Bear­ing down

HOW MUCH CAN WE RE­ALLY CARRY UP TOP?

Camper Trailer Australia - - CONTENTS -

Trav­el­ling out­back in the FJ40 Shorty back in the 80s, we were for­tu­nate to have no ma­jor in­ci­dents on the road. Many chal­lenges in­volved dodg­ing kamikaze emus in­tent on out-run­ning our ve­hi­cle, or en­dur­ing the end­less cor­ru­ga­tions for which Australia’s back roads are renowned. But I dis­tinctly re­mem­ber our 4WD striking a patch of loose bulldust on a ris­ing cam­ber one day and feel­ing the whole ve­hi­cle be­gin to tilt over with its high cen­tre of grav­ity am­pli­fied by the three jerry cans, a spare tyre and a tent loaded up top. For­tu­nately, our ve­hi­cle re­cov­ered trac­tion be­fore its rub­ber feet were pulled out from un­der it. But I re­mem­ber think­ing that the sen­sa­tion was not one I’d like to see re­peated.

For the most part, the is­sue of ve­hi­cle over-load­ing is one to which we may give lit­tle real at­ten­tion. And, to the ex­tent we do, we may think it’s some­one else’s prob­lem. After all, we’ve prob­a­bly all seen hun­dreds of im­ages in our life­time of trucks, tuk-tuks, mo­tor­bikes and bi­cy­cles bulging at the seams with pro­duce and peo­ple – and the con­text are of­ten from over­seas. Driv­ing our well-equipped 4WDs with their cus­tom-fit­ted af­ter­mar­ket roof racks and other cargo car­ri­ers, it’s easy to think that we’ll be able to safely meet any load bear­ing re­quire­ments we may have, re­gard­less of what we choose to take on our next over­land ad­ven­ture.

The re­al­ity is that many roof racks will han­dle no more than 50-100kg of load (de­pend­ing on the make and model).

And when it comes to the rigs to which we at­tach these racks, many ve­hi­cles rec­om­mend a max­i­mum roof car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity of around 70kg, and that in­cludes the weight of the rack it­self. When we con­sider that a sin­gle full jerry can will weigh about 20kg, it doesn’t take much imag­i­na­tion to think of sit­u­a­tions where these recommended lim­its will be ex­ceeded.

Should we worry? There’s plenty of on­line dis­cus­sion about just how much is too much when it comes to stack­ing up the roof racks, with some favour­ing heav­ier loads than the man­u­fac­tur­ers’ rec­om­men­da­tions.

I’m not one of these peo­ple. The risks of top-load­ing were re­in­forced to me a cou­ple of years back when we were in the Flin­ders Ranges and hit a wash-out. With a Tir­for jack and a spare tyre strapped above the cabin, our roof racks and cargo car­rier were at their limit, but within load-bear­ing tol­er­ances. While we weren’t trav­el­ling quickly, the dy­namic force of the strike was enough to crack the side rail mounts and to dent the roof rail. The two days we spent at Wilpena Pound Camp­ground un­der­tak­ing run­ning re­pairs was a rel­a­tively re­laxed end to what could have been a nasty in­ci­dent.

So for my part, I’ll be stick­ing to what the user man­u­als say. I know the real risk of dam­ag­ing our ve­hi­cle’s roof rails and ir­re­vo­ca­bly chang­ing our ve­hi­cle’s cen­tre of grav­ity – and its steer­ing – when we start get­ting top heavy. And I like our ve­hi­cle to brake when we want it to – so I’m con­scious of the dif­fer­ence be­tween static weight and the rel­a­tive weight of the load and what this may mean when we’re mov­ing at speed. Most of all, I don’t like the small print in our ve­hi­cle in­sur­ance pol­icy that leads me to think that we wouldn’t be cov­ered for dam­age and third party in­jury if we were in­volved in an in­ci­dent with an over-loaded ve­hi­cle. A sober­ing thought.

Ul­ti­mately, I don’t want to be wor­ry­ing about our load. I know that if we pack the ve­hi­cle cor­rectly, and within load-bear­ing tol­er­ances, I can travel com­fort­able in the knowl­edge that I won’t see 70kg of re­cov­ery equip­ment and roof racks de­posited on our ve­hi­cle’s bon­net next time we hit a wash-out.

“The re­al­ity is that many roof racks will han­dle no more than 50-100kg”

WORDS AND PICS KATH HEIMAN

LEFT: Re­ally think about what you’re pack­ing up top. BOT­TOM: Care­ful load­ing is re­quired for safety and in­sur­ance.

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