capacities of most towing vehicles can be found either in the handbook, or on the VIN or additional information plates (often located under the bonnet) Often two weights are stated, e.g.. 500 / 1030 In this case the first figure is for Unbraked trailers, the second for trailers with brakes.
There have been cases reported recently where users have been successfully prosecuted for towing trailers with a “potential” for being overloaded, even though they were carrying nowhere near the maximum load stated on the trailer.
If your trailer is rated too high and you are happy with the maximum capacity of your towing vehicle then Ifor Williams Trailers can provide a down-rated type-plate for your trailer showing the new lower gross weight, of course you will be asked to prove your ownership !
LICENSED TO TOW ?
Drivers who have passed their test after 1 Jan. 1997 have lower weight limits for B+E and B1+E (the trailer categories) until a further test has been passed, If you are in this group of drivers and are considering buying a trailer to down-rate you may need to take another driver (correctly licensed) with you to collect the trailer. Further information on licensing, driver trailer combinations and trailer weights can be found on the Ifor Williams and DVLA web sites.
PLANNING TO MOVE ABROAD ?
Almost all EEC Countries have a full registration system for trailers (i.e. Trailers are tested MOT style and have their own registration mark) To get a trailer into the registration scheme it will need proof of ownership, a correct type-plate and may need additional work, i.e. side protection bars, additional / alternative lighting scheme and/or additional markings / type plates. A trailer that is too old or not “type-approved” for that destination country may not be allowed in or may need costly conversion.
FINAL WORDS ON BUYING
BUYING A STOLEN TRAILER CAN MEAN LOSING THE TRAILER AND ALL OF YOUR MONEY (as well as a possible conviction!)
Be very very careful out there !
SELLING A GENUINE TRAILER
As a genuine seller you have nothing to lose by offering your serial number for inspection, this allows the potential buyer enough time to check it out and may increase the number of bids you receive (there are many people who will not bid because of the high percentage of stolen trailers)
Many good sellers already include a photo of the type -plate on the listing. (there may be more than one plate on some trailers, the one you need to show will be located:
On the right-hand drawbar on all trailers with brakes.
On the front panel for P5/6/7e (unbraked) trailers.
On the rear cross member on the BV64e (Unbraked) Box van.
If you have the original bill of sale or invoice for the trailer, include it in the sale, but keep a copy for your records as proof of sale (and discontinued ownership)
If you have genuinely damaged the plate or it has corroded and become unreadable, then Ifor Williams Trailers can provide a new one showing the original details, of course you will be asked to prove your ownership and will have to send them the remains of the old plate.