Newmerella – A Turning Point in Towing Safety

Drivers being directed into the inspection area.

On the 4th and 5th of January, 2017, a police officer from the small town of Orbost in Victoria fired a massive salvo across the bow of the caravanning, camper and boating communities. With the help of a small team from Vic Roads, Victoria Police and a group of media and industry representatives, Acting Sergeant Graeme Shenton ran a standard roadside police stop during “Operation Roadwise”, a Victorian state-wide blitz over the Christmas holiday period. What made this unique was that he added the capacity to weigh caravans and other trailers by utilising Vic Roads personnel and portable roadside scales. Up until this day, this sort of operation, where caravanners were subjected to weight safety checks, was a myth of epic proportions. Graeme’s salvo may have crossed the bows of the general towing communities, but it scored a direct hit on the myth, making the possibility of being subjected to weight safety checks a reality for RVers across the country.

Officers from Vic Roads were on hand to assist with the inspections

The event was widely publicised on social media. The details of the operation reached literally hundreds of thousands of people across Australia in a matter of weeks. The general reaction was overwhelmingly positive with the vast majority of posts on social media pretty much saying the same thing. There should be more of it. More importantly, those same people who were praising the operation were more than likely starting to question their own compliance with the law regarding their individual rigs. I know Kylie and I were. It prompted us to take our caravan up to a weighbridge and check out our weights. Like the many who were weighed at Newmerella, we were quite surprised by the results.

To put this into perspective, you have to look at the results from the Newmerella operation itself:

• 71 caravans were weighed across 2 days.
• 2 drivers knew all their ratings.
• Most had an idea of what their maximum allowable weight was (ATM) but were confused about how to manage weights.
• 3 knew what they actually weighed.
• 41 were overweight in one or more ratings (ATM, GTM, Ball weight).
• 5 were overweight by more than 20%.
• The majority of those spoken with were surprised at how heavy they were and had under estimated their actual weight.

It is worth noting that due to the time constraints of the day, no tow vehicles were weighed, however it is well known that many of the popular dual cab tow vehicles have some issues with GVM and GCM. Several were noted on the day with advise given to some who were obviously pushing their limits. If these had been weighed, then the percentage of overweight vehicles would likely have been much larger.

The owners of many dual cab utes appeared to push the limits of their vehicles capacity

In many respects these figures were entirely expected but when you see them written down like that and understand they have come from a factual source, it is very confronting. Recognising that the sample from the weekend is not huge, if we were to apply a simple extrapolation of those figures to the wider RV community of over 600,000 registered vehicles across Australia, only 25,000 will actually know what they weigh. More troubling, out of the remaining 575,000 drivers who have little to no idea about what they weigh, nearly 350,000 are likely overweight in at least one category. Worse is that around 42,000 are, in all likelihood, overweight by more than 20%. Remember that is just RV’s. Consider drivers towing boats and other heavy loads and you can start to appreciate the magnitude of the problem.

Now there will be those out there who do not agree that this is a significant issue. In fact, many accuse law enforcement agencies conducting similar operations as nothing more than revenue raising. I saw one particular comment on social media where it was stated that the police should be patrolling caravan parks and camp sites to counter thieves and stop wasting time targeting a minority. To me, this shows that many people have absolutely no idea about the way law enforcement works and how agencies like Victoria Police have to spread their resources across many areas in order to meet public law enforcement expectations.

Individual scales were placed under each wheel and all weights were added together to get a total figure

I have actually known of Graeme for about 4 years, but only met him in person very recently. Over the Christmas period, Kylie and I were holidaying in Bemm River, about 70ks from Orbost, and Graeme turned up at our caravan site at about 10.30pm on New Year’s eve, just to say gday. He had been on general patrol with his offsider checking caravan parks and camp sites in the area to ensure the safety of campers during festive celebrations. He is a fairly typical country cop. Extremely friendly. Loves a chat but you also get a sense that if the situation called for it, he would be a force to be reckoned with, as his towering frame would suggest.

But Graeme has another side to his life. He is a fellow caravanner and he, like many of us, is passionate about the lifestyle. He is quite active on many forums and Facebook groups, although he keeps his identity on Facebook, well…let’s just say low profile. He is very knowledgeable about the subject having gained a lot of experience from his own travels as well as from his police duties in Orbost. You see, Orbost sits right at the critical point between the major summer holiday destinations of Lakes Entrance in Victoria and the southern NSW coast along the busy and treacherous Princes Highway. Motor vehicle crashes involving caravans and boats are, unfortunately, a normal part of life in this area and Graeme has seen his fair share. In fact, the day we were heading up to Bemm River, there was a rollover involving a large caravan towed by a 4WD that Graeme attended. All were safe but it could so easily have been another tragic start to the holiday period for one family.

A small number of motorhomes were put on the scales as well

This puts Graeme right in the middle of the debate. He has a unique perspective where he can actually see the situation from both sides. It was this insight that gave Graeme the wisdom to run the operation, not as an enforcement exercise, but more as an education with the aim to raise awareness of the safety issues with drivers. Judging by the social media responses, he definitely achieved that. Thousands of RVers around the country took notice of what went on and have started to question their own status.

Evidence of this can be seen in the reaction on social media to posts, one by myself and the other by Mr Matt Sutton, who manages the very popular Caravanning and Camping Facebook group with in excess of 120,000 members. The posts showed ourselves weighing our rigs at public weighbridges. At last count, both posts had been viewed in excess of 270,000 times. Another subsequent post showing a link to our website where people can download a list of public weighbridges in each state received over 3,000 hits in 2 days.

A large number of boats were weighed as the area is popular with the fishing community

I was present at the Newmerella operation and watched how the weight checks were conducted and how Graeme and his team interacted with drivers during the checks. They were patient, methodical, friendly, and willing to discuss the issues in a helpful and constructive manner. Others present included representatives from the Australian Caravanning Club who were also on hand to talk to drivers and assist with the overall goal of education. It was very impressive. Drivers were given advice on how to reduce weight and the effects of weight distribution on stability. All drivers were given printed information detailing a step by step process to assist them to establish their empty and loaded weights and how to use a weighbridge. All drivers were spoken to in regards to fatigue and taking rest stops. A TAC handout was given to drivers describing the effects of fatigue. I spoke to many drivers as well and everyone I spoke to said they were pleased with the approach and valued the advice given to them.

One area of concern that was addressed in a sterner manner was the lack of towing mirrors fitted to a number of vehicles. Many drivers who pulled up without towing mirrors defended their lack of compliance but found themselves loosing that argument very quickly. This is a subject for another day but one worth keeping in mind.

The outcomes from this operation are many but some stand out, in particular in relation to the overall desire of caravanners to become more knowledge about the safety aspect of their activity. In this respect, it is now up to the authorities, the media and industry associations to start to develop and publicise this information on a broader scale.

Representatives from the Australian Caravan Club were on hand to lend assistance and advice to drivers

There is another outcome from Newmerella that I believe needs even greater promotion and follow up, and it relates to the manufacturing sector of the RV industry. The issues surrounding the accuracy (or lack thereof) of compliance plates on new caravans and campers are well known and have recently received a lot of main stream media attention through the activities of Ms Tracey Leigh and her Lemon Caravans and RVs facebook group. Others like Phil Sanchez of the Shonky Caravan Builders/Dealers facebook group have also been challenging the industry by publically naming and shaming builders and dealers who are allegedly involved in some decidedly dodgy practices. Industry experts like Mr Colin Young from the Caravan Council of Australia have also been extremely vocal in their condemnation of the industry and its severe lack of regulation. Newmerella should be a signal to the RV manufacturing industry that law enforcement agencies are now starting to look very carefully at the issue and realise that it will be only a matter of time before they become the focus of investigations.

Everyone involved in the RV lifestyle, from beginning to the end, has now been put on notice that the authorities are aware of the situation and are now prepared to do something about it.

So what happens now?

Well, that will depend on many things, not least will be the value placed on further activities of this nature by the authorities involved on the day. I know the recommendation in the follow up of Newmerella include conducting more weighing operations around the state of Victoria and to continue along the path of focusing on education before enforcement…for now. A closer examination of dual cab utes towing big loads is something that is being considered.

At times, there was a bit of a wait to be checked

However, for Newmerella to be truly successful will require more than just further police operations. Those involved in the RV media and its representative bodies need to stand up and show their support for greater awareness, better adherence to the law and a genuine effort to further educate and prepare RVers of all types to ensure they are compliant with regulations and not overweight.

More importantly we need the RV manufacturing and retail industry to get their heads out of the sand and take responsibility for their part in the issue.

Mr Gary Moreland, who writes for Caravan and Motorhome magazine, who was also present at Newmerella, said something on the day that resonated with me. He described how the trucking industry introduced a chain of responsibility when it came to safety. In essence it means that everyone in the chain from industry regulators, RV Manufacturers, dealer companies and the drivers share varying degrees of responsibility for safety and, likewise, share the accountability when safety is compromised.

A large percentage of camper trailers were overweight

Gary believes the RV industry in this country needs to adopt a similar approach. Rather than working in isolated silos, everyone needs to take ownership of their part in the problem and work together to find solutions. As is the case of a regular motor vehicle, the compliance plate on an RV, be it a caravan, a camper trailer, a boat or a motorhome, is a legal document and it should be treated as one and enforced as one.

Graeme’s operation at Newmerella is an enormous step forward in the path to safer RV motoring and will likely have already saved lives. But for this to be truly successful requires others in the industry, including those who are active on social media, to carry the momentum forward, but they must work together in order to achieve this common goal. As for the rest of us, the average motorist who just happens to tow a caravan, a camper or a large boat, we need to step up and take some responsibility for our own actions. We will not be able to plead innocence for ever or go on blaming the manufacturer of our RV for our situation.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse and right at this moment, the onus is on us to comply with the law.

I urge everyone who reads this to get your rig down to a weighbridge and get your weights checked. Even if you spend the effort to ensure you have not exceeded your tow vehicle’s gross combined mass (GCM), you will have achieved something and taken one big step forward towards ensuring your own safety and that of others on the road around you.

Safe travels

Let's hope this this becomes a common sight at a weighbridge near you...!

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109 thoughts on “Newmerella – A Turning Point in Towing Safety

  1. Good article…..I was sold a caravan with an ATM of 1200 kg ( had a 39mm single axle)……by the time I had put the usual amount of holiday gear in it and taken it to a weigh bridge I found it weighed 1700 kg !!…….this van had never weighed less than 1200 kg from the moment it left the dealers yard..!!

    1. Thanks for your comments David. Your situation is all too familiar unfortunately although yours is one of the more extreme examples I’ve come across. I really do sympathise with you. Have you been able to find a solution or are you stuck with a van that you cannot use? We would be interested to know how you faired. Good luck.

  2. Was this an educational exercise or were fines given?
    I think if this type of thing is expanded, including using truck weighbridges during quieter periods, we may start to see less apathy and “it can’t happen to me” attitudes on the road.

    1. Hello Alan. Yes this was first and foremost an educational exercise. No one who was found to be overweight in any was was issued with a fine. I believe at least one defect notice was issued to a fellow who’s boat trailer had under-rated load index on his tyres. He came in with a blown spare and that alerted the inspectors to check out what the cause was. There was no fine involved.

      I do believe a number of drivers were fined for not having extension mirrors fitted where required.

      I believe we can start to see more of this type of operation in the future so the ‘it can’t happen to me’ attitude will have to change pretty quickly.

      1. I just want to get your opinion on this matter of being over weight and not getting fined!
        I’m a seasoned truck driver and now that if I’m over weight I’ll get fined! So if I was a new truck driver on his first trip and was over weight do you reckon,
        1, he gets given a warning and advice like the RVers in this write up?
        2, get slammed for being over weight and cop a massive fine?
        Just seems senseless to me that they got advice and warned double standards wouldn’t you think?
        I’m not having a go at RVers because it makes me jealous that they are on holidays and can go anywhere anytime unlike us trucks!

        1. I was pulled up and checked once, I was overweight by 250 kilograms, given a warning notice, which in effect was to say that if caught a second time, this would be taken further, after the warning I became a lot more diligent in checking weights, length of load and securing of load, I will forever be grateful to the Vicroads officer who gave me the warning

        2. Gday Marc,

          The way it was put to me was that this is the first time something like this has been done. Up until now there has been very little targetted policing of caravan and other trailers. Its early days and hitting drivers with a sledge happer when many of them are genuinely anaware of their situation would not be effective. Its a bit like the trucking industry 20 years ago. Police have to start somewhere and this is a good place for that. I think you’ll find the momentum on this will contuinue and education and awareness being the priority. But it won’t last forever and the move to enforcement will come in due course.

          1. The Caravan Industry Association of Victoria has for three years been trying to convince both Vic Roads and Vic Police to work with them to conduct a state wide safe caravanning campaign after investigating a very succesful cooperative exercise in Quennsland. This execrise whilst a great start needs to be much broader and State wide.

  3. Hi is it possible to get printed information a bought weights posted to me. 82 temple street ballina thanks. Bill. Ewen.

    1. Hello Bill. I will endevour to get the information that was handed out sent to you. We will also see if we can make it available to download on our site in the near future.

  4. A very interesting read Marty. Do you or any one know if this exercise is carried out in NSW as a public relations exercise?

    1. Gday Mik. Hope you don’t mind that I changeed the name on your comment.

      As far as I know, the Newmerella operation was the first of its kind. I haven’t heard of it happening in NSW but I can almost bet that the with the publicity and awareness this has raised, other state authorities will be looking at this very carefully. I wouldn’t surprise me if we see more of this across the country.

        1. Hi Ian. That is really interesting to know. I would like to learn more about it as would Graeme the police officer who ran the operation in Newmerella. It sounds like a model that could be implemented here in Victoria.

  5. Terrific article Marty! Let’s hope the message gets out loud and clear. I urge all RV owners to get their Tare and empty ball weight done. This must be accurate on the compliance plate which is a legal document. Tare is legally defined as the “mass of a vehicle other than a L-group vehicle ready for service, unoccupied and unladen, with all fluid reservoirs filled to nominal capacity except for fuel, which shall be 10 litres only, and with all standard equipment and any options fitted.” This means no water or gas and includes all options on your contract.

    A poll I ran in my group showed that 50% of these figures are incorrect, hence it is the manufacturer/dealer at fault rather than the owner if they have been misled about their payload.

    Dealers are trying to get out of their responsibility for this by claiming that it is up to the manufacturer to get the weights right, however as they are the supplier and the vehicle only goes into service once you are the owner, then they are also liable to ensure that the compliance plate is accurate. Make sure you accompany them to the local weigh bridge with your new caravan prior to handing over any money for it and get a weigh bridge certificate.

    Safe travels everyone!

    1. Thank you Tracy. The tide is turning on this issue. The awareness generated by Graeme and his operation in Newmerella has really got the ball rolling.

    1. Hi Barry. Yes they did and they are fairly typical of many couples who live in their RV and have been on the road for a few years. They had accumulated a lot of stuff and really needed to do a clean out.

      They were a lovely couple and the guys there were really great with them giving them lots of great advice.

  6. Anybody adding extra’s to their vehicle should be compelled to be inspected and fined for any offence just like the truckies who put up with these inspections in every State of Australia by police, RTA Inspectors of each State, Rangers every day of every week.
    It is also amazing that no test of qualification to tow a boat/caravan/camper trailer is required, as the law now stands a red P plater can hook up a 40′ caravan no questions asked, yet a HC driver must reverse park a 30′ trailer to get his/her licence

    1. Hi Carl. I think you’ll find some further discussion on that subject in the future especially around some form of licence endorsement for towing heavy loads. Not going to happen overnight though. For now the focus will be on awareness and education but that will not last forever.

    2. rubbish…

      Provisional (“P” plate) licensed drivers are not permitted to tow another vehicle, or a trailer with an unladen mass of 250kg or more. Learners are not permitted to tow a trailer, caravan or any another vehicle.

      1. In what state does this apply? I have seen “L” platers in Central Queensland towing horse floats with horses in them.

  7. Great article and one would hope that other states come on board with such incentives and also ensure that it is policed. Unfortunately this may not happen as we cannot even have national road rules with for example towing speeds, rego, etc not common across all states.
    I have a concern that reporting sites such as Shonky Caravan Builders, Lemon Caravans etc that some may use this avenue to bad mouth a manufacturer without the avenue of reply and once it is in print it is difficult to retract some unsubstantiated claims, therefore damaging a hard fought reputation. In some cases you cannot please all of the people all of the time, and I am afraid the customer is not always right, they have an axe to grind, such outbursts on social media could/may be finalised in a court appearance.
    To prove a point, I expect to get one or more persons that will disagree with my post, human nature.

    1. Thanks for the comment Kevin. We will never get 100% agreement all of the time and I think your concerns are shared by many others. At the end of the day the awareness of the issues is increasing. On this subject at lease I think we are all on pretty much the same page. The compliance plate is a legal document and its encumbered upon manufacturers to get it right.

    2. If they are unsubstantiated, they are up for defamation. I hope that you are not a dealer/manufacturer attempting to antagonise people with faulty vans who have not had warranty claims completely repaired.
      I have a Spinifex van and am completely happy with all aspects 😆

  8. Back when you towed equaI to what your unloaded car weighed, I used to tow a 1400kg 28′ Glendale with a 6 cyl Ford Falcon XA, I had the XA weighed in NSW and regoed at the weigh bridge weight not the fanciful 1200kg “Kerb” weight provided to Main Roads by Ford. I asked the Police in Wagga Wagga NSW when I was based there and their response at that time was the same as Qld Police, they didnt bother anybody unless there was an obvious problem. Now I believe towing weight is a manufactrers recommendation. The current qld law is that my 81 Jeep SJ can tow (with appropriate brakes and towbar etc) 4500kg?? Also no 3rd party insurance cover in QLD if overweight? http://www.tmr.qld.gov.au/safety/vehicle-standards-and-modifications/loads-and-towing/safe-towing.aspx

  9. I can’t help but think that a weighbridge rated for 20 or 30 tonnes could accurately weigh a van/car of say 2 tonnes. What were the limits of the scales used in the Police operation? They were probably far more accurate than any weighbridge. vanners only have access to high capacity weighbridges, their reading may not be accurate. Which could make a big difference in being legal or not.

    1. That’s a great point Jack. I actually asked the Vic Roads guys about the accuracy\y of their scales and they said they would be within +/- 10kgs. The scales at the Broadford Weighbridge are accurate to about +/- 20kgs.

      If the authorities started to turn to enforcement, I imagine they would give drivers a margin of error. As one put it to me, they would not be too concerned if the rig was overweight by 20 or 30 kgs. The driver would be told to reduce weight at the earliest convenience. But if they were 200kgs over, well that would be a very different story.

      1. Mart & Jack, Scales and weighbridges must be recalibrated and tested in QLD every 12 months and are to be accurate to 20kg from 1 tonne to 60 tonne. This is over seen by the Department or Office of Fair Trading.

    2. I weighed my 10’carapark and Hilux tug several years ago on a weigh bridge at the local council tip, i did not believe it and went back next day and it was 200kg different! i suspect as Jack suggests, many hi capacity weighbridges may not be so accurate at the lower end of the scale, especially if not maintained properly, or recently calibrated. would the same apply to ‘public weighbridges ‘ i wonder. though the one at the tip was treated by many as a public bridge, and could issue weight reciepts. a can of worms really, even changing tyres for óff road ‘ tyres can alter the weight

      1. A calibrated weighbridge is very accurate +\~ 1kg per 100,000kg, any bridge that is for compliance or trade will be calibrated by a registered scale company every 12 months..

    3. Hi Jack I weigh my concrete aggi at least every month on a truck weighbridge and it alters 80 kgs when i get on or off the scales , that is my weight so they are reasonable accurate

  10. I think it would be a good idea if the weighbridges that Vicroads has to check trucks – e.g. the Broadford one on the Hume Highway – could be left on 24/7 so travelers can check their weights. There is one in Townsville on the highway end of the Port Road that is on all the time and you can just drive on to the pressure plates and check your weights. The road train drivers there at the time we were using it to weigh our car and camper were very pleased to see us using it.

  11. I notice horse floats haven’t been mentioned on here, were any weighed on the day as I know that some are overweight..

    1. Hi Bob. Very good question. I didn’t see any on the day I was there but I imagine that if any came past, they would have been tested. Horse floats are yet another heavy trailer that authorities will be looking at.

  12. I can only hope they told these people with big boats were told to put extension mirrors on as
    they cannot see whats behind them and there are a lot don’t use the mirrors

    1. Hey Ricky. You bet they did…! I spoke to one bloke towing an extremely large boat without towing mirrors and they certainly put him straight. To the guy’s credit, he did agree with their assessment. Many others didn’t…!

  13. what a good article its time people that take caravans out on the road with cars and large vans understood the dangers and the risk to other road users, I check on a regular basis
    we need to be up to date with what we can tow and what we can tow with.

    1. Thanks Ross for the feedback. I firmly believe you will find that, as a result of this operation, more information will start to become available and in a format that is easier to understand.

  14. I think that exersize was well over due and should be addopted in all states. I recall having broached this subject in a forum I was following. After becomming horrified at the lack of knowledge, and I must say the majority, who had little or no knowledge of any or all of the weight requirements.
    After a pretty pointed comment in the forum from me I was promptly abbused on line and called “a cranky old man who wouldbcomplain about anything” I am neither, just cocerned.
    I cannot come to termes as to how the authorities can continue to allow people of any age, with NO towing experiance to go out and hook up a 20 something ft van with no testing what so ever.
    Just to drive a solid rigid truck and bus (with no paying passengers) a full test was required. I know which is easer to drive and it’s not the caravan.

    1. I think you will find, David, that that attitude you experienced is going to be a thing of the past. At some point, police and Vic Roads will switch from education to enforcement and whether we all like it or not, it will compel us to ensure we are aware of our rig’s limits and adhere to the law.

      Keep spreading the word.

  15. Great article Marty, I have been following on a few forums. It is great hte message is starting to get out and about. A added bonus is that towing without adequate mirrors was frowned apon and people were issued with infringement notices.

  16. Further to my earlier comment I hold a lot of the responsibility to the van manufacturers and the caravan industry association as well as the retailers.
    No one is told when they buy a van that the compliance plate details generally accross the board are DRY WEIGHTS, that is no water, no gas or gas bottles often no battery or spare wheel. That is a lot of weight out of the average 300kg to 400kg load allowance.
    Why is the caravan association so against testing and licensing of caravaners?
    When shall we get caravan regulations where a compliance plate covers everything except personal items and food but includes all water tanks full, gas bottles full. In other words all that is included in or on the van plus water and fuel if jerry can holders are provided when the van is picked up and towed away.
    How long and how many accidents does it take to have our authorities act????

    1. Those are all really good questions David and unfortunately I don’t have the answers. They will come out in time as I am sure you are not a lone voice on these issues. The amount of discussions happening on social media tonight as well as on various forums is testament to the importance the average punter puts on these issues. Customer pressure will lead to change in the industry. If it doesn’t, authorities are watching very carefully.

      I believe this year will see massive changes to how the industry is regulated. The voices on this are growing very loud indeed…!

  17. Great read. This is actually good news. Action needed on many fronts…manufacturers getting compliance plates correct, dealers making sure of compliance at point of sale, owners complying to weight restrictions and some form of driver qualification and regulation. Grey nomads get a fair bit of bad press about these issues so are you aware if they did a age survey of the drivers involved

    1. G’day John. Totally agree that the problem effects many areas of the RV community. Pretty sure they didn’t keep any stats on age of drivers but what I can tell you is that the range of drivers covered the full spectrum. Interestingly the number of families with camper trailers who were overweight was probably as high if not higher than older couples in caravans. These issues effect everyone.

  18. This was an interesting read. Our caravan is not currently registered, as we bought it to live in while saving to buy a house. I am thinking of getting it registered, as it is close to roadworthy (I think, but would have to get it checked in any case.) I know what the seller told us it weighed, but now I don’t know that I trust that.
    It is good to know where the nearest public weighbridge is. Thank you for that information.

    I have noticed that there are random checks on vehicles at the weighbridges on the freeway between Trafalgar and Yarragon. I’m not sure whether they check all towed vehicles, or whether it is just trucks and buses. Maybe these checks could be broadened to include caravans if they don’t check them already?

  19. Just simple things are wrong too caravanners coming through our town with number plates attached at point of sale measuring above the legal limit
    These people were fined
    This page needs to be taken seriously many vans in our area appear to be poorly packed or obviously over loaded
    Inappropriate tow vechiles are common
    Just recently a single back wheel on a motor home had a blow out and crashed the driver had no hope of controlling it
    Duel wheels under a motor home would be far safer

    1. Thanks for your insights Ruth. Your observations are not unsusal and I firmly believe authorities are starting to really take notice. This is just the beginning. We will start to see real improvements in the near future.

  20. Great write up. One would have to consider the sudden interest in this topic. Safety first of course. Where are the facts that show that overweight vehicles have been a major accident problem. These vehicle combinations have been on the roads for years. It’s not the van that’s the problem it’s the manufacturers of tow vehicles giving tow and load values that are not honest.

    1. Hi Steve

      You make a good point. There are few published statistics regarding caravan incidents. I am aware that Suncorp, who hold about 30% of the caravan insurance market share, provided some data to Graeme for use in his proposal for the operation. In that data, it showed they had over 500 claims due to caravan roll over incidents in Australia in the last 4 1/2 years. If the number of incidents involving “loss of control” was included, it would be in the 1000’s.

      I believe the sudden interest comes from drivers’ considering the prospect of being weighted a myth. This operation shows that it is a reality and that has got people thinking. Publicity from other sources about bent dual cab utes, issues with exceeding GCM, dodgy manufacturing practices in the RV industry, has all formed a perfect storm.

  21. What a great article very close to my heart too. It would be nice that we can get “real” figures published so that we as responsible drivers can make the correct informed decisions. For instance, I went and got weighed through Caravaning Queensland. I knew my weights (wrong). GCM according to the supplier 6000kg, weights and measures 5950. Tow ball rating 335kg (same as on compliance plate) and also what was published by supplier, nope weights and measure have this as 225, seems a little note in the owners manual has this as 225. The Same TUG 1 month later now has a towing capacity of 3500kg, no limit on tow ball in the updated owners manual and scary as the GCM is still 5950. I would hate to be using that TUG flying down the road (as some do) with 3500kg on the back end, that means over 1000kg difference between TUG and van, that is simply stupid.
    As for training, even though I had been driving and towing trailers since 16 (in SA), I made sure that my wife and I did the Tow-Ed course, fantastic and well worth it. Now I have the peace of mind that my wife knows what she can do if called for.
    BTW, with my TUG, van and the normal travel gear loaded, I had 30kg spare (all up I was 5920kg), which means that while we travel, no passengers in the rear seats of the cab.

    1. Thanks Graham for sharing your story. I think your experience is very typical of many caravanners out there. And good on you and your wife for doing the towing course. From what I hear about people doing them, they are invaluable and even experienced towers learn something new. Travel safe…!

  22. Great article. Going to look up the lemons and dodgy sites now. Used to tow a great 23′ Avondale around Victoria and Queensland early 80’s, our home of 3 years until family required a permanent home. Time to get on the road again so this article very informative to resume the wandering. Thank you.

    1. Thank you very much Barbara. You will find a lot of interesting information on those 2 sites. Just keep in mind that they are set up specifically for people with problems to air their issues in a secure environment. They may not necessarily be representative of all owners of the specific brands that they mention. Its just additional information to keep in mind when deciding what you want.

      That said, there are some real horror stories there and some brands seem to be over represented.

      The good thing is that a few manufacturers are taking notice and are taking steps to rectify the issues in order to restore faith in their products. This is a very mature approach and I think those brands are to be commended.

      Good luck and hope to see you on the road again..!

  23. Hi , Very interesting comments , I find it hard to find out towing information re mirrors for towing ,i use them but have been told not law in nsw to use them ,and whats max weight you can tow on single axle caravan ..Cheers

    1. Hi David,

      The question of mirrors is another hot topic and we are currently putting something together on it. I believe I have found the necessary national rules but I want to confirm they are appropriate to the general caravanning setup.

      Your question about single axel weight limits is an interesting one. You hear that the industry standard is 300kgs. I reckon that’s rubbish. Our first van, the River Eliminator, was a single axel and we had a load limit of 600kgs. It had a very solid chassis and suspension and the manufacturer was able to give us a useful capacity as a result. It comes down to the axel loading capacity, the empty weight of the van and the max towball capacity.

  24. Good article. Have passed it on. Have weighed our van and come up ok if I read the calculations right. Bit complicated. Regards Kev.

  25. Well this all sound’s great in theory however I’m the owner of a 5,490kg 5th wheeler 2014 model and an 12,000kg iveco eurocargo 2006 model truck with a 22,000kg GCM rating. Now lets get one thing straight here i comply with all weights rating’s. And keep both my truck and trailer in Excellent condition with no expense spared including after items.
    Knowing that I’m well under on all weight’s. Now so because its a truck i have to legally pull into all truck weigh bridges i get nothing but harassment and delay after delay and 9 times out of 10 defected for something or fined.
    My concern is that this bully boy trend that is becoming more apparent is going to be carried on from the trucking side to the private guy towing a caravan. Now heres a point why instead of going on and on about being overloaded why don’t we make a proper Australian delivered vehicle other than a $150,000 imported and modified for Australia American pick up that has a tow rating over 3500kg. And manufacture caravans with heavier axels and bigger hitches. Also for another fact Australia also has some of the most strict towing standard in the world. Take a F250 for example that has a tow rating in Australia of 6000kgs but yet in the u.s.a has a tow rating of 9,000kgs Now can you tell me why. Also to the fact the reason for manufactures building caravan with a 3,500kg GVM is because all Australian delivered vehicle’s can not tow any heavier by LAW. Now what i would like to know is how many fines were issued on this day and don’t tell me none because that would just be CRAP.

    1. Hello Brenton. Thank you for your comments. I cannot answer all your questions as I share many of your concerns but there are a couple of things I can tell you.

      I absolutely guarantee you that no one was fined for being overweight despite some being well over their limits. That was not the purpose of the exercise. To support that, here’s a link to a full rundown of the event made by the police officer who organised it. He is being very open and upfront about it and wants the results to be made widely known.

      http://caravanersforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=68041&sid=02a637f19c3874678a4a808d51291a5d&start=260

      The ONLY exception was that a couple of drivers wwere booked for not having towing mirrors fitted where required. I believe thier attitude did not help their situation.

      I cannot speak for your experiences with weighbridge staff when you’re driving your truck but I can tell you that ALL the staff at Newmerella on the day, whether they be from Vic Roads, Vic Police or the Sherrif’s office, were all extremely pleasant and friendly. They treated every one that came through with respect and in a helpful manner. Even when a couple of drivers came in with bad attitudes, they remained professional at all times. I could not fault any one of them. I spoke to several during the day and found them to be reasonable and friendly people.

      I don’t think anyone is saying that the industry is perfect here but I firmly believe things will improve. The more we talk and spread the education message, the better informed we will all be. And that will make for better cooperation in the future.

      cheers

  26. I do agree that the caravan/RV market is shonky. I would not believe most of the figures on their compliance plates. For example I have seen broken springs, wheels, broken A frames, walls bowing, cupboards falling down because the engineering standards, to match the compliance plates, do not measure up. I can not believe the Size and Gauge of the metal that is used in the draw bar frame of some modern vans. Almost designed to break when towing over the humpy roads in inland Queensland and the goat tracks of South Australia. To my thinking it is not just the weights specified on vans and tow vehicles that create the problems though they are in themselves shameful in being vague and indiscriminate. Drivers need to be educated, BUT not through the system where if they fail a load by 200 kilos they get a revenue raising fine. More that, when they register their Van for the first time, they get a free course by the motor vehicle departments as to their legal requirements.
    How to get vehicle manufacturers to give an honest set of tow figures for their product is another problem. Looks like we will all have to get a Silverado???
    Merv

  27. Ok this may all be true but why are you going after people that are just trying to have a good time? The fault lies with the manufacturer of these caravans and the vehicle manufacturer’s and to vicroad’s who keep changing weights and capacity on everything. There is a simple thing called commonsense to which all matters are bound. This time you did not issue fines but i bet in the future you will as now you have what is proof of concept to raise revenue in the name of safety. Point in case is when I first got my Licence and towed a caravan that was 22 feet long from hitch to tail on what was then a standard tow bar and 2” inch ball (50 mm) and a single axle on the caravan which was then new and made from the materials of the day could not be towed today empty on the road because it would now exceed current weight loads and yet that caravan was towed all over Australia without one single incident. Why has Vicroads not sent out a booklet on these matters addressing this very issue? Because like the Government they want to keep the public in the dark so revenue raising can continue unabated all in the name of safety.

    1. Hi Fred. I’m not a police officer and I myself had nothing to do with the official side of things. I was merely an observer. But I have to say that I do not agree with your comments about Police unfairley targetting people having fun or that any exercise like this is simply revenue raising. Across the two days there would have been about 30 officers from the various agnecies working there. Their wages alone would not have been covered by any fines that may have been issued. This is the case with just about any infringement system. It costs a lot more to issue and collect fines thnn they would every amount to. Then there’s the ongong support costs of enforcement, emergency services, the judicial system, infrastructure maintenance, the list goes on. If infringement were truely to be a revenue raising exercise, we would be paying a LOT more…! In any case, no one was fined for being overweight this time and I doubt that will happen for a while yet. But at some point it has to happen. There are too many crashes involving caravans and other lage trailers. For the safety of drivers and the people around them, something has to be done. This is the first step. We may as well get used to the fact that more is comeing.

  28. I totally agree with this Article and it’s raising awareness of the Loading issues of Cars and the Caravans that are towed. Many Caravans will be overloaded and their towing Vehicles just meet the minimum towing specifications.
    Disappointed that this series of friendly Roadside Inspections was not conducted and widely promoted before the Christmas period so people going away were made aware of weight limitations before going traveling.
    I would like to see more of these Roadside Inspections in all states with Drivers being warned and then dealt with for repeat offenders.
    As the owner of a 5th Wheel Caravan and Small truck to tow it I am acutely aware of how much weight can be placed in the Vehicle & Caravan to remain inside the Legal Limits for Towing.

    1. Hi Barry. Unfortuately the timing of the operation was not something that could be controlled to any great degree. Police have other priorities competing for their time. I myself was a little sceptical about the timing at first but as it turned out, there was no shortage of ‘customers’ coming through the doors, so to speak. Theer will be more of these types of checks done in the future so as we go on, safety will improve.

  29. I read the article and then re read it and cannot believe the double standards being applied here with over weight as a truck driver we have to be at the right weight as a total and over axle groups but here you say that a big chunk of the stopped vehicles were overweight not only as gvm but on there groupings and yet no fines were given out how can this be right . Good on vicroads for doing it but how about you enforce the laws

    1. Hey Al, As I’ve mentioned in other replies, education and awareness is always the first step in any change to enforcement. Many drivers are genuinely unaware of their weight situation. When the message gets out and access to public weighbridges increases, there will be little excuse for being overweight and police will move to enforcement and fines. It will take time. Be patient.

      It is worth noting that a high percentage of drivers who were overweight stated that they were truck drivers as well. You can draw your own conclusions from that….

  30. very interesting article – I note that the weighing of non commercial vehicles (caravans ) is deemed a safety issue- what is driving this ???. It must’ve noted that nearly (most) vehicles are overloaded at holiday periods- also not good but are all non commercial vehicles to be weighed or only caravans specific.I have anew landcruiser towing 3 tonne caravan but the caravan is not the issue- tow vehicle weights are the serious issue.This will become I think an exercise for after market groups to push there products.
    Seriously, unless both vehicle manufacturer and towed vehicle supplier address this issue the owners are at the mercy of any establishment that enforces “the required law”
    I am an ex long distance tanker driver and believe that the ability to drive and manage the rig is as important than being a small percentage overweight. More thought required on the driver perspective
    Allan

    1. Hi Allan. My understanding of how the operation was conducted was that due to time constraints, it was not possible to weigh every tow vehicle. They would have needed more officerzs, more scales and, I suspect, a larger area. I know they weighed a couple of rear axels of vehicles that were clearly overloaded. Others where it was suspected were given some advice about checking out their weights and advised to lighten up their load.

  31. 41 were over weight there is no sign of anyone being booked It’s the main cause of accidents in caravans If they were trucks they would have been put off the road

  32. Hi, after recently driving from Hobart (Tassie) to Weipa with a mate, both having mechanical engineering backgrounds, we were surprised at this very issue of vans being far too big/heavy for the towing vehicle, the towing vehicle being well and truely overloaded and then while traveling at 100km/hr how many of these rigs passed us doing around 120km/hr.
    I have had difficulty in finding the legal towing speeds for each state, they vary state to state & I believe for the towed vehicle weight.
    I was told QLD it is permissable to tow at the posted speed limit up to 1600kg, over this then 90km/hr is the maximum limit.
    A friend who has towed his boat for 30 years in Tasmania was surprised recently when he was booked doing 100km/hr, he had no idea the limit for towing anything in Tasmania was 90km/hr.
    Can you please supply the legal towing limits for each state, all other issues raised in the article (ball weight, GVM, GCM, kerb weight etc) I would have thought should be common knowledge for anyone towing, as exceeding any of these limits is negligence and in the case of an accident will more than likely nullify an insurance claim, especially if death is a result of such negligence and could lead to criminal prosecution.

  33. Being fairly new to caravans and towing I found the information invaluable. It would be great if there was a day at a local weigh bridge (probably a Sunday) where you could book your van in and have the experts on hand to go over your set up and give advise etc. I would be more than willing to pay and it would give me peace of mind before hitting the road. I feel I am like a lot of other people . I have read a lot of information and think I have got it right but to be completely honest I still having have that nagging feeling “have I got it right”.

    1. Hi Andrew. Not sure where you live but I believe there are plans for this very thing. In fact I’m looking at doing one at Broadford (vic) in the coming weeks.

  34. I commend the operation for making RVers aware of overloading. We need to have everyone including manufacturers educating people as to their legal requirements and have an amnesty period with good media coverage before we start prosecuting people. Maybe a points system like 3 strikes and your out

  35. A good idea to bring awareness of this to people towing caravans and trailers. Now they just have to teach them how to drive and how to react around trucks and especially road trains. Very few seem to have any idea at all.

  36. Good article. Should help progress discussion and, hopefully, action. Firstly, I agree and know of many caravans that are well overweight and poorly loaded. Something has to happen to stop them for their own safety. However, one basic point has been missed in all these discussions. The 300kg and 400kg payload limits have nothing to do with the car, caravan and driver capabilities. I believe they have been implimented with the view that everybody is basically too stupid to load a caravan properly, so a lighter caravan is safer than a heavier one. I bought my first caravan in 2002, loaded it for a holiday and took it to a weighbridge. Total weights were under the limit, but ball weight was way out. So I rearranged the payload and weighed it again. Weighed it three times before I got it right. If people did that (perhaps even regulated so you must do it and show the certificate), we could, allow caravans to carry their full payload. Currently, you can pay an engineer to assess your caravan and potentially have the GVM upgraded. Surely, everyone whould agree a correctly loaded caravan with a 600kg payload is safer than an incorrectly loaded caravan with a 400kg payload. Go back to the basics. Why do we have artificially imposed limits? Is there a better way?

  37. A good article and good education however your last comment about GCM!! Sure more of this should be done I have seen some people that just should not be driving some cars and caravan’s. As a provider of GVM Suspension kits in the 4wd industry it is comments like checking your GCM that confuse’s the consumer. GCM and ATM are just two figures added together they give you a figure a number that happens to be called Gross Carrying Mass. GCM however this is not the law for a vehicle and caravan or camper trailer. A vehicle does not come into the country and is compliance with a GCM. It is not a compliance of a vehicle to have a GCM it is compliance to have the correct GVM for sure. It is the compliance and law to make sure your caravan is at the correct ATM. It is correct that your trailer ball weight is accounted for within your recommended GVM. Can I suggest to the righter of this article to contact Lovell Suspension and discuss the true meaning of GCM and right something about it. That would be great education for everyone who has read this and follows your face book page.

    1. Thank you very much for your feedback. I have to be honest, I don’t quite understand where you’re coming from. GCM or Gross Combined Mass is probably the biggest issue facing caravanners at the moment especially those who drive one of the later model dual cab utes. Every vehicle that comes into this country will have a GCM figure on its compliance plate. The only exception I am aware of if the 200 series Toyota Landcruiser (pre DPF models). With that particular vehicle GCM is taken to be GVM (or gross vehicle mass) plus maximum towing capacity.

      To get an idea of the problem, we probably need to look at some practical examples. The table below shows what happens when you load up the 10 of the most popular tow vehicles their maximum towing capacity.

      http://rveethereyet.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/table-1.jpgtable 1. Towing Limits

      As you can see the Mazda BT-50 and Ford Ranger have less that 400kgs remaining cargo capacity before they exceed their GCM. Given the popularity of these two vehicles and the likelihood they will be towing up around these weights, knowing their all up weight compared to GCM becomes extremely critical. Depending on how much they have in the tub of the ute, their vans may not even be at max weight and they could still be over. This is why I suggested people look at this area first.

      The other thing to consider is that a free weighbridge like the one at Broadford is a drive on and drive off system. You don’t have time to uncouple the trailer and weigh each unit individually. GCM is quick and easy to see straight away and can be the first indication something is not right. People can go on to take other measurements should that be required.

      If someone at Lovells or any other suspension expert is willing to put something together for me, I’ll definitely consider publishing it.

      1. just wanted to add the VW toureg (2009 model) to the mix as it is often left out of calcs but I see many around as tugs. In my case gcm is 6445 kerb weight 2396 and tow capacity 3500. my van weighs in at 2450 unloaded but when I put it over the weighbridge it was 2880 loaded (no water in tanks) and on the tow ball 290 (capacity 350).

      2. Don’t forget that people in the tow vehicle are included in the weights . If you have 2 large adults at say 90 k
        Kg’s each then your cargo/luggage load is then dropped by 180Kg’s . A sizeable load that is quite often not taken into consideration when loading up . Long gone are the days of putting the family in the car and packing all the holiday goodies around them so as everything fits in . If you had the Mazda BT50 that would only leave you 205Kg’s of extras to add , 100 liters of water = 100kg’s , and it does not leave much for clothing-bedding-cooking etc . And then there is the accessories on the tow car , bullbar and tow bar etc . Leaves next to no roomfor happy hour enjoyments

  38. Seems to me a lot of vehicles also have GVM issues, especially smaller wagons. When all said and done, a lot of 4×4 wagons have accessories fitted eg. Steel bull bar, duel battery, rear draws, roof racks, rear bumper mounts; all of which add to the GVM of the vehicle. Take my case a Prado 120 with GVM of 2900kg, max ball 250kg, max tow 2500kg. I weighed my Prado 120 with full fuel, duel battery, steel bar, and rear draws it seemed OK; however you need to add ball weight and passengers to the GVM. So, the weight with a 130kg ball weight on my 2t Coromal (well under max) and two smaller people of 75kg and 85kg was now 2830kg (remember that max 2900kg). Even before I put anything in the vehicle I only have 70kgs of payload left. I’d bet my left testicle GVM is as big an issue as GCM, perhaps more so. People do need to be educated, I see confusion daily on the FB sites re GVM what’s added what’s not. BUT more worrying I see people that just don’t want to know, they are of the opinion what I don’t know cant hurt me. It’s a pity but it seems some people can’t be lead, they need fines to motivate their behaviour.

    1. You’re absolutely right Steve. GVM is just as big and issue as GCM. People have to start somewhere, just as you have but they also need to see the complete picture. GCM is one way they can start to see where they are tracking but after that, GVM and ATM become the primary focus. I firmly believe that there is a lot more awareness now that Newmerella has happened and the reaction to it has been so enormous.

  39. Great write up, hopefully things change and we get safer on our roads. I recently bought a dualcab ute and was amazed that the salesman constantly mentioned the towing legal rate of 3500kg. When I questioned him he ignored all the other aspects of weight, we “discussed” it at length to convince him to change the way he treated people off the street. Im an old has been truckie and cannot believe that he is passing on rubbish rules to unsuspecting people off the street. Yes I agree that its your responsibility to know what you are allowed to do but help the uninitiated to do the right thing. GCM is a damn site more important than what you can legally tow. ATM is something most people know very little about. There was a great comment earlier about your vechile…….after fuel, people, accessories and ball weight there is very little left you can put in the towing vehicle. Keep up the good reports, see you on the road 🙂

  40. Thanks Peter for sharing your experiences. I completely agree with everything you’ve said. In fact I reckon you’ve summed it up well..!

    Cheers and see you on the road

  41. Hi Brenton

    From what I can find on the net, the 100 series Landcruiser has a GVM of either 3,180kg for the non turbo diesel, or 3,260kg for all other models. Your vehicle, at 3014kg, is under GVM while towing so all good there. The maximum towing weight with brakes is 3,500kg. Your van at 2,950 which I assume is the total weight of the van on its own, is with this spec so, again, no worries. The GCM of the 100 series is 6,680kgs. Your total weight is 5,964kg. Looks like you’re good to go…!

      1. Hey Brenton.

        There’s no way I can advise you if you’ve exceeded your rear axel weight. You need to put your rig on a weighbridge to see whether or not that’s the case. I doubt you would have but its worth checking that out.

        When you look at ballweight, you need to look at it in two different ways. There will be a maximum ball weight for the trailer and one for the tow vehicle. I couldn’t find an actual rating for the 100 series Cruiser but I imagine it would be consistent with other Toyota 4WDs and be 10% of max towing capacity or 350kgs. So your trailer at 350kg would likely be right on the limit. As for the trailer, that’s a different matter. Most trailers will have a tow ball weight but not necessarily a max tow ball limit on their compliance plate. The tow ball weight will be what the towball weight of the van was at TARE or when it left the factory (you hope). If it does state a max towball limit, then you will need to redistribute your weight accordingly. They are generally set at 10% of ATM but not always. Some European trailers are far less than that. Most experts will tell you that your towball weight SHOULD be at least 10% of the laiden weight of your trailer.

        So to summarise your situation, you’re at your limit on the Cruiser’s tow ball weight. You do have at least 10% of the trailer’s laden weight on the towball now so that should be OK. But without knowing what the limits are on your trailer’s compliance plate, I can’t say whether you’ve exceeded the maximum set by the manufacturer.

        At the end of the day, the whole setup needs to be stable. If you’re using a weight distribution hitch and you’re not experiencing any adverse handling such a swaying or lack of steering control, then you’re probably OK. If you’re not using a WDH or you’re experiencing some adverse handling, then get your rig checked out by an expert. If you contact Hayman and Reece, they may be able to reccommend a dealer near you to have a look at your setup and advise on the best course of action. Hope this helps.

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