There’s been a bit of social media chatter about licencing drivers that pull caravans, probably due to a few accidents & rolls lately. As usual the press usually jumps on board with a sensational headline, then the ball starts rolling (a lot more that caravan rolls). Pictures are shown on social media and the arguments start, those in favour and those against, those that blame the government for revenue raising and the old timers (maybe the not so old) that say “I’ve been driving for years and never had a problem so why do we need a change?”
Well, I’m probably going to lose a few friends, but here’s my opinion.
Firstly my opinions are based on safe driving practices, that is keeping the road safe for you, your family and others, it’s up to us to change and accept change. I know that most people do the right thing when towing (learn, take it easy, practice or attend a towing course) and it is very few that go astray, but it is those few that could take us out with them. I suppose the same could be said about all drivers.
I am licenced to drive a motor vehicle with a GVM not greater than 4.5 t, this also allows me to tow one single trailer, subject to the combination mass limits fixed under the Road Traffic Act 1961 (1961 … that’s 54 years ago).
For example, small truck towing a horse float, trailer, or caravan.
I also have a licence to ride any size motorbike, I took that test in 1972 and only stopped riding about 8 years ago.
Times have changed, there are more RVers on the road now (of all ages).
Vehicles are more powerful, but this doesn’t mean we can go at maximum speed just because we can. Vans are getting bigger and heavier, often right on the maximum towing capacity of their tug.
After reading lots of comments and questions from new van owners on social media, I reckon there is a good argument for a licencing system. Younger families are taking off in droves and newly retired folks buy a nice big rig and head off on the journey of a lifetime, without ever having pulled something this size or anything at all. Some of the ‘newbies’ even find it hard to back the borrowed neighbour’s trailer when going to the local tip (although I reckon a caravan is easier).
Questions on speed (and limits) when towing, weight and allowance, load, backing, radio communication and general towing, things that people should have a general understanding of before they get behind the wheel of a tow vehicle.
And guys … it’s not about you, towing needs to be shared, this has to be common sense, safe driving practices need to prevail. Towing is a bit more draining than normal driving, so on longer hauls you need to rest and share the love. Circumstances change and there will be a time when your partners will need to know what to do. I congratulate girls wanting to know more and those hitting the road solo.
I’d like to throw a few ideas around …
1: All states need to work together and set nation wide road rules, speed limits etc.
2: Drivers can’t pull a van until after holding a full driver’s licence for at least 2 years.
3: All driver’s wanting to tow a van, must first attend a driving seminar, followed by a basic towing course and complete a simple written test (not on-line or multiple choice).
If you’ve been towing for years, you should have nothing to worry about and a refresher wouldn’t hurt … you might learn something.
4: The licence you receive could be graded by the weight of the van you will be towing.
5: Perhaps we need a time limited ‘RV’ plate for all new caravan towers, limiting speed and weight of rig.
6: After the age of 60 (I’m 6 months off), every 5 years, you must sit for the written test again. Fail, and you go back to point 3.
If I haven’t lost you already and we are still friends, remember this about awareness and saving lives. Changes are in the interest of all drivers, so the government must keep it simple and cheap.
Caravanning is not hard, it’s a lot of fun and nothing to be scared of, but a simple awareness programme and licencing system could make it better. For the sake of everyone on the road, we must take responsibility for our own actions.
I’ll be the first person to put my hand up and accept change, will you?
Bring on the arguments or comments or chuck your own ideas into the pot.
Cheers, Andrew Kennedy