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When you’re making your living as a class 1 HGV vehicle driver, knowing how to couple and uncouple a trailer is an essential skill, as it’s something you’ll probably end up doing every single day. So, if you’re someone either training for or thinking of training for your class 1 HGV  (Cat C+E) licence, we thought we would put this mini-guide together, to show you how it’s done.

The Coupling Process

The first part of the coupling process involves physically checking the trailer, much like you would with your walk-around check. The most important part of this check is to ensure that the parking brake is applied because if you don’t, it could roll away when you’re coupling, which would be really dangerous.

The rest of your trailer check should include verifying that all wheel nuts, tyres and lights are all as they should be. Once you’re happy that the trailer is ready for coupling and that the 5th wheel is at the correct height, the next step is to reverse the Class 1 HGV vehicle into place. This involves lining up the 5th wheel correctly with the kingpin and once the kingpin meets the 5th wheel, there should be a telltale shudder as the two parts connect.

HGV Overloading - The Trucker’s Hitch knot

Out of the Cab

Next, you’ll be applying your tractor hand brake, putting it into neutral and switching off, so that you can get out and secure the coupling. Once you’ve secured the locking arm into place with the dog clip, you’re ready to move onto the next step.

The next part of attaching the trailer is to connect all of the airlines and electrical connections, ensuring that all gold collar pins are properly locked into place. You’ll also need to attach the Electronic Braking System (EBS) connectors, firmly locking them into place with the locking arm. Lastly, you’re going to be attaching the remaining electrical connections, which is a fairly simple and obvious process, as the leads are typically colour coded. Now it’s time to wind up the trailer’s legs and release its parking brake.

You’ll now need to perform a tug test, which involves attempting to pull away gently twice, which will highlight any issues immediately. Also be sure to listen out for any strange noise when you first pull away for real. It’s really important to know that driving a class 1 HGV vehicle with any of the aforementioned connections improperly attached could result in a fine or even penalty points on your licence, as would driving away off without the correct registration plate on the back of the trailer or working trailer lights, so make sure you have both before moving away.

coupling the trailer


When you’ve reached your destination and you want to uncouple your class 1 HGV vehicle,  the first step is to find an area of ground that’s sturdy enough to take the weight of the trailer without the legs sinking into the ground. It’s then a case of repeating the coupling process in reverse. So you’ll be:

Just on the last point, be sure to stop just before you clear the trailer for a few seconds, so as to allow the air suspension to settle down and avoid damaging either the trailer or the tractor. Follow these steps and you, the tractor and the trailer will all be safe and undamaged.


High Quality HGV Driver Training

At HGVT, we are highly experienced in offering the best class 1 HGV  driver training in the country. How to couple and uncouple a trailer is just one of the many aspects of our comprehensive driver training, which we provide at our 60+ approved training centres across the UK.

When you enrol with us, you have a mountain experience and know-how in your corner, right from the word go. Not only do we offer the finest DVSA approved HGV and CPC courses around, but we’ll even put you in touch with potential employers during your training. For those with the will and the skill to succeed, there is a defined path to a well-paid and fulfilling HGV driving career. If you would like to find out more about us and the extensive range of training we offer, fill the form below or call our friendly, expert team now on 0330 818 3333



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