Apart from adding to the driver’s legal responsibilities, towing requires a greater degree of knowledge and skill than normal driving. When towing, you should:
- Allow for the extra length and width of the trailer when entering traffic;
- Apply the accelerator, brakes and steering smoothly and gently to avoid sway, especially in wet or slippery conditions;
- Maintain adequate space between you and the vehicle in front to allow for a longer stopping distance;
- Engage a lower gear in both manual and automatic vehicles to increase vehicle control and reduce brake strain when travelling downhill;
- Allow more time and a greater distance in which to overtake. When towing, your vehicle’s capacity to accelerate is reduced;
- If possible, reverse with a person watching the rear of the trailer;
- Where areas are provided, pull off the road to allow traffic building up behind you to overtake;
- Be aware that towing is more stressful than normal driving and is more likely to cause fatigue. Therefore, more rest stops should be planned;
- Enrol in a towing education course.
ELECTRONIC STABILITY CONTROL (ESC)
ESC monitors the stability of the trailer and automatically applies the trailer brakes when dangerous lateral movement is detected. It is also important to pull over and investigate the source of the problem, which may involve an uneven load in the caravan itself. Many aftermarket products exist to minimise sway, including ESC and stabiliser couplings with friction pads that grip the tow ball and dampen swaying movements.
TOWING YOUR CARAVAN
The loaded mass of your trailer must not exceed:
- The capacity of the towbar;
- The ATM rating as specified by the trailer manufacturer;
- The maximum towing mass specified by the tow vehicle’s manufacturer;
- The maximum ball weight specified by the tow vehicle’s manufacturer.
If your caravan begins to sway or snake, remain calm and avoid the urge to apply the towing vehicle’s brakes. Don’t try to steer out of the swaying/snaking. Alternatively hold the vehicle steady and try to stay in the lane.
Gently apply the caravan’s electric brakes using the manual control in the tow vehicle.
Otherwise, where conditions permit, continue at a steady speed or accelerate slightly until the sway stops.
When a condition of sway has been corrected, slow down and pull off the road safely. Check that your load is correctly distributed within the trailer, making sure that heavier items are placed over the axles of the caravan.
A caravan that doesn’t have the load distributed correctly may not handle well and may be the cause of swaying/snaking.
It is important not to overload your trailer. You should not exceed the maximum load specified or recommended by the trailer manufacturer, nor should you exceed the tyre or coupling capacity. All trailers shall have a plate affixed displaying the ATM (Aggregate Trailer Mass) which is the maximum allowable weight of the loaded trailer.
For safety and ease of towing the ball mass (the mass towards the front of the trailer carried by the tow ball of the towing vehicle,) should be about 10%* of the total laden trailer weight. The ball mass can be measured either at a weighbridge by resting only the jockey wheel on the scale, or by placing a ball mass scale under the coupling then taking the weight off the jockey wheel. Depending on capacity, bathroom scales can also be used.
*This percentage is provided as a general guideline only and may not be relevant or appropriate to all types of towable recreational vehicles or scenarios. Always consult your selling dealer to confirm your towing combination is set up appropriately.