Hiring a trailer is a great solution when you occasionally want to transport loads but don’t want to invest in buying one. Trailers can be used when you’re moving home, transporting large items and even when taking on holiday. But, did you know there are strict regulations that need to be abided by when towing a trailer?
Many countries, including Australia, stipulate how trailers may be towed on national roads. This is to ensure the safety of all road users. When looking for trailer hire Melbourne drivers need to be fully informed of these regulations and how to tow trailers safely.
Pulling a trailer requires a completely different set of driving skills than you’re used to and every driver needs to be aware of this. The driver also needs to know what to check for before towing to ensure everyone’s safety on the road is not compromised. Use this checklist for safe towing with a trailer and make sure you and your cargo arrive safely at your destination.
1. Tow Weight
In Australia, the regulations clearly state that no person may tow a trailer and load with a mass that exceeds the vehicle’s towing bar. The same regulations also state that drivers must take note of the vehicle manufacturer’s maximum trailer mass recommendation.
Always refer to your owner’s manual for the vehicle’s towing mass capacity. If you’ve installed the towing apparatus after purchasing your vehicle, ensure you know the maximum trailer mass and load it can handle together with your vehicle’s towing capacity. The towing capacity must be more than the actual trailer and load mass combined.
2. Speed Limits
Certain vehicle models stipulate the speed limit when towing a trailer. You can get this information from your owner’s manual. But, local government regulations will also guide you on safe speed limits when pulling a trailer. It’s recommended to not exceed a speeds of 90 to 100kph.
In most cases, you’re required to drive at a lower speed when towing. Cars are not specifically designed to tow loads, so precautions are necessary. Braking and handling performance changes and drivers need to compensate for this by reducing the speed at which they travel with a trailer.
3. Check the Trailer Tyres
Before hitching a trailer to your vehicle always check the trailer tyres:
- Tyre pressure: Find out from the trailer hire shop what the correct pressure should be.
- Rubber damage: Inspect for actual damage to the tyres such as dry rot or cracking of the rubber.
- Tyre tread: Tyres do age over time and the tread will wear down leading to less traction on the roads.
- Wheel lug nuts: Make sure these are tightened and secure.
4. Correct Hitching
Ensure that your vehicle’s tow bar hitch ball matches with the trailer’s coupler. Incorrect fitting between the hitch ball and the trailer’s coupler will result in poor towing and hazardous driving. This could result in serious accidents when pulling a trailer on the road. Hitch balls normally come in three different sizes so before hiring a trailer, ensure you get the right size trailer for your vehicle.
Use trailer chains when hitching to your vehicle. These safety chains are designed to cross over onto the hitch of the vehicle and act as a safeguard should the trailer come away from your vehicle. Trailer safety chains must be loose enough to allow for sharp turns but not too slack that they drag on the road.
5. Check the Trailer Lights
Once you’ve set up the electrical wiring of the trailer to the vehicle, check the lights. This must be done before you get onto the road. The electrical wiring system must also be loose enough to allow for safe turning on bends without becoming disconnected from the vehicle.
Ask someone to visually observe all the lights such as ones for braking, turning indicators and hazard lights and confirm that all is in working order. When you’ve reached your destination and unloaded the trailer, check the electrical wires again before heading back onto the road.
6. Install Tow Mirrors
Towing with a trailer can mean having blind spots while you’re on the road. Consider installing wider tow mirrors to help you navigate these blind spots safely. Not only do they help you see what’s happening behind the trailer while you’re driving, but they’re also useful when you need to back up the trailer.
Tow mirrors afford you more visibility but if you’re driving a new model truck or SUV, a blind spot warning system may be included in your vehicle. These systems also compensate for the longer length of a trailer when it’s hitched to your vehicle.
The key to safe towing is checking your trailer is in good working order before you head onto the road. But, you also need to change the way you drive such as taking wider corners, having longer stopping distances and staying in the slow lane when driving on highways. Do all of this and you’re all set to tow a trailer safely on the roads.