You, a trailer and the law

In the good old days you could tow anything with anything. That has all changed. With successive legislation it has become more complicated and confusing, but safer.

The National Road Traffic Act, 1996 (Act No. 93 of 1996) and the National Road Traffic Regulations published in Government Notice No. R.225 of 17 March 2000 stipulate the regulatory requirements for Towing of Vehicles.

The biggest issue is the mass relationship between your towing vehicle and the trailer.

You will find the GVM (gross vehicle mass) of your trailer and your towing vehicle on a plate fixed to the vehicle, in the handbook or you can ask the dealer/ manufacturer.

To tow any trailer with a GVM of up to 750 kg, the Tare (unladen mass) of the drawing vehicle must be double the GVM of the trailer.

Should the trailer be equipped with its own braking system and fall into the category of 751 kg to 3 500 kg GVM, the Tare of the drawing vehicle must be more than or equal to the GVM of the trailer.

If you have brakes fitted to the trailer you can tow up to your vehicle’s GVM providing that you do not exceed the 3500 kg trailer GVM. A trailer that exceeds 3500 kg GVM must have a service brake in addition to over-run brakes.

The towing of trailers is governed by legislation and regulations, which are not 100% the same for passenger cars, bakkies and trucks but do follow the same basic rules.

Driving licences

• B – Can drive a vehicle up to 3 500 kg Tare and GVM (gross vehicle mass)
• C1 – Can drive a vehicle of 3501 kg to 16 000 kg Tare and GVM
• EB – Can drive a vehicle up to 3 500 kg Tare, GVM and GCM (gross combination mass)
The minimum motor vehicle (car) licence allows the driver to tow up to 750 kg.
To tow anything that has a GVM exceeding 750 kg you require a driver’s licence with an EB classification. You can apply for an exemption to an EB licence; you must have been in the possession of a valid driver’s licence prior to the new credit card licences being issued.

Brakes

• Any trailer up to 750 kg GVM requires a parking brake.
• Trailers weighing between 751 kg and 3 500 kg require a parking brake and overrun brake/service brake.
• Trailers weighing in excess of 3 500 g require a parking brake and service brake.

The GCM or Gross Combined Mass has to be displayed on a vehicle’s identification plate. To determine what the vehicle may tow you have to subtract the GVM from the GCM, i.e. GCM less the GVM.

Chevrons

A Chevron is a board with reflective yellow and red striping set at an angle that must be fixed across the rear of a trailer or caravan. All new trailers as well as any vehicle with a GVM exceeding 3 500 kg requires a Chevron board.

In addition two red triangles are now required on trailers up to 3 500 kg.

Contour markings

Contour markings refer to the yellow reflective tape, which must be applied to all trailers.

Remember to add the weight of any equipment and fittings you install to the weight of the trailer to make your final calculations. It is also important to get the balance between your bakkie and the trailer as well as the balance inside the trailer right. If in doubt get advice. Getting the balance right will make a big difference.

Engine size

The Americans believe nothing beats a big block; cc’s and many of them, preferably with a V8 configuration is king. They have a point. The new boosting technologies for both petrol and diesel engines have changed the picture a bit though.

If you are planning to use a diesel towing vehicle an automatic gearbox will reduce strain on the engine. Petrol engines are less susceptible to stress damage. I firmly believe a slightly bigger engine is always better when towing. It gives you an edge when you need it. It may also reduce fuel consumption.

Finally

If you are going to acquire a trailer and a vehicle, research the trailer first and determine which type of vehicle will be best for you. Make sure that you install either the towbar of your vehicle’s manufacturer or from a reputable aftermarket fitment centre. The correct anchor points and electrical connections are critical for safe towing.

 

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