With the popularity of caravanning increasing there is more novice drivers towing than ever before on our roads. We have all seen endless crashes happening being shared over social networks and the results can be fatal.
According to motoring.com.au a typical caravan “will be around 5.5 to 6.0 metres long and weigh between 2.0 and 2.5 tonnes loaded” making the whole load including tow car around 5.5 tonnes.
So a novice that has never towed is now in charge of a 5 or 6 ton vehicle, is this asking for a disaster to happen?
Motoring.com.au believe that many couples will embark on such journeys with a background of travelling and living together and sharing driving duties. However with the continuing growth of caravanning as a lifestyle of choice – caravan registrations in Australia are not far off reaching 600,000 – many won’t.
So isn’t it time to require a towing test and an endorsed licence for everyone towing a caravan weighing, say, 2000kg, or perhaps a tow vehicle and trailer with a combined mass of 4500kg?
I can imagine the roars of protest from experienced caravanners, as well as those with big trailer boats and horse floats, but I’ve turned a deaf ear to them, because if you fit the typical inexperienced retiree scenario I’ve described above, you’re endangering the life of all road users – including mine!
The idea of endorsed licences for caravanners is not new and has been bandied about for many years. More recently the Caravan Council of Australia has been calling on regulators as well as insurers to make it mandatory for all caravanners to pass a safety training course before hitting the road.
In the UK where towing safety is a bigger government priority, since 2013 those issued with a regular car licence and who want to tow a trailer over 750kg as part of a rig weighing more than 3500kg, have had to pass an additional test.
In Victoria, it has several times been put on the table for discussion by the Caravan Industry Association of Victoria (CIAV) as part of its ‘duty of care’ to caravan purchasers seeking to ‘live the dream’.
However according to CIAV CEO Rob Lucas, who took over this hot potato around five years ago, it has had little real support It was not unexpected that experienced caravanners and their clubs would view it as an unnecessary and time-wasting impost, but Lucas said he was surprised that the Victorian Government, through VicRoads, was also “cold” on the idea when he broached the subject.
Yet it remains a requisite that road users have an endorsed licence to ride a motorcycle or pilot a heavy truck. The issue has gone off the boil following the introduction about two years ago of Electronic Stability Control systems from Al-Ko – and now Dexter – that take the ‘wag’ out of caravans created by poor loading, incident avoidance and side winds, but these are band aid measures that only mask the problem that inexperienced drivers in charge of heavy caravan rigs represent.
“They said ‘show us the death statistics that prove that caravanners are a danger to themselves and others’, but this is not the CIAV’s primary role,” said Lucas.
“However I’m sure the problem can be quantified by the caravan repair industry and insurers if required.”
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What do you think? Are untrained and inexperienced caravanners a major issue on our roads?