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Is a Towing Course Really Necessary?

Words by Catherine Best

You know how to tow, so how will a towing course help you?

Every year in Australia more than half a million caravans hit the road. Some are fresh off the production line, pulled by drivers with very little towing experience. Many weigh upwards of three tonnes. And all can be towed without any additional driver licensing or training requirements. This is despite some rigs having a mass and bulk more akin to a truck than a recreational vehicle.

Towing is a learned skill. A caravan or camper trailer behaves very differently on the road than an uncoupled vehicle. At the lower end of the safety spectrum, drivers need to know how to negotiate a turn without clipping the curve. At the pointy end, they must understand how to avoid being sucked into the side of a passing road train. 

“Many people find out the hard way that they really didn’t know what they were doing or that towing something is very different to just driving the car,” says Julie Eggenhuizen, director of Getabout Training Services, which runs accredited on-road and off-road Tow-Ed training courses across Australia.

“You have to be a better driver and have a whole extra set of skills once you put something behind the car,” Julie says. “Cars these days are faster, with aids for towing, so understanding the dynamics and features of your tow vehicle is important. Caravans are getting bigger and heavier, so understanding how they react on the road and reversing, is also vital.”

The Caravan & Trailer Road Safety Alliance (CTRSA), formed in 2020, is consolidating state-based crash statistics to get a national snapshot of accidents involving caravans. The alliance says offering caravanners a discount on their insurance premium is a good way to encourage drivers to upskill, rather than making courses mandatory.

“We are seeing a whole new set of caravanners and campers who may never have towed or need a refresher,” says Stuart Lamont, CEO of the Caravan Industry Association of Australia, founder of the CTRSA. “For those nervous towers, we would expect that they would voluntarily opt for a towing course to be conducted, and this is something the Road Safety Alliance will certainly be promoting.”

What do the accredited Tow-Ed Drive and Manoeuvre Trailers towing courses teach you?

 

On-Road Training Course ($645 for 2 people per booking)

  1. Complete pre-course e-learning and online assessment.
  2. Check to ensure your caravan is safe, secure and loaded correctly, including GCM and tow ball weight.
  3. Hitch and unhitch your caravan safely
  4. Determine any possible problems before they affect your trip
  5. How to reverse your caravan in a straight line or reverse angle 
  6. How to tow a caravan safely in traffic and the open road

 

Off-Road Training Course ($680 for 2 people per booking)

  1. Complete pre-course e-learning and online assessment
  2. Inspection to ensure your camper trailer is safe, secure and loaded correctly
  3. Hitch and unhitch your camper trailer safely
  4. Highlight potential problems before they cause issues
  5. How to reverse a camper trailer in a straight line or reverse angle
  6. How to tow a camper trailer safely on road and offroad
  7. How to assess a track to see if it is suitable to tow a camper trailer

 

4 comments

  • John Gardner: October 12, 2022

    A Towing Course as highlighted in this story should become Law prior to a Purchase of any Van. The knowledge and skill will obviously benefit the driver, provide safer travel of passengers and other road users.

  • Rob: October 12, 2022

    What I have noticed on a recent North QLD trip is that many caravaners who are travelling together are in convoy at fairly slow speeds are leaving little room for overtaking vehicles especially trucks who are getting very frustrated as they cannot get by, just listen to the radio coms. With the major roadworks up there this is a problem, there should be more education for new van owners to respect other road users.
    Education for new van owners should focus not on just how to tow safely but work with traffic flow, at least get a uhf radio so you can talk to following vehicles & work with them on getting past.

  • Rob: November 24, 2022

    What I have noticed on a recent North QLD trip is that many caravaners who are travelling together are in convoy at fairly slow speeds are leaving little room for overtaking vehicles especially trucks who are getting very frustrated as they cannot get by, just listen to the radio coms. With the major roadworks up there this is a problem, there should be more education for new van owners to respect other road users.
    Education for new van owners should focus not on just how to tow safely but work with traffic flow, at least get a uhf radio so you can talk to following vehicles & work with them on getting past.

  • Rob: October 12, 2022

    Here’s a better idea. If you do not hold a heavy vehicle licence i.e HR or above, and you wish to tow a trailer over the 750kg unbraked limit, you are now required to complete a nationally recognised braked towing qualification which will then be added as a condition/class to your licence. As a holder of a multi combination licence (yes, more than ONE trailer at a time), I am sick of unqualified and inexperienced people being let loose with well over the 4.5 tonne weight limit on a car licence, merely because the combination weight is not assessed as being more than Joe driver can handle. With the latest influx of yank tanks, it is very common to see an 8 ton combination being towed by a muppet who has spent their lifetime of driving to date in a sedan or hatchback. These people have no idea how dangerous their lack of skills and experience are when confronted with a 100+ tonne triple or quad road train. Why is it so hard to enforce extra training and experience before letting these people loose on the roads?

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