There are rules and regulations for towing. Ignorance of towing rules can contribute to accidents and fatalities.
Driving with a trailer
Avoid sudden changes in direction. If swaying develops, don't brake: just take your foot off the accelerator, stop and recheck your load is properly balanced.
Brake before cornering and reduce cornering speeds. A loaded unbraked trailer has plenty of inertia and has a tendency to push the tow vehicle straight ahead. Avoid braking on slippery surfaces. Drop down to a lower gear on steep descents.
It is illegal to exceed 90 km/h when towing. Keep at least a four-second gap between you and the vehicle ahead and check following traffic regularly in your rear-view mirrors. Pull over when possible to let faster vehicles go past.
When overtaking, make sure you have plenty of clear road ahead as passing takes longer. Don't pull back in too quickly either!
Braking with a trailer
The Light Vehicle Brakes 2002 rule issued by the Ministry of Transport affects towing and the use of trailers. It states:
- "A trailer that has a laden weight of less than 2000kgs does not require brakes."
However, if a trailer under 2000kg has brakes, the brakes must be in a serviceable and working condition, and meet the standard braking requirements.
- "A trailer that has a laden weight of between 2000kgs and 2500kgs may now have indirect trailer brakes (including overrun brakes) instead of the old requirement of breakaway brakes."
Twin "cross over" safety chains bolted (not welded) secure are also required. These two chains prevent the trailer breaking away and any draw bar movement if the coupling fails.
- "A trailer that has a laden weight greater than 2500kgs must be fitted with a direct brake system."
The driver of the towing vehicle controls this.
- The rule continues to state that any towing combination must be able to stop within seven meters at a speed of 30kph.
- The vehicle and trailer have to be able to stop from 30km/h in 7 metres. In practice, this test requires an emergency stop test of the vehicle. Performing this test might be unsafe and certainly open to legal challenges.
- The weight of the trailer cannot exceed the rating on the tow coupling. In practice, the tow coupling rating is seldom available.
- Is the trailer loaded in such a manner that it causes instability to the towing vehicle or the trailer? In practice, this is a subjective test. Generally, it is based on the trailer being so poorly loaded that it is placing too much weight on the rear of the towing vehicle or it is taking too much weight from the rear of the vehicle
- If Members believe the light vehicle/trailer combination is unsafe, they should not allow it to proceed
As a responsible driver, you need to be aware of your licence limitations. Driver licensing requirements can easily be overlooked as the following everyday example illustrates:
A Land-cruiser with an un-laden weight of 2,640kg, a load of 130kg, a boat and trailer with a combined weight of 1,890kg weighs a total of 4,660kg. This is 160kg more than the 4,500kg limit for a Class 1 Driver Licence and subject to a Traffic Offence Notice under Section 37 of the Transport Act (Vehicle and Driver Registration Licensing) which carries a minimum fine of $400.00.
In the event of an accident at this excessive weight, your insurance claim may be declined also.
While there might be a perceived increase in Police enforcement of driver licensing, the Police state that there is no evidence to support this perception and there has been no directive or encouragement from the Office of the Commissioner to do so.
Generally, vehicle manufacturers provide information in the Vehicle Owner's Handbook on safe towing weights (braked and unbraked) for light vehicles.