Friday Five: Do you have the skills to tow a trailer?
Amazingly, there is no license required to tow a trailer in Australia. But if there was…
HERE ARE THE five skills every trailer driver needs before they can consider themselves competent to tow:
- Backing a trailer – it’s not as hard as it looks, but it is difficult. All trailer drivers should be able to back a trailer ninety degrees into a parking space. In fact, all trailers should be stored so that you have to back them out in other to drive forwards, as if you can’t back a trailer you’ve no business…
- Driving forwards – knowing how to allow extra room around corners, effect of wind, how and when to operate the trailer brake, emergency stops, securing on a hill and much more.
- Knowing how to prevent and deal with sway – sway is the horrible weaving of a trailer behind the towcar. It is prevented by proper load distribution not exceeding weight limits and driving properly to the conditions. It is best fixed by applying the trailer brakes separately to the towcar. Accelerating out works, but is rarely practical.
- Hooking it up – even connecting a trailer to towcar takes skill. Chain length, drawbar height, vehicle setup like tyre pressures, trailer setup..every trailer/towcar combination is a bit different. Hookup-and-hope only gets you so far. There’s so much to check, such as when you need tow mirrors and how do you fit them?
- Knowing your weights and regulations – do you know your ATM from GCM? Or that the car’s limit for towing unbraked trailers may not be 750kg? Or the weight limit that you must have an independent brakes on your trailer? How an overrun braking system works? Without solid towing knowledge you can’t be sure you’re legal or safe (sadly, two different concepts).
- Manoeuvring – trailers are far harder to manoeuvre than cars. You can actually get yourself completely stuck, unable to move forwards or backwards. One of the biggest skills with trailers is being able to access a confined area and plan your manoeuvre accordingly.
Each of the above could be broken down further, but it’s a start. Did you know the UK has a trailer license requirement if the combined weight of car and trailer is over 3500kg? Would you like a similar test here, and if so, what would you put into it?
PS. Yes, that’s six. Consider it a bonus.
- All you need to know about towing heavy trailers
- Why a 3500kg tow capacity isn’t really a 3500kg tow capacity
- Friday 5: towing myths
- IMPORTANT: How to check the age of your trailer tyres