There is a lot of media interest in the legality of many caravans on the roads at present. Police and State roads authorities are also doing random educational road side weight checks.
A recent voluntary weigh-in in Brisbane found 58% of vans weighed were overweight and therefore unroadworthy. I can assume that these would not have all been fully packed for holidays with food, extra water, generators etc. that many carry on a trip.
Remember, that these caravanners are the ones interested in road safety, who took the time to have them weighed. How many other overweight caravans are on the highways loaded for their 'Big Lap' trip..
Most insurance policies exclude overweight and unroadworthy vehicle cover.
After the double fatality in NSW early 2019, I believe it will become a topic of enforcement in the very near future.
It is therefore vitally important that when buying a new caravan that you check the tow vehicle and caravans load carrying capacity and expected tow ball weight when loaded prior to purchase.
It is recommended to have a tow ball weight of approx 10 - 12 % of the ATM (Loaded weight) for most common size vans on the roads in Australia.
Remember, it can be very expensive reselling your van and buying a new one that is legal to tow with all your usual items and accessories on board once enforcement is increased.
If you are one that carries a lot of personal items, have extra van accessories and do a lot of free camping (batteries, water etc). you will need a large load carrying capacity.
ATM minus tare gives you load capacity.
Approx. 600kg is common and currently suits most caravanners. Below that and you may need to have a close look at what you carry.
Check your own van compliance plate as a guide for this information.
Remember water, mattress, gas are all load as well.
WARNING:- DO NOT RELY ON YOUR COMPLIANCE PLATE FOR ACCURATE TARE WEIGHT. Many do not include accessories, and other items fitted by a dealer prior to delivery. Get your caravan weighed once fully loaded and take out or add 'stuff' to get to the safe and legal load.
FOR EXAMPLE: - If you are currently looking at purchasing a new caravan and have looked at many brands and models. You may want free camping ability and some space to live in for a couple of years on the road.
Let's look at one popular van at random, the Coromal EV632S / RTV that may suit some peoples needs.
You may also add some extra solar and battery capacity and a grey water tank as personal preference.
The tow ball weight is 190 kg at tare of 2,235 kg and has an ATM of 2,885 kg.
Therefore, load carrying capacity of 650 kg.
This also gives this van a tow ball weight of approx 8.5% at tare or when unloaded.
Then like many, this van has a generous front boot plus this model has a compartment on the A frame for 2 x gas bottles and extra storage for what ever you may want to put in there.
The 8.5% tow ball weight at tare allows for us to put some load in the front boot and A frame storage which will add extra weight onto the tow ball getting us closer to our 10% target weight.
As long as we are sensible and don't load it with concrete blocks we should end up with around the 10 to 12 % tow ball weight which is the industry safe towing recommendation for that size van.
If you choose a van without a front boot you will have to do different calculations for the above.
A 2013 BT50 dual cab tow vehicle for example, has to towing capacity of 3,500kg, tow ball laod max of 350kg, a GVM of 3,200, Kerb weight of 2,103 which gives a payload of 1,097 without a van on the back.
Remember:- the load carrying capacity needs to have the driver and passengers included as load. (150 - 200kg approx)
On paper at first glance this looks like a good match.
However, like many dual cab utes, the BT50 also has a GCM (Gross combined mass ) of 6,000kg which means that when the BT50 is fully loaded it can tow a van with the maximum total weight of 2,800kg. (GCM 6,000kg minus BT50 GVM fully loaded 3,200kg = 2,800kg)
So as this BT50 (fully loaded) can only tow 2,800kg and the Coromal van (fully loaded (ATM) is 2,885kg the BT50 would not be legally allowed to tow it if both were fully loaded. There would be no safety margine even of you took 85kg out of the van or BT50.
Remember, we were also looking at adding extra weight to the van in solar panels, extra battery and grey water tank which is all load to the van and needs to be calculated into it's total actual weight.
Water in each of the 2 x 80 litre tanks is 80kg + 80kg totaling 160kg of water alone in our caravan load weight.
While it would be foolish to load both vehicles to their maximum it is unfortunately not uncommon as the recent caravan weigh-in clearly showed with over 58% of rigs being overweight.
For best towing safety the tow vehicle should also be heavier than the caravan it is towing. The tow vehicle should be heavy enough to resist being thrown around by a wobbly or badly loaded caravan.
Match the van to the tow vehicle. Your lives and those of other road users may depend on it.
Hope this helps in what to look for in buying a new van.
Do not just buy a new van based on the large screen TV, colours, nice layout or other heavy luxury items designed to 'sell'.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK FIRST.
If it is not going to be legal to tow it is a big cost item to have just sitting in the yard.
Please share this with anyone you know new to caravanning.
Truck Friendly caravan road safety program.