Tips when travelling with a trailer or caravan in tow
Driving on South African roads can be a daunting experience. Now, add a caravan or trailer to the mix and your safety and security risk doubles. That’s why it is vital that you are extra vigilant when travelling with one in tow. Caravan Insurance and Trailer insurance can give you further peace of mind on a long journey.
Make your trip safer by ensuring compatibility between your vehicle and the trailer or caravan you’re towing. You can also lower risk by adjusting your driving habits to allow for the extra length and load. These tips will help you prepare for a safe journey with a trailer or caravan in tow.
- Keep the road rules. It’s your obligation, as the driver, to make sure your trailer or caravan towing does not contravene any road traffic legislation. Breaking any road rules would result in the vehicle and the trailer or caravan being deemed un-roadworthy. Since legislation may be different if you cross the border check that you comply with the relevant laws.
- Make sure you haven’t overloaded. When it comes to safety, not overloading is critical. There are numerous checks you should do. These include consulting the owner’s manual of your vehicle to check towing weight capability, the weight the trailer hitch and mount can manage, and the gross trailer weight (i.e. how much it will weigh when loaded).
- Make sure everything works. Are all the necessary components of your trailer or caravan in good working order? These components include the tongue, the hitch, the coupler, safety chains, and the brake and lights systems.
- Don’t exceed the manufacturer’s towing recommendations. Vehicles most suited for towing are those that are heavier than the caravan or trailer attached. This weight difference allows for quick and safe passing manoeuvres. With vehicle design becoming increasingly focused on smaller and lighter cars, weight and size have become more significant. Check that you don’t exceed your manufacturer's towing recommendations.
- Get trailer or caravan insurance. Consider your ability to avoid sudden stops, using a lower gear when going downhill, braking long before turning, increasing your following distance, remaining at a moderate speed to minimise sway, and avoiding braking when the roads are slippery. Doing these things could damage the towing vehicle and the towed contents. You can get caravan or trailer insurance to cover any loss or damage to the contents.
- Pay extra attention while driving and avoid distractions. Driving with a trailer or caravan requires increased concentration, so the less you need to split your concentration, the better. You can give extra focus to the road conditions and what’s going on around you if you don’t have to worry about changing gears. If you’re driving a manual car, consider how much time you spend in each gear. The acceleration rate of a vehicle is significantly reduced when taking off with a load attached, so it’s advisable to stay in each gear a bit longer before shifting to a higher one. Because of the added weight and length, overtaking also requires more forethought. Consider the sufficiency of space and time, turning your indicators on well in advance, avoiding overtaking on uneven road surfaces and uphill slopes. When overtaking large vehicles like trucks, aerodynamics play a role. You will be pulled towards the vehicle when overtaking, and afterwards you may be pulled in the opposite direction.
- Take turns carefully. There are a number of things to remember before making a turn, including: taking wider than usual turns, overshooting your turns i.e. ensuring that the turn is wide enough to avoid taking you off the road or colliding with telephone poles or other objects on the side of the road, the trailer or caravan’s wheels are going to be far further inward of a turn than the towing vehicle’s and, remain calm if you do start a turn too tight. In this case, check that the road behind is clear and then reverse a little before starting your turn again.
- Manoeuvre slowly and safely. When you reverse, keep the vehicle and caravan or trailer in a straight. Reversing slowly. Turn your vehicle in the direction opposite to that which you want your trailer to go.
- Check your tow bar. If you’ve bought a new vehicle with a tow bar already fitted, check its capabilities before attaching your caravan or trailer, as many vehicles are only fitted with tow bars designed for small trailers. When choosing a tow bar, ensure it matches the loaded weight of the caravan or trailer.
- Take anti-theft measures. In addition to the accident risk posed by a trailer or caravan, theft is also a concern since they are easy to steal. Caravan insurance or trailer insurance can protect you and your contents.
Sources: Arrive Alive