Towing tips for a safer road journey
On average, seven people are killed and 45 seriously injured each year in New Zealand as a result of crashes involving a light vehicle towing a trailer, says the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA).
Defective or poorly fitted towbars, over-loading and poor weight distribution are among leading causes of trailer-related accidents.
The summer season will bring more vehicles on the road towing a trailer or caravan than at any other time of year, but drivers can do much to minimise the dangers with proper preparation and by following a few simple safety steps, says a leading towbar manufacturer, Best Bars Ltd.
With more than a 25-years’ experience supplying towbars into New Zealand and Australia, Best Bars has pushed to improve the safety of towing and carrying, by investing millions of dollars into state-of-the-art engineering, testing and manufacturing technology for the benefit of vehicle owners.
Before heading off with the trailer or caravan in tow, first check the towbar itself, to ensure all the bolts attaching it to the vehicle are tight, there is no corrosion present or cracking in the welds or structure and the towball itself is secured properly to the tongue.
Be aware that even if the towbar looks OK, all may not be right. Some towbars are made from inferior quality steel, which doesn’t meet the vehicle manufacturer’s guidelines.
If a new towbar is required, ensure it has been designed to NZ Standard 5467:1993 and carries a metal tamper-proof label to identify it. Cheap, imported towbars or those available online may use inferior parts and/or be poorly designed. For the sake of a few dollars it pays to invest in a genuine New Zealand-specific towbar and have it professionally fitted.
Also, make sure the towball is correctly matched to the trailer or caravan coupling – there are two main sizes of towball used in this country (one-inch and 50mm). Best Bars has a quickchange, convert-a-ball accessory that accommodates both sizes, which is very handy when renting a trailer or swapping between trailers.
A safety chain must also be used between the towing vehicle and lighter trailer-caravan, with double chains required if the weight of what’s being towed is more than 2000 kilograms.
When packing the caravan or trailer-boat for the trip, make sure that the load on the towball tongue does not exceed the recommended tongue weight (stated on the label). Too much weight may not only cause stability problems when driving, it can also put undue load on the towbar and connection to the vehicle chassis.
Incorrect loading has been identified as a factor in 27 crashes a year on New Zealand roads and it’s probably one of the most difficult things to get right. That terrifying experience of a vehicle and trailer ‘‘snaking’’, or swaying on the open road, is a symptom of failure to get the balance right. But there is a device that can help.
A load leveller that fits onto the drawbar of the trailer and connects to the towbar on the towing vehicle can help to redress the balance through redistributing the load, so the weight is transferred further forward.