The subject of recreational weights, or more like overweights, is going to be around for a while. For some, it's a challenging subject to understand, particularly for those towing caravans and fifth-wheelers. Still, unfortunately, it has to be grasped and dealt with if necessary.
For some years now, there's been something of an urban myth status about the fact that insurance companies would take a less than friendly approach to accident claims if it could be proved that the caravan or motorhome was overweight. Up until a few years ago, the urban myth bit was undoubtedly the case. However, in early 2019, there was a severe rollover accident near Walcha, NSW. It involved a Toyota Prado towing a caravan which resulted in fatalities. In the aftermath of the accident, the police – not the insurance company – collected all the bits and pieces from the accident and weighed them. The caravan was found to be overweight by 800kg, something quite staggering since there are vans on the road with a payload of just 400kg or less.
Apparently, it was the first recorded case of a caravan involved in a rollover accident being weighed afterwards. The driver was convicted of several offences, including that relating to the overweight caravan. This matter is in the news again because while the driver was originally sentenced to four years jail, a recent successful prosecution appeal resulted in a further two years added to the jail time. In case you missed it, the message here is that ignorance of RV weight matters is no excuse and it won’t be just the insurance company that takes a less-than-positive interest if an accident happens.
One of the benefits of owning a motorhome is that unless towing, there are fewer things to worry about in the weight department – just gross vehicle mass (GVM) and tare mass. Axle weights sometimes get into the mix but not often.
Some of these thoughts crossed my mind when I looked over a Jayco Conquest FA 24 4 motorhome not so long ago. In many ways, the Conquest is typical of the motorhome genre but has a few features that were a little different from the usual. Typical was the GVM of 4495kg. That neatly gets under the weight (5000kg) where otherwise, an LR truck licence is required. In several cases it also requires the truck manufacturer, think Mercedes Benz and Iveco, to derate the cab chassis from the original 5000kg and above rating. In the case of the Conquest, it has a tare mass of 3560kg, which gives it a healthy payload of 935kg. Somewhat better than many a caravan.
An external length of 7.56m (24ft 9in) gives the Conquest quite a spacious four-berth layout. That's achieved in part by having a drop-down bed, a less typical feature but not unusual. It tends to be more common in motorhomes than caravans and partly gets around the problem created by a Luton peak bed. While the Luton bed was a neat way of having a fixed bed in a motorhome and quite common, it wasn't always a popular feature with those folk who were less agile and had to clamber up a ladder every night to get to bed. It's an excellent way to retain a rear club lounge in the overall design. That's a very popular feature, particularly in New Zealand, but one that meant the rear lounge had to be made up into a bed or the Luton came into use.
My review Conquest had a rear club lounge with drop-down bed above. It's a little bit of a compromise but one that ticks several practicality boxes in one go. Jayco has done quite a good job of the overall finish around the drop-down bed. Some manufacturers fit the bed and not much else, but Jayco has included ceiling lights and compartmented storage that can easily be reached from the bed. Although the overall design was quite good, one of the slight oddities was that the external storage bins, of which there are several, were not particularly large. Thus, reducing the ability to carry anything particularly big and heavy. That's one way of keeping the overall weight down!
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