Grey nomads have no hope with 4WD towing laws

WITH record numbers of retirees and also young families buying caravans and hitting the road, the most talked about subject in caravan parks is Weight Compliance. With all the acronyms TBM, GTM, ATM, GVM, and GCM, no wonder it is all so confusing.

However, every caravan and vehicle owner must legally comply with the weight limitations stated on the vehicle compliance plate.

Failure to do so can see the owner fined, have insurance claims denied, and even face prosecution in the event of an accident, which has been highlighted recently by a case currently before the courts in NSW.

David Lewis poses for a photograph at his Aspley home, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. He runs a mobile business called
David Lewis poses for a photograph at his Aspley home, Wednesday, June 13, 2018. He runs a mobile business called "Weightcheck" that measure the weight of caravans (AAP Image/Richard Walker)

Over the past two and a half years, our business, Weightcheck Mobile Caravan and Vehicle Weighing, has provided in excess of 680 individual weight compliance reports of caravans, 4WDs, camper trailers, boats and all sorts of trailers.

The most common problem we encounter is caravans and tow vehicles exceeding their weight limits, and our data base shows some alarming facts.

In the past three months alone, some 58 per cent of caravans and 33 per cent of tow vehicles we have weighed have exceeded their legal weight limits.

Overweight caravans are a bug headache for owners.
Overweight caravans are a bug headache for owners.

One caravan weighed recently was in excess of 500kgs over its allowable weight limit known as the ATM, or Aggregate Trailer Mass.

Another caravan and vehicle combination was a staggering 1200kgs over its Gross Combination Mass, or GCM, which is the total combined weight of caravan and vehicle.

So what happens when it all goes pear shaped and you find out your caravan is over its allowable weight?

There are many ways to rectify the problem, some easy, some not so easy. The caravan can be assessed by a suitability qualified engineer, accredited with Queensland Transport, who can in most cases, increase the payload the caravan is permitted to carry, by increasing its rated GTM and ATM.

Tow vehicle upgrades are a totally different story. The Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) is the total allowable weight of the fully loaded vehicle, including passengers, cargo, fuel, accessories, and the towball mass of the attached caravan.

Record numbers of retirees and also young families are buying caravans.
Record numbers of retirees and also young families are buying caravans.

The GVM is only able to be increased by upgrading the suspension components by specialised firms that have their accessories approved under Australian Design Rules. This however, only increases the total allowable weight of the vehicle, and does not increase its Braked Towing Capacity (BTC) or the total weight of the entire rig, the Gross Vehicle Mass (GCM).

There is so much confusion, discussion and differing opinions on whether upgrades to GCM's and BTC's are legal, and the regulations change from state to state.

There needs to be federal government decision on the matter so that all parties, in each state, have a uniformed regulation on the matter, until then confusion reigns.

David Lewis owns Weightcheck, a mobile caravan and vehicle weighing service in Brisbane.


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