Towing a caravan adds significant weight to your vehicle, requires careful planning and loading, and puts additional responsibilities on a driver to manage safety.
Between 2014 and 2018, there were 239 crashes involving a vehicle towing a caravan on NSW roads. These crashes resulted in 12 fatalities and 120 serious injuries.
Making sure you know how to load and weigh your caravan, and safely drive while towing one, can reduce your riskof being involved in a crash. It can also affect your caravan insurance cover and by complying with safe loading laws, you won’t run the risk of fines from police enforced Roadside Caravan Safety Inspections.
Before you tow a caravan you need to:
- Understand how towing a caravan can affect your driving, your safety and the safety of others on the road
- Make sure your vehicle’s towing capacity is adequate
- Ensure you have weighed your caravan and your vehicle, you know your aggregate trailer mass (ATM), gross trailer mass (GTM), gross combined mass (GCM), and you understand how to find and use a weigh station in NSW.
- Correctly load your caravan to meet safety requirements.
- Know the safety checks you should make before and during your trip.
How towing a caravan affects your driving
Driving while towing a caravan is a different experience to normal driving; it requires heightened spatial awareness of both your vehicle and caravan, a need for greater stopping distances and careful consideration of environmental factors such as high winds, wet roads and uneven surfaces.
All these factors can make the driving experience challenging and increase driver fatigue. It is important to make sure you don’t drive when you are tired, and always plan for plenty of rest breaks on your trip.
Driving tips for towing a caravan
- You need to allow for the extra length and width of your caravan when entering traffic or changing lanes and allow for the extra road space required on corners and curves
- Apply the accelerator, brakes and steering smoothly and gently to avoid sway – particularly in wet or slippery conditions
- Leave a longer stopping distance from the vehicle ahead than when you are not towing a caravan and increase this gap further for longer and heavier caravans. Allow even more distance in poor driving conditions
- Use a lower gear when travelling downhill to maintain vehicle control and reduce the risk of brake failure
- When reversing, have someone watch the rear of the caravan from a safe location – reversing a caravan is difficult and takes practice
- Be aware of the increased effects of cross winds, passing heavy vehicles and uneven road surfaces that can cause your caravan to sway.
Towing a caravan can be more stressful than normal driving. To make your trip safer and more pleasant:
- Plan to spend fewer hours on the road each day when taking long trips and take more rest breaks. There are a number of designated rest areas in NSW. Note that these rest areas are not designated caravan sites and you cannot stay overnight in these areas.
- Keep left unless overtaking and don’t hold up traffic behind you unnecessarily
- Look further ahead on the road than usual to anticipate changes in traffic or road conditions to give you more time to react, especially when merging with traffic, responding to hazards or stopping at traffic lights.
- Remember that fuel consumption increases for most light vehicles when towing a caravan, particularly at speeds over 90km/h so you may need to plan to refuel more often.