Caravan Safety Chains

Submitted: Wednesday, Apr 03, 2013 at 23:14
ThreadID: 101487 Views:7695 Replies:14 FollowUps:59
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I have a problem with safety chains on caravans. We have had two accidents involving this car/caravan combination over Easter in Western Australia, with one fatality. The law regarding safety chains is as follows……..
"Safety chains
All States and Territories require the use of safety chains. Safety chains must be strong enough to hold the trailer should the trailer coupling accidentally disconnect, and comply with the appropriate Australian Standard. Trailers up to 2500 kg ATM are required to have one safety chain while trailers from 2,500kg to 3,500kg must be fitted with two safety chains. The “D” shackle used to connect the safety chain to the vehicle’s tow bar must have a load rating equivalent to that of the safety chain."
The problem I have with this is the sentence "Safety chains must be strong enough to hold the trailer should the trailer coupling accidentally disconnect". Now I don't know whether you have ever been in a vehicle where the trailer has disconnected …. I have, as a small boy, and I can vividly remember the car being thrown around with a loaded trailer that came loose in Perth at 30mph (50kph).
Now let us assume that our 3 tonne caravan comes loose at 80-100kph, and being tied to the vehicle ………….
WHY is the chain called a safety chain? If the caravan came loose on the open road WITHOUT a safety chain, it COULD I suppose career into another vehicle …. If it came loose WITH a safety chain, it could conceivably drag the towing vehicle into another vehicle as well ……. and in the absence of another vehicle, create the scenario that we have seen in WA over the past few days, with the potential for fatalities in a single vehicle accident.
As I said earlier, I have a problem with Safety Chains on Caravans ………...
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Reply By: olcoolone - Wednesday, Apr 03, 2013 at 23:33

Wednesday, Apr 03, 2013 at 23:33
From my understanding of the accidents the tow vehicle was connected with the tow ball to the caravan in both accidents and didn't become disconnected until after or during the accident....... the way you have put it it reads as if the tow vehicles and caravans became disconnected from each other and seeing the chains were connected that caused the accident.

I don't see your point regarding chains.
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Follow Up By: Dennis Ellery - Wednesday, Apr 03, 2013 at 23:39

Wednesday, Apr 03, 2013 at 23:39
Hi olcoolone
I read the report in the West Australian and examined the photos and these didn’t include that information. Do you have a source of more detailed information?
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 08:10

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 08:10
I don't have a source of more informations.... just making a common sense assumption on what may of happened.

This topic is about safety chains and the way I read Lauie K post it sounded like if they didn't have chains would they of survived.

I think it is bit premature to make any claims of the IF's, WHY's and HOW's this accident happened and what part the chains played in it.

I don't even think the WA Police would have come to a conclusion of the accident.

If the chains did contribute to the severity of the accident and it was proven chains cause more damage then no chains then there would be a recommendation to alter the ADR's.

What may seem stupid to us regarding ADR's usually is backed up with hard data to prove otherwise....... what we may only see or experience once in our lives at the most if that, people who deal with this stuff day in and day out may see it more often and can piece together a common trend.......

Usually Police and Coroners reports take many months and in some cases years to hand down there finding.

If they didn't have chains would have they survived, would someone else have died because the van was out of control and hit them, would the accident have been a double fatality........ ANd if the chains were attached...... did it make the accident worse, would the car of rolled, would people of survived.

There are many yes and no's to this and to make comment either way is not the right thing....... it's he says she says with too many if's and buts plus a lot of speculation with very little true data to back the claim.

One thing I do know is it is pretty stupid to only have one chain fitted to trailers up to 2500kg...... for the sake of another $10 it would make more sense to fit two.... all our trailers have two and we always cross the chain as mentioned below.

The other way I look at it is with chains there is always a chance to save the trailer and the cargo if it did come loose.

The hard thing is there is no real data to back the claims either way of what is best.
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Follow Up By: Dennis Ellery - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 11:17

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 11:17
Hi Olcoolone
Your statement “From my understanding of the accidents the tow vehicle was connected with the tow ball to the caravan in both accidents and didn't become disconnected until after or during the accident”
Sounded pretty detailed to me.
I have just come from a caravan trip in the area where one of accidents occurred. Narrow winding roads, big drop offs and large tree trunks close to the edge of the road. I’d hate to get into difficulties down there, with a 3 tonne caravan dancing around on the end of a couple of chains.
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 15:30

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 15:30
Whats detailed????
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 23:29

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 23:29
Quote: "I have just come from a caravan trip in the area where one of accidents occurred. Narrow winding roads, big drop offs and large tree trunks close to the edge of the road. I’d hate to get into difficulties down there, with a 3 tonne caravan dancing around on the end of a couple of chains."

Both roads where the two accidents were reported; the Hassell Highway near Green Range and the Coalfields Road to the EAST of Collie are good wide roads. The Coalfields Road to the west of Collie, although wide, is in part steep downhill and winding - the scene of many accidents.

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Follow Up By: Dennis Ellery - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 00:21

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 00:21
Hi Motherhen – Gee you are a wealth of knowledge.
The West Australian reported that accident on the South West Highway – my description of that highway is accurate.
I’d better get onto them and tell them that their report was wrong.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 01:03

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 01:03
Hi Dennis - to clarify and qualify my local connections.

The press reports I saw placed the Green Range fatality on the South Coast Highway near Warriup Road which as I recall is near to top of the hill if coming from Albany direction as they were doing. I have driven that road many times, but not for a few years now since our farm was sold, so am now not certain of which side of the crest Warriup Road leaves the Highway. This hill at Green Range is the only hill of any significance along this road.

The Road from Jerramungup to Albany is also known as the Hassell Highway and I realised after I had posted - with no edit facility :( - that the press reports had used South Coast Highway which is the total road from Albany to Esperance. Addresses along this section are known as Hassell Highway, and our farm was further north towards Jerramungup with a Hassell Highway address.

The South West Highway is in a totally different region - from Bunbury via Harvey and Waroona to Armadale. That too is wide, and mainly flat through the dairy farms at the base of the Scarp. I have driven that one many times.

Extract: "Emergency services were called to the accident on South Coast Highway near Warriup Road about 11am this morning.

It is understood the man’s car rolled over before the caravan they were towing flipped on its top."

Another report I read stated that the lady was driving and they were heading out from their home at Kalgan River. Very sad.

Mh
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Follow Up By: Dennis Ellery - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 10:38

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 10:38
This is getting silly – call it what you want – I will stick with my description. My maps, the West Australian newspaper, the emergency services etc. know it as the West Coast Highway.
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Follow Up By: Dennis Ellery - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 10:42

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 10:42
Opps - South Coast Highway
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 10:50

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 10:50
Dennis - which accident and which region are you referring to with "West Coast Highway"? It is all off topic for this Caravan Chains thread (apologies to Laurie), but the two accidents with caravans during the Easter period which I referred to as I think were the ones referred to by Laurie in the opening thread were at Green Range near the South Coast 60 kilometres from Albany and the other 35 kilometres east of Collie - according to media reports; neither West Coast.

Mh
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 11:04

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 11:04
OK Dennis - makes sense now :). My reply came after, but typed before I saw yours. I did explain why I used Hassell Highway and would have changed it for continuity with the media reports if we could edit here.

Mh
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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 14:22

Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 14:22
MH

Hi friend. I see that you fell fowl of the dreaded "typing and internet delay" bug. I went around in circles the other day on one thread because of it.

Good to hear you.

Phil
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 14:28

Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 14:28
Hi Phil

It happens to me a lot, as I get interrupted regularly when typing posts. I am used a forum platform where if there has been a post since I started typing, it shows you so you have the opportunity to amend or abandon before going live - a good feature for thread continuity. I am also used to a forum where you have a few minutes open for editing to correct typos such as I just made further down this thread *oops*.

Cheers

Mh
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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 14:46

Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 14:46
As a fish and chips lady once said please explain.

what did you mean by: "I am used a forum platform where if there has been a post since I started typing"?

Phil
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 14:49

Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 14:49
Hi Phil

Rather than run off topic, I will email.

Mh
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Reply By: Dennis Ellery - Wednesday, Apr 03, 2013 at 23:33

Wednesday, Apr 03, 2013 at 23:33
Hi Laurie.
I saw that report in the local paper where the van ended up on top of the towing vehicle - killing one of the occupants.
Not all government rules or regulations make good engineering sense or even common sense.
I too would prefer the caravan to part company with the towing vehicle if the connection failed.
Just a gut feeling and I haven’t seen any engineering studies done on the subject.
AnswerID: 508128

Follow Up By: Dingojim - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 07:23

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 07:23
Dennis Ellery unfortunately our fellow scribe olcoolone does not rely on factual information and in another thread I have suggested to him that he cease jumping to conclusions to prevent injury. Cheers
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Reply By: blown4by - Wednesday, Apr 03, 2013 at 23:58

Wednesday, Apr 03, 2013 at 23:58
They are called Safety Chains because they are supposed to restrain a trailer that becomes uncoupled and keep it connected to the towing vehicle until it can be safely brought to a halt. I appreciate your views on what subsequently happens in some cases when an uncoupling occurs however this is dependent on many factors, such as, but not limited to: chain length, whether there is one or two chains, speed, the actions of the driver once the uncoupling occurs. Whilst some trailers and towing vehicles come to grief after an uncoupling has occurred there are many more that suffer the same fate without uncoupling. In other words there are plenty of trailer accidents caused by many things such as inexperience, excessive speed, overloading, incorrect load distribution, tyre deflation, running on to the road shoulder and then over-correcting, inattention, falling asleep, contact with wildlife, mechanical failure, fatigue, etc so I don't think it is fair to blame safety chains because their failure is usually subsequent to the main reason for the accident rather than the cause of it. I personally have witnessed cases of trailers pulling up safely after an uncoupling and I think it is preferable to risk the chains causing a problem rather than let the uncoupled trailer cross to the opposite side of the road and take out innocent oncoming drivers and their passengers or run off the side of the road possibly taking out innocent bystanders or pedestrians, for example, on a footpath.
AnswerID: 508130

Follow Up By: Member - Mfewster(SA) - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 09:55

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 09:55
I think this makes sense. No safety chain can provide complete safety. A bit like seat belts. You have to go with the statistics, Occasionally seat belts night cause a problem but the odds are that they will help. Therefore, go with the odds. It makes sense to try to limit the damage resulting form a runaway to the towing vehicle rather than to other traffic (as far as possible). After all, the person doing the towing is the one responsible for the state of their own rig.
I have twice lost a trailer (at low speeds fortunately) and the chain saved me from considerable problems. A tow ball that sometimes appeared to be engaged, but wasn't was the issue. On the second occasion the trailer went into the back of my vehicle and this was much much preferable to the alternative which would have seen it probably take off down a hill. I swapped to a Tregg hitch (and chain).
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Follow Up By: Rockape - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 10:37

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 10:37
Thank you very much for a couple of sensible common sense answers.
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Follow Up By: Dennis Ellery - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 11:32

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 11:32
You guys are right as far as public risk is concerned.
My primary focus is the safety of me and my passengers.
I have just come from a caravan trip through narrow winding roads, big drop offs and large tree trunks close to the edge of the road. I’d hate to get into difficulties there, with a 3 tonne caravan dancing around on the end of a couple of chains.
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Follow Up By: Member - Mfewster(SA) - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 11:48

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 11:48
It is simply impossible to make a device that will be foolproof in all situations. Similarly, legislation on such devices cannot be perfect for every situation. What then is the solution to a situation like that outlined by Dennis? Ban large caravans on some/many roads? Maybe better to the driver to assess whether or not they should be on that road with that rig?
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Follow Up By: Dennis Ellery - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 12:19

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 12:19
Yes I think I am relatively safe – on those roads I travel a maximum 85ks /hr and less depending on the situation. Have had other vans overtake me, in my opinion dangerously, and too impatient to wait for a passing lane.
One of those recent WA fatal caravan accidents occurred when over taking a truck on those roads – might not have happened on a passing lane.
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Follow Up By: Rockape - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 13:06

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 13:06
Dennis,
just on the van becoming detached from the vehicle.

A simple thing to follow so there is minimum chance of this happening is to check the towing tongue retaining pin and clevis pin are intact. Check the ball is tight. Hook up and lift the A frame with the jockey wheel to make sure the ball is captive. Then the van shouldn't come detached.

When hooking up a prime mover I always left landing feet down and the trailer brakes on, then gave the trailer a tug to make sure the king pin was set in the jaws.

With this simple prestart we should never have the chains come into play.
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 15:49

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 15:49
It sounds like some are trying to find a solution for a solution for something that shouldn't happen in the first place.

I'm with you Rockape follow a procedure and lower the risk.

Other than not tow a caravan, drive on windy roads or not drive at all and stay home there is no way you can lower this risk to zero.
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Follow Up By: Dennis Ellery - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 16:37

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 16:37
Hi Rockape
That’s basic stuff - I already follow that procedure, plus more, with a detailed check list that I go through after my van hook up. My brain is addled and forgetful - I’m not sure whether that is due to old age or too much grog in my misspent youth.
Thanks for the thought anyway.
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Follow Up By: Rockape - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 17:03

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 17:03
Dennis, LOL.

I can guarantee mine is addled, as a mate dropped in yesterday and stayed overnight. I am still getting over the effects of a few too many cool drinks.
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Follow Up By: Rockape - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 20:32

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 20:32
Dennis,
now I have stopped the internal hemorrhage and every time my heart beats my eyes cross from last night I will try and explain.

I am sure you know the basics but if my reply about checking the hitch saves a few that read this from having a bad experience then I am happy.

Humans are their own worst enemy. Most of the time it is our stuff up and not an engineering problem that causes something to go wrong.

Yes, I have had a failure when towing which was a wake rake that opened up to it's operating position when a pin sheared at 70kph on a main road. No one was hurt and not to much damage. The chains kept it attached but if someone was coming the other way it would not have been pretty.

For those who don't know what a wake rake looks like I will grab on of the net.



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Follow Up By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 04:17

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 04:17
Yep... I see merit in the simple view that if my coupling parts it is me and my tug that can be expected to provide the remedy, even if the end result is disastrous for me..... to have the van roll away free* seems totally unreasonable on the basis of public safety. *I do of course have a break-away brake system, but carnage could take place well before that stops the van.
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Reply By: Member - Laurie K (WA) - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 00:26

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 00:26
I am not for a moment suggesting that the accidents were caused by an uncoupling of the caravans from the vehicles in these cases, nor that the chains caused the accidents. These accidents prompted me to write a long held belief that I have stemming from an incident in my childhood, and an understanding of physics that a 3 tonne caravan could quite conceivably throw a vehicle into an uncontrollable situation and result in a catastrophic situation in a single vehicle incident. 2-3 tonne caravans should be fitted with a safety breaksafe unit that if activated by the cable holding the safety pin, is supposed to halt the progress of the trailer if it becomes separated from the towing vehicle. As I pointed out, yes, the uncoupled trailer COULD career into another vehicle, as could an uncontrolled trailer/caravan combination, with the potential for more injury.
It was pointed out to me in another forum, that in the UK, it is not a requirement that "safety chains" should be fitted, but the breaking unit should be. It appears that I am not alone in my thoughts about what I feel is not a properly thought out requirement.
AnswerID: 508134

Follow Up By: pop2jocem - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 06:36

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 06:36
Hi Laurie,

The problem I have with this piece of legislation is the requirement for one chain regardless of the weight cut off point. My van (2500 kg GTM) is fitted with two chains and so is my 6'x4' trailer. Now my trailer is very old, (1968 manufacture date) and it has always had two safety chains. I think up until recently this was the requirement for any trailer. The concept being that the chains were connected in a criss cross manner which basically formed a "basket" if you like so that in the event of a disconnection the draw bar of the trailer dropped onto the two chains. I can see how with one chain any trailer could be allowed to swing back and forth even though being held to the tow vehicle.

My take on it anyway

Cheers
Pop
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Follow Up By: baz&pud (tassie) - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 06:54

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 06:54
Totally agree, chains are to be crossed to catch the draw bar in the event of it becoming detached from the tow vehicle.
Cheers
Baz
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 08:19

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 08:19
Everyone seems to be talking about the chains...... what about weight distribution hitches, they are a lot more rigid than chains or are they design to disconnect in an accident.

Did these vehicle have weight distribution hitches attached?
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Follow Up By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 09:45

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 09:45
Good point about the WDH's! I'm not sure what would happen as I'm no engineer or have I heard anything about this relationship in failures. My take on this is that with the WDH lifting the ball weight of the van it may in fact assist in lifting the hitch off the van if not properly connected (using less weight as my argument) and assuming the WDH stays connected they would assist in retaining the van. But I seriously doubt they would stay connected as mine don't need a whole lot of movement to remove from their retainer. Assuming a van has become disconnected the angle of my van (in the safety chain catch) would seem low enough for the WDH to come out.

It would be interesting to know more details as with most of these situations the contributing factors are a long time in coming and may not even look at such matters.

Kind regards
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Follow Up By: Dennis Ellery - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 11:41

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 11:41
Beutit,
You got that mixed up a bit – the WDH increases the pressure on the ball making it harder to pop off.
It doesn’t as you say lift the weight off the van, rather it distributes the weight from the rear wheels of the tow vehicle to its front wheels.
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 15:29

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 15:29
Other scenario.... if it had an off road hitch like a Treg that is physically locked.

Even for a tow ball properly connected it would be near impossible for the ball and socket to separate from each other unless not seated properly in normal driving.

Dennis..... so you're saying the person in the car was driving down the road doing nothing wrong when all of a sudden the caravan socket disconnected from the ball on the car and the safety chains contributed to the accident as it made him/her lose control.

Where did you find out the accident was caused by the caravan socket coming away from the ball.
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Follow Up By: Dennis Ellery - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 16:46

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 16:46
Olcoolone – your statement
“Dennis..... so you're saying the person in the car was driving down the road doing nothing wrong when all of a sudden the caravan socket disconnected from the ball on the car and the safety chains contributed to the accident as it made him/her lose control. Where did you find out the accident was caused by the caravan socket coming away from the ball.”
I don’t say that, and I don't know the cause of the accident – you are making assumptions.
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Reply By: ben_gv3 - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 07:49

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 07:49
I may be wrong but I thought all caravans over a certain size had to have emergency breakaway devices? My parents 21ft Jayco had one. Maybe dad got it installed afterwards?
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Follow Up By: ben_gv3 - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 07:50

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 07:50
edit: By emergency breakaway devices I meant the doobies that when the safety pin is pulled it engages the trailer brakes automatically.
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Follow Up By: Notso - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 07:56

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 07:56
Yes, but they only come into play when the van is totally disconnected from the tow vehicle, safety chains and all.
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Follow Up By: ben_gv3 - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 09:42

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 09:42
But if the caravan is still connected then wouldn't you use the brake controller, assuming you have one?
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Follow Up By: Notso - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 10:56

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 10:56
Yeah but it's probably hard to find the manual brake button whilst you are trying to handle a bucking bronco.

Dangerous to brake the tow veh under those circumstances.
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Follow Up By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 21:31

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 21:31
Hullo Notso
Could you please clarify what you mean by your last sentence
Thanks
Andrew
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Follow Up By: Notso - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 21:46

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 21:46
Basically if the van is swaying around behind you and you apply the vehicle brakes you'll probably end up with a worse situation. If you can apply the van brakes alone it helps to stabilize it so you can bring the rig to a halt in a controlled manner.
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Follow Up By: Member - Andrew & Jen - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 21:34

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 21:34
Hullo Notso

I agree completely.

I see many people towing vans at high speed and passing other vehicles, etc as if they didn't have an extra set of wheels and 2.5 tonnes or more behind them.

Just because the new breed of towing vehicles have a lot of power, doesn't mean it should be used injudiciously. As most of us know, the dynamics of a combination rig are quite different to a vehicle alone. Driving 10 kph less only adds 6 mins to a 100 km trip and many is the time I find that a driver that took a risk passing me is stopped at the next town anyway.

I suspect that many drivers would rarely, if ever, practice braking with the trailer brakes in various situations. I also believe that drivers (and the passenger in the front seat) need to be as familiar with using the van brake controller as they are using the brake pedal.

Cheers
Andrew
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Reply By: Kris and Kev - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 08:30

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 08:30
We recently bought a new (used) camper and it has two chains and I went to a bolt specialist shop to buy those quick attach, sorry cannot remember the name, couplings. The shop said they are illegal; the chains must have rated shackles. I also asked at a local caravan spare parts shop and they said the same and they also said that crossing the chains is also illegal? Not sure why the crossing of the chains would be a problem so I am not sure if that is correct. Kevin
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Follow Up By: Lyn W3 - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 09:40

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 09:40
Guess the local parts shop shouldn't be relied upon for legal information:

Suggest you read the following OFFICIAL publication:

Towing safely rules
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Follow Up By: Shaker - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 10:20

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 10:20
The length of the safety chain/s must prevent the trailer’s drawbar hitting the ground if the trailer is detached from the towing vehicle.

The safety chains must be properly connected to
the tow bar with attachments capable of withstanding the specified breaking load of each chain. Do not use padlocks.

Safety chain connections (shackles, pins or bolts)
A suitable shackle is where:
The shackle is rated and complies with Australian Standard AS 2741-2002 “Shackles” or other equivalent recognised standard; and the break load limit of the shackle is rated at least 1.5 times greater than the ATM of the trailer.
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Follow Up By: Kris and Kev - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 11:53

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 11:53
Lyn W3, your link was for WA, but the Qld one is similar but more detailed. But the only thing they maybe got wrong was the crossing over of the chains. Again, but while WA says to cross, the Qld does not mention that. In part it says, 'The length of the safety chain/s must prevent the trailer’s drawbar hitting the ground if the trailer is detached from the towing vehicle. The safety chains must be properly connected to the tow bar with attachments capable of withstanding the specified breaking load of each chain. Do not use padlocks.'
So maybe they are unwilling to give the advice to cross because the legislation in Qld does not mention it. But they were correct abouit the shackles being rated. Kevin
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 23:37

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 23:37
Always cross the chains. It gives more stability and allows for greater turning.

When our tow hitch broke and the rig was steadied to a stop, the first thing my husband said was "Thanks goodness we crossed the chains". We'd had a difference of opinion some time earlier and I had made my point.

Full story hereunder for those who have not read it before.

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Reply By: ozjohn0 - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 14:39

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 14:39
Size and requirements for safety chain is covered by Federal legiislation and can be found in VSB1.
I chain up to 2.5T ATM and two chains abover 2.5 tonne ATM. Most caravan manufacturers (Not Coromal) fit 2 chains to all their vans that exceed the minimum requirments.
WA does not require the use of 'D' shackles, but what ever is used, EACH must be able to support 1.5 times the ATM.
Trailer with a 2 tonne GTM must be fitted with a break-away system that will apply the brakes in the event that the chains fail etc. The system must apply the trailer brakes and hold them on for a minimum of 15 minutes on a 12 degree incline.
Only WA & NSW require chains to be crossed where two are fitted.
Cheers, Ozjohn.
AnswerID: 508162

Follow Up By: blown4by - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 00:09

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 00:09
Sorry to disagree but in WA, as per VSB1, each safety chain and its attachment must be rated to restrain the rated loaded weight of the trailer...not 1.5 times the loaded weight. Trailers with a GTM exceeding 2000kg must be fitted with break-away brakes. I have never heard of crossing chains being illegal and I think the 'parts shop' that gave that advice should stick to selling parts and leave the dissemination of engineering advice to the experts. That just does not make sense. Just one further point of interest, which is covered in VSB1, when welding chains to trailers the oblong chain link should be welded in a horizontal plane rather than vertical. Too often trailer builders weld the chain as it hangs so that the attaching link hangs below the drawbar so if the trailer ever came in to contact with the road the link would very quickly wear away allowing the uncoupled trailer to become unrestrained. Also chain end links welded in this manner are fixed at right angles to the direction of pull should they have to restrain an uncoupled trailer which provide far more mechanical advantage towards breaking the weld or the link than if the load on the end link was imposed in a straight pull the way the chain is designed to operate. The cause of the trailer being able to contact the road surface is the chains being too long in the first place. Another thing that makes me shudder apart from the use of padlocks is the use of those yacht quick release clips for which no rating is known. Also you see the safety chains attached to the removable tongue rather than the towbar which if the pin shears (rare I agree) or the safety clip is not fitted (more common) the tongue and trailer c/w safety chains will be left behind. With minimal thought a longer chain can be secured by rated shackle at the correct length and then the end of the chain can be padlocked thus achieving both the safety and security requirements. Another scary sight is those square section removable drawbars where someone has removed the pin and the drwbar is only held in place by the friction of the anti-rattle bolt (and some rust) and the owner is towing like that. Maybe some ppl as well as an MDL need a Towing License.
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Reply By: Nutta - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 22:25

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 22:25
I use one of those trailer coupling locks (antitheft locks) when I'm travelling, so its locked on via a padlock.

Unless the tongue snaps off theres no way the van will come unhitched.

AnswerID: 508205

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 23:39

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 23:39
Hi Nutta - I think you will find that most such incidents are from breakages, not the trailer bouncing off the ball, although the latter has happened. Not all people tow larger caravans with ball hitches anyway.

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Follow Up By: Member - Paul K - VIC - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 20:38

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 20:38
Nutta
I have just purchased one of the antitheft locks for my caravan and the instructions say not to be used when towing only when stationary

Regards Paul
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Follow Up By: Nutta - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 22:48

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 22:48
Fair enough, i wonder why?
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Reply By: Member - Laurie K (WA) - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 23:18

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 23:18
It seems I opened a can of worms. Interesting assortment of opinions. Thanks people for your thoughts

Laurie
AnswerID: 508212

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 23:57

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 23:57
Not a can of worms Laurie, but a topic that is often discussed on travel forums. Although not every incident or accident is the same and outcomes are different, overall, safety chains are an important safety feature when towing.

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Reply By: Motherhen - Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 23:55

Thursday, Apr 04, 2013 at 23:55
In WA and probably in other states, the regulations used to say they should hold the frame from hitting the road, but last time I copied the regulations, they had changed to –

At least one safety chain for vehicles up to 2.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass (GVM) and two safety chains for vehicles between 2.5 and 4.5 tonnes GVM. The chains must be cross-hitched so that the trailer or caravan will still be secure if the coupling breaks.

In our case, and probably with a lot of other caravans, chains that short would impede our turning or unduly stress and weaken the chains and attachments when turning sharply.

A case history:

When our tow bar broke, the fact that the a-frame was right down on the chains on the road may have helped stability, as did the chains being crossed.

As we were eating lunch whilst travelling, there was a sudden loud bang. My husband pulled the rig neatly to a halt onto the narrow gravel edge which was barely wide enough to get off the bitumen as there was a steep drop down on this built up section of road, and we jumped out to investigate the problem. There were lots of heavy haulage units on the highway (day and night) so getting off the road was imperative.

Fortunately a slight uphill gradient meant the caravan could not launch into the car, but better that than roll free down the hill and endanger all oncoming traffic. There was considerable wear on the chains from the short drag on the bitumen.

For those who have asked the weight distribution hitch had come uncoupled.

This incident also prompted us to carry flashing warning triangles as at the time we had no way of lighting the van when it got dark. We were parked just on the edge of the highway with large trucks going past.

Laurie, without chains, you’d need a lot of faith that your Breakaway was going to work and halt the van, otherwise you could have 3 tonne hitting your vehicle in the back if going downhill, or even worse rolling back and taking out some innocent family travelling behind if going uphill.

Although this may sound sexist and there is no reason why a woman cannot have the same driving skills and experience as a man and lots do, the fact that many caravan rollovers that I know about occurred when ‘she’ was driving indicates to me that not all have the same towing skills and experience – I certainly don’t. I was very thankful that I was not driving at the time of our tow bar breakage.

Although I will not speculate on the cause of this tragic accident, in the Green Range fatality it was reported that the car rolled before the caravan landed on top of it – which does not indicate to me that the accident was caused by a tow hitch breakdown. The only incidents of trailer up-ending onto vehicles with tow bar failure were with lighter trailers not caravans, and on dirt where the point of the a-frame dug into a dirt road rather than skidding on a bitumen road.

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Follow Up By: Member - Laurie K (WA) - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 01:47

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 01:47
Hi Motherhen
You say that When your tow bar broke the weight distribution hitch had come uncoupled. Am I correct in interpreting that maybe the Towbar was not strong enough for the tension being imposed by the WDH and broke as a result. Not a judgement, purely an enquiry.
It is a fact that not all towbars are equal, and because a towbar is fitted as standard, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is capable for a bigger trailer/caravan, or that it will be strong enough to withstand high WDH tensions. The Gall Boys in one of their videos snapped a towbar because they hadn't released the tension on their WDH when travelling on a track with steep and deep creek crossings, and caravans are their business.
I don't feel that this forum topic has been a waste, because I am fairly new to caravanning (5 years), and although I have towed over all sorts of terrains and covered over 100k kms in that time, and many more towing trailers over the years, I accept that I still have a lot to learn, and this forum has been an interesting exercise.
Re Female drivers, most of us are not experienced when confronted with this type of situation, and I have no doubt that you would have handled the situation as your husband did.
I would also point out, as I did earlier, that my original comments were not made about the accidents over Easter, but were thoughts that I have held for many years, and the accidents prompted me to share those thoughts. I admit that I am still not convinced.

Laurie
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 02:11

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 02:11
Hi Laurie

The WDH was uncoupled when we got out of the car - because of the then distance between the car and caravan - the length of the chains.

We have no idea why the bar broke. It was actually the receiver (the square bit the block goes into) that broke away from the bar, and the experts said that brand (neither Nissan nor Hayman Reese) is a good brand and should not have broken. It seems possible that a faulty weld caused it to come away. I do not blame the tension of the WDH but I am neither qualified nor experienced to say if that was possible. We were on the Stuart Highway between Pimba and Glendambo, towing with our Nissan Patrol.

Experience is something you gain, just after you needed it :O

I understand that the thread did go a little off track with the recent accidents. We cannot speculate as to what happened with these, but caravan rollovers are all too common; often on straight fairly flat roads where accidents should not happen. Once the trailer starts to swing, there is a high chance of an accident.

Another report today Caravan accident and fire and a lucky escape with their lives for the couple who last everything else. It is on a straight flat road.

I'm sure you will find more incidents where the chains have prevented further damage than where something has gone wrong whilst the trailer wass swinging n the chains. It there is adequate towball weight, swinging should not occur. If there is not, it is an accident waiting to happen.

Mh



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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 02:13

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 02:13
Too late at night and too many typos with no edit function :(

"I'm sure you will find more incidents where the chains have prevented further damage than where something has gone wrong whilst the trailer was swinging on the chains."
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Follow Up By: ozjohn0 - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 09:56

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 09:56
Motherhen,
You made typo.
It's not GVM, but GTM.
OJ
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 10:18

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 10:18
Hi John

That was a direct quote from WA Transport Drive Safe WA Part 5 - point 5.6

Mh

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Follow Up By: Member - Frank P (NSW) - Saturday, Apr 06, 2013 at 11:10

Saturday, Apr 06, 2013 at 11:10
yes I noticed that too, in one of the WA Govt publications linked to in this discussion. I believe they have made a typo themselves, which make it all very confusing.
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 11:15

Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 11:15
Hi OJ

"Motherhen,
You made typo.
It's not GVM, but GTM.
OJ"

WA Transport have acknowledged the error in their booklet and it will be rectified in due course. The say it should be ATM and this is consistent with the quote by Laurie in his opening post.

Cheers

Mh
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 14:12

Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 14:12
On updating my webpage to reflect the changes Transport say they will make since I pointed out the error, I had already noted that it should be ATM as in VSB1. Transport spokesman who phoned me said it was altered during a recent update - however I have taken copies of the scetion from Drive Safe going back some years and it still stated GVM.

Mh
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Reply By: bibtracker - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 01:08

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 01:08
From memory, the report in The West Australian newspaper said the fatal accident happened "following a failure with the caravan". As a former sub-editor on the paper, I wondered at the time what that phrase really meant.
"Failure" could be anything, including a blowout, perhaps. The accompanying photo was small and showed the caravan, from the rear, lying on a crushed tow vehicle, with no real detail visible.

Tony
AnswerID: 508225

Reply By: Corrugate75 - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 07:46

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 07:46
I'm probably too late to jump in on this one, but it is interesting to me that single axle 6x4 trailers have safety chains, but the second trailer in a roadtrain set up does not. Here is a trailer weighing 36.5tonnes (trailer and dolly) and it is attached to the front trailer with a ringfeeder, no chains.
Cheers
Corrugate
AnswerID: 508238

Follow Up By: blown4by - Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 23:42

Friday, Apr 05, 2013 at 23:42
Good question. The second trailer in a road train has an axle or group of axles at the front to stop the front of the trailer hitting the ground if an uncoupling were to occur. The theory is that it would be pulled up fairly straight by the spring applied emergency brakes in a break-away situation. (doesn't always work like that though in pactice) Caravans, box trailers. boat trailers and the smaller horse floats, do not have an axle at the front hence all pig tailers including those exceeding 4500kg ATM must have safety chains but dog trailers do not have to have them.
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Reply By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 14:29

Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 14:29
I read the post as arguing against the use of safety chains. I look at it this way. How about we stop trucks from securing those big wide 100 ton gravel trucks that they carry around. That to me seems the same issue. If it slide off and heads into suburbia my off sider, my dog and I are fine. There is logic there.

But what of the 50 or so passengers in the bus that it obliterated.

Which way do you go now? Still think that safety chains are wrong? No difference in the logic.

Not being smart or trying to insult you but I believe they are necessary. Just as loads on trucks and trailers should be secured.

Phil
AnswerID: 509669

Reply By: gottabjoaken - Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 17:53

Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 17:53
I also read the post clearly as questioning the logic of safety chains.

I agree with the doubts raised.

For the sake of me and my passengers' safety, caravan safety chains are a serious risk. In the event of the towball or coupling failing - or even in the event of uncontrollable jackknife, when perhaps I would like the car and van to part company - they will inevitably cause more serious damage to my vehicle and occupants than otherwise would occur if the van were allowed to drop off and come to a standstill (somehow) by the use of breakaway braking, or contact with some other object.

Naturally, for the sake of any other vehicle on the road, road user, or society in general, safety chains MIGHT lessen the risk of injury to them by binding the two vehicles together.

"Might", I say, because as described, the consequences result in an entirely uncontrollable and unpredictable situation, and will never guarantee that the combination does not carreer into other traffic.

What we really need is some alternative that provides adequate incident control and the ideal level of safety to both the towing vehicle and other road users.

Of course there isn't one. So we are stuck with the considerably flawed solution of safety chains.

Ken

AnswerID: 509679

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