10 Courteous Towing Tips

Caravan World — 4 July 2011

ANYONE WHO HAS spent time driving in the peak-hour traffic of a capital city will know that there is a difference between the cut-and-thrust, duck-and-weave style that occurs during that very busy time and the slightly more restrained style that occurs in non-peak times or at weekends. They both sort of work, with the only problem being if someone used to one style tries to apply it in the other.

In a similar vein, caravan and fifth-wheeler towing is different to normal driving, the rig being much longer and heavier. It is also different to commercial truck driving, where the rigs might be similar sizes but the commercial pace is usually considerably faster than the leisurely RV pace.

So, how do we RVers who are out enjoying the lifestyle help everyone fit together on the road? It’s quite simple: by some courteous towing! Here are our 10 tips…

1) Ensure that your tow vehicle and caravan/fifth wheeler are in top mechanical condition. Apart from anything else, it means your combination can accelerate on its best performance or brake quickly and safely if required. Before starting off, always check your running lights to make sure indicators and brake lights are all functioning as they should.

2) Be aware of what is going on around you at all times. Do this by watching ahead and reacting accordingly in plenty of time. In addition, a good set of external mirrors, preferably complemented by a rear-view camera, will keep you informed about what is going on behind you.

3) On the open road, keep a good distance between your vehicle and the one in front at all times. A ‘good distance’ is longer than the usual two seconds recommended by motoring authorities – three seconds in urban traffic and five seconds on the open road will help account for the longer stopping distances with a heavier rig.

4) Speed (1) – On the open road, either try to maintain highway speeds or drive at 15-20km/h under the speed limit. For drivers behind, it can be very frustrating and difficult to pass if you drive constantly at, say, 95km/h in a 100km/h speed zone. It also means the driver behind has to break the speed limit to pass safely.

5) Speed (2) – One of my pet hates. On country roads when passing lanes appear, don’t speed up. Just about everyone does this, whether towing or not (I have no idea why), but if you speed up, again it makes it difficult for traffic behind to pass legally and safely.

6) Where pullout areas are provided, pull off the road to allow traffic building up behind you to overtake. If there is a long queue of traffic behind, you’ll earn plenty of kudos. By constantly monitoring the rear-vision mirrors, a faster-travelling vehicle can be readily spotted. If road and traffic conditions permit, slow down and move as far to the left as possible. The greater the difference in speeds of the two vehicles, and the further they are apart while passing, the safer the situation becomes. When the other vehicle starts to pass, apply some power to the tow vehicle without accelerating: there is less chance of sway occurring if the caravan/fifth wheeler is being pulled rather than it pushing onto the tow vehicle. On this same theme, if travelling in a convoy, always allow enough space between each rig so that they can be passed safely, one at a time.

7) Out in the country where there are often B-doubles and road trains, try to avoid holding up trucks and don’t make it difficult for them to manoeuvre around you. Truck drivers are not going to be travelling at your leisurely pace. Some people use their 40-channel UHF radios to keep in contact with the drivers, even to the extent of having their regular radio frequency on the rear of their van/fifth wheeler.

8) When parking, ensure always that you are not parked in the way of anything else. Particularly when parking in cities or towns, try to avoid parking in positions (like near intersections or driveways) where it is difficult for other motorists to see around you. Out on the open road, don’t use truck parking areas, convenient as they may be: they’re constructed specifically for the much heavier weight of trucks, and truckies may have no alternative when they need to pull in for their mandatory rest breaks. On that same note, when overnight parking around population centres or places where it might be a sensitive issue, remember that it’s usually “Park, don’t camp.”

9) Stop for regular breaks. This might sound like a safety tip (which it most certainly is) but a driver who stays alert will be more aware of what’s happening around them.

10) I starting this article by talking about peak-hour traffic in big cities. It’s something most people don’t like and where possible, try to avoid. Adding to the confusion and chaos by dragging a big rig through busy city streets isn’t going to make you a popular bunny!

11) Actually, you really don’t need 10 tips. They can mostly be summarised in one sentence: consider others at all times!
Source: Caravan World Jan 2010

For more, see the Tech & Towing archive.


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Caravan Staff