A road safety crackdown by police in Queensland has revealed a disturbing number of travellers towing dangerously overweight caravan combinations, renewing calls for better education – or special licence requirements.
A recent weigh-in blitz by police in Queensland found nine out of 10 vehicles towing caravans were overweight – but police used the exercise to educate drivers rather than issue tickets.
Disturbingly, most drivers claimed they had no idea their car and caravan combination was dangerously overweight.
The crackdown has renewed calls for better driver education about towing limits – and some road safety advocates are even calling for a special licence classification.
According to a social media post by Queensland Police, officers deployed mobile scales to weigh caravans and other heavy combinations on the remote Landsborough Highway in Western Queensland, which stretches 1049km between the towns of Morven and Cloncurry.
While the overweight car and caravan combinations were deemed not roadworthy, Queensland Police did not issue any fines or defect notices, and instead issued warnings to travellers whose vehicles went overweight on the scales.
The penalty for exceeding vehicle towing limits in Queensland is $287 and three demerit points. In other states the fine is $469 and three demerit points (NSW), $238 to $1580 (Victoria), $343 to 591 in South Australia and $130 to $735 (Tasmania).
Drive is unsure if there is a penalty for this offence in Western Australia, but one does not appear on the websites for police or road safety authorities there.
“We’re not ticketing anyone today, it’s about coming in and getting your van weighed to see if you’re overweight or not,” a Queensland police officer wrote on the social media post following the remote weigh-in crackdown. “Most (vehicles) are over (weight) in some way.”
Recent testing done in conjunction with Transport NSW and NSW Highway Patrol found 75 per cent of car and caravan combinations were overweight.
Although many popular choices for towing have a 3500kg braked towing capacity, heavily laden caravans can see people unknowingly exceed their Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) and Gross Combination Mass (GCM).
This is because the Gross Combination Mass of many vehicles is significantly less than the combined towing capacity and GVM, meaning you cannot use maximum payload and maximum towing capacity at the same time. It is also possible to overload the tow vehicle with a heavy towball downforce, which needs to be accounted for by the tow vehicle’s available payload.
According to the The Caravan Industry Association of Australia, the caravanning and camping industry is worth approximately $19 billion in Australia, and there are more than half a million caravans currently registered in Australia.
Australian caravan manufacturers say they have been receiving unprecedented levels of interest – and orders – in the wake of international travel restrictions, with some brands reporting wait times beyond two years.
Sam Purcell has been writing about cars, four-wheel driving and camping since 2013, and obsessed with anything that goes brum-brum longer than he can remember. Sam joined the team at CarAdvice/Drive as the off-road Editor in 2018, after cutting his teeth at Unsealed 4X4 and Pat Callinan’s 4X4 Adventures.