Driver Training - Car + Caravan

Submitted: Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 15:58
ThreadID: 133391 Views:5279 Replies:18 FollowUps:29
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Recently I obtained my MR Class of licence, mostly out of an interest to have the ability to drive a truck should the need arise, but also to drive something bigger to give me a better appreciation of handling characteristics of a larger, longer, and heavier vehicle on the road.

My usual combination is “The Landy” a Toyota 79 Series Dual Cab, weighing in around 3,500kg, and at times with the TVAN in tow, potentially a combination weighing up to just under 5,000kg. Not large by truck standard, that is for sure, but still a heavy combination by normal vehicle standards.

Last week I had to drive to Brisbane and back, in “The Landy”, and I took the time to observe the number of larger caravans, towed by an array of vehicles. Some of the vehicles looked suitable for the van, others less so.

I suspect the drivers would also have a range of experience, capabilities, and licence class.

A thread running here of the trailer fatality in West Australia got me thinking…

This is a bit of an “old chestnut” but is it time a class of licence be introduced for those wanting to tow larger caravans with standard vehicles, or failing this, at least a proficiency test for those only holding a standard vehicle licence?

Just thinking aloud…

Cheers, Baz – The Landy
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Reply By: skulldug - Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 16:56

Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 16:56

I've had a HR licence for 35 years (driving as a youngster) but have never once been asked to show it while towing a caravan or boat.

The existing rules around RV weights etc are seldom policed so adding another law that also isn't policed may not be effective.

I'd rather see those rigs that are very obviously overloaded or unroadworthy taken off the road.

At least your post will energise the forum for a while.

AnswerID: 604152

Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 17:09

Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 17:09
Hi Skull

I'm hearing you on the policing aspect.

Although the fact you have the licence (potentially - I'm sure it does) means you have the experience necessary for towing...which is were I am coming from.

Cheers, Baz
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Follow Up By: skulldug - Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 18:07

Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 18:07

I don't think the licence helped me with any aspect of towing a caravan. I did what most baby boomers do. Clench my teeth, concentrate hard and give it a go. Then I get onto a forum and claim to be an expert.

It shouldn't be necessary to place an imposition on everyone. Better to solve the real problem.

I guess it's like fishing bag limits. Most of us do the right thing. Others don't, don't care and never will. It doesn't have a lot to do with having a fishing licence.


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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 07:47

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 07:47
The real problem in my view is training and competency - how do we get some kind of uniformity with this?

Cheers, Baz
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Reply By: garrycol - Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 17:13

Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 17:13
AnswerID: 604153

Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 17:21

Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 17:21

Are you happy with the level of driver proficiency and competency in regard to the proposition I’ve outlined? I don’t want to assume your answer suggests you are.
If you aren’t, how would you address the issue?

Cheers, Baz
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Follow Up By: garrycol - Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 19:00

Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 19:00
I have no issue with the current arrangements.
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Reply By: Dave(NSW) - Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 17:59

Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 17:59
I agree with you Baz,

As a retired heavy vehicle driver I think there should be some type of competency test. I live on the Mid Nth Coast NSW and the amount of caravans that go A over T up here every year is unbelievable.

Cheers Dave


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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 19:16

Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 19:16
Hi Baz

Good post but can see one very big hurdle........

It would have to be implemented in very state and that is one thing that would be very hard to get through.

Driver education should be the most important thing and drivers need to be aware on their limits.

Things need to change for sure, but to make this a Federal issue, will need the backing from every state...could you see that happening?

One issue that has not shown its head here on the forum is overseas drivers.

Here in South Australia, it was mentioned on the TV that this year alone, 17 people from overseas have already died on SA roads, the biggest cause, driving on the wrong side of the road, not knowing our a Road Rules and in cases of split timing, pulling over to the right hand side of the road. Not sure how other state fair, but I would say it would be even greater over in the eastern states..

Just my thoughts.


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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 07:50

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 07:50
Hi Stephen

I agree wholeheartedly, it is about driver education and competency.

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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 19:32

Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 19:32

While I'd support some sort of license, or a blitz on poorly matched tug/van units, feel it is too late. Maybe 10 years ago, a push for this might have come about, but these days "they" are flat out having enough finance to police anything.

What happens now is a "cycle of life". Ol' mate retires, buys a van and a new ute, loads Mum onboard, and off they go, into the outback, or where ever. Gets in a situation, rolls van, tug or both, and they are written off. Assessor checks on it, or reviews photos, someone gets paid to clean up the mess, RACQ puts them up for a few nights in a motel, then they return home, to sort out what to do next. Suggest it all keeps the economy going, though probably doesn't do much for insurance premiums for those of us that don't, or rarely claim?

I've done a lot of kms over the past 7-8 years out in western Qld, and it's a very common occurrence, the demise of someone's pride and joy. And almost always on a straight stretch of road?


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Follow Up By: Dave(NSW) - Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 20:30

Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 20:30
The thing is Bob,
A lot of those vans that do go over or get written off have people killed or badly injured, as well as possibly other road users.
Cheers Dave

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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 07:54

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 07:54
Hi Bob

Your insight on car/caravan accidents becoming more common highlights that something is lacking in the training and competency arena.

I feel this is less about policing and more about education and assessment. Although, more policing on our roads would not be a bad thing!

I trust all is well in the North!

Cheers, Baz

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Reply By: Member - mark D18 - Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 19:53

Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 19:53

I think some sort of upgraded licence to tow a caravan would be a great idea.

I often drive past a large disused car park at Ourimbah , where a local caravan company does a some basic driving training ,I parked there last week and watched a bloke trying to teach a new van owner how to reverse his new purchase , Funny to say the least ,there was a lot of head scratching.

But as You mentioned someone also has to look at all these mid size automatic 4x4 towing large caravans,.

Some would have little Knowledge of the weight they are towing and most would be overloaded .


AnswerID: 604161

Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 07:56

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 07:56
Hi Mark

The thing is that once issued a licence there is no further assessment unless you intend to move into a new licence class. And even then there are anomalies, which I have highlighted in a response to "Motherhen" following...

Cheers, Baz
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Reply By: Member - Trevor_H - Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 20:32

Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 20:32
I have held HR and R Queensland licence for 50 years and, until retirement, Dangerous Goods. Licenced.....yes, competent.....not likely! There is no way I'm getting on a motorbike again, let alone unrestricted engine size. I'd be hesitant to drive a heavy rigid on the highway. The more I check and recheck the weights of my Prado and Golf 14ft van, the more I am disinclined to upgrade. I've just fitted a TPMS from Dig Options and wonder how many roll overs these could have prevented over the years.
AnswerID: 604165

Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 07:57

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 07:57
Thanks for your insight Trevor...

Cheers, Baz
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Reply By: Member - TonyV - Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 22:58

Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 22:58
There are nationally recognised "Tow Ed" courses for caravans, trailers and camper trailers, Australia wide.

The courses may be a work requirement, or in the recreational field, some people recognise that they do not having sufficient skills to tow or drive a 4WD off road and attend these courses.

Insurance companies recognise the certification and some offer discounted policies.

So all the ground work is already in place to obtain the skill sets required.

Recreational - MSMRVG201 - Tow a recreational vehicle safely
Off road - FWPFGM3214 Operate a four wheel drive in a towing situation.
5th Wheeler training

There are also 4WD courses that suit Recreational drivers SISODRV302A
The skills industry requirements for the Resource Industries, Forestry and NPWS. RIIVEH305E and PMASUP236

These certified courses are often a work requirement for mines for Drillers, Geologist, Surveyors and many others.
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Follow Up By: gbc - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 06:24

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 06:24
I concur, it's not so much about a 'license' but compulsory training to drive any motor vehicle.
In a past life we did standard and advanced 4wd and also advanced defensive driving courses at mt cotton nearly every year. There wasn't a time I was bored or didn't learn something. If you have a child getting a license, get them to a defensive driving course. Lessons on the road are useless in comparison.
Towing should require a basic endorsement stating you've attended a course and have been deemed competent at the basics.
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Follow Up By: Michael H9 - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 07:07

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 07:07
I agree. You only have to go to the tip on a weekend to see how comical some people are at reversing a box trailer, yet they are technically allowed to hitch up giant caravans, sometimes at a stage in life where reflexes and eyesight are diminishing. As it stands at the moment, drivers with a standard car licence never have to prove competency at towing and something smells about that. Tow-ed courses would certainly be beneficial. Having said that, over regulation is a pain in the butt too
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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 08:31

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 08:31
I would also agree with the comments provided, and like "GBC" I have undertaken numerous courses, always learnt from them and also enjoyed doing them.

The question goes to how do you make it “compulsory”? I guess one way is to bring in a licence class, after all if you do the training why not make it official?

All food for thought

Cheers, Baz
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Follow Up By: TomH - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 16:17

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 16:17
Its actually harder to reverse a box trailer than a decent sized van. Why because to reverse a trailer easily the distance between the rear wheel of the car and the trailers wheels should be more than the wheelbase of the tug.
If its not the trailer can turn inside the radius that the tug can turn and there soon comes a point where you cant correct the trailers direction.
Solution is to have longer drawbars on trailers rather than the stumpy short ones Aussie trailer manufacturers persist in using.

I had one with a decent length drawbar and could back it for yonks because I could always turn inside what it was doing
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Reply By: Motherhen - Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 23:01

Tuesday, Sep 06, 2016 at 23:01
Hi Baz. A licence with written and practical testing has not prevented the numerous car crashes, and additional paperwork would do nothing to prevent crashes. Caravans are under represented in accident statistics, so are not the best target to reduce road fatalities and trauma.

While we do not know the facts about the recent runaway trailer fatality, it does on the face of it appear to have been an illegal towing configuration. All the licences and paperwork in the world will not drop the person determined to do the wrong thing. It only inconveniences those who do it right.

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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 06:27

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 06:27
Hi Motherhen

What I am canvassing is whether a review of competency and training will assist in driver awareness and safety for those wanting to drive a motor vehicle with a large caravan behind it.

As it currently stands you will need an upgraded licence to drive something above 4,500kg, an IVECO 4WD for instance with the upgraded GVM, but nothing additional to hook up a combination weighing far in excess of 4,500kg.

Put an IVECO 4WD,alongside some of the vehicle and caravan combinations on the road today and the anomaly is obvious.

The question I am asking is whether some additional training and competency based assessment be a bad thing, especially given once you are issued with a car licence there is no further requirement for assessment despite being able to drive and tow something you have never been assessed on competency for?

I acknowledge people will have highly differing views on this topic, but the question needs to be canvased regularly, especially given the number of large combinations on the road with drivers of highly varying experience behind the wheel...

Cheers, Baz
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 14:19

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 14:19
That brings to mind a few random thoughts for a start Baz. This subject also frequently gets a bashing on Facebook pages in particular, and on other forums. One particular magazine reposts the same on their Facebook page (but not as often as they do with “grey water” LOL), because they know it is a divisive topic and they get hundreds of replies – all publicity for them. I will refer to trailer not caravan, because that is what they are, and any legislation would cover all trailers (over a specified weight) be they caravan, tradie trailers, horse floats or boats.

1. We are over regulated already. Like so many other areas in society, it gets down to personal responsibility. You can’t have legislation for everything. Surely someone who has never towed before and on retirement buys a big four wheel drive and palace on wheels for well in access of $100,000 and possibly double that has it in his best interests to learn how to drive it? Legislation itself cannot teach, it can only issue slips of paper. Just as having a driver’s licence will not ensure you do not speed, drive under the influence of alcohol, or pass in danger and have a head on with an oncoming car. We are all responsible for our actions when driving, whether towing or not.

Skulldog says it well “It shouldn't be necessary to place an imposition on everyone. Better to solve the real problem. I guess it's like fishing bag limits. Most of us do the right thing. Others don't, don't care and never will. It doesn't have a lot to do with having a fishing licence.”

2. How would you envisage assessing competency? Would this be a task for our overworked Police to have anyone towing a trailer over a certain weight to do a practical test? An hour or two per person, all over Australia. A test may prove you can reverse a trailer reasonably well, or get it through a narrow gate, but it will not assess whether you will eventually roll over or save it when the trailer/caravan starts to wobble (yaw). Loading the caravan is not the domain for licensing authorities to teach, but for each of us to learn or just use common sense.

3. Education. How could this be effected? Publicity campaigns over decades have done nothing to stop littering for example. They are just ‘preaching to the converted’. Those in the minority who do not care will never be trained.

4. Training for those without experience. Who would decide if you need training. Like when we all started driving, it was really only after we got that licence and out on our own that we gained the experience that has been added to over a lifetime. When our youngest got her driver’s licence, the Police officer came in with her after the practical test and said she did well; now she can really start to learn, adding just beware of all the idiots out there on the roads.

5. Compulsory training. This also has major drawbacks which I will not go into at this point. Government or individual’s money would be wasted in most cases, and it would not cover or prove competency in key needs to avoid an accident when towing.

6. We already have regulations as to what weights each vehicle can tow, and standard cars cannot legally tow these large palaces on wheels. Would it not be better to check and fine those over the specifications of their car, including GCM? There are issues with this aspect, but outside of your question. Again this is not being targeted because caravans and other large trailers are under-represented in accident statistics.

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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 15:50

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 15:50
Hi Motherhen…

Thanks for contributing further to the discussion…

Clearly, there are a range of views, some for additional training, and others who are questioning the need for it.

From my viewpoint I think we need a system that is better than simply “clenching your teeth and giving it a go” which has potential consequences for other road users. And whilst there is always an element of “on the job training” we need to ensure people have the right platform to base this learning on in the first instance.

After all, even 50-years of driving experience accounts for little if it is based on poor driving habits and technique…

Most of us would like to think that the B-Double approaching on a two-lane highway is driven by someone who has been assessed as competent to do it safely. Equally, the B-Double driver, or mum and Dad with the two kids strapped in the back of the Commodore, are entitled to the same level of comfort that the vehicle and caravan combination heading there way is also driven by someone who is competent to do so.

Adding there is something fundamentally wrong with a licencing system that demands a higher class of licence to drive a small “rigid” vehicle weighing between 4,500kg and 8,000kg GVM, but allows someone to drive a combination of vehicle and caravan (trailer) weighing somewhere in the same weight region without any formal requirement to demonstrate an ability to do so safely…

And let’s not overlook that the design of many caravans, including fifth-wheelers, is centered on ensuring the driver can do it in a vehicle under 4,500kg GVM so no additional licencing or assessment is required. This goal almost certainly ensures the combination will be far less stable than could be achieved without this aim in mind and all the more reason to ensure the driver has the skills to manage this on a “bad hair day”…

You are right to suggest most people will do the right thing, the question is whether they know what the right thing to do is in the first place – how do we ensure that, with some competency based system, or simply clench our teeth and put it in the “too hard basket”?

Cheers, Baz
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 16:04

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 16:04
OK Baz, let's first establish if there is a need. Are accidents and near misses occurring in disproportionate numbers compared to non towing vehicles that would justify a change being made? If appealing to a government to set something like this in motion, the need would to have to be proven statistically.

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Follow Up By: skulldug - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 17:05

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 17:05

I believe your question about the statistics has been answered. The responsible body is the Australian Transport Council and they have published a National Road Safety Strategy which is subscribed to by all states.

Without going into too much detail, it identifies lots of things that are dangerous and strategies for dealing with them. Caravaners don't rate a mention.

Not light reading I'm afraid...

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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 17:09

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 17:09
Thanks Skull

I don't even have time for light reading at present :/


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Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 17:22

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 17:22
Hi Motherhen

I'm sure that is what would be needed to encourage change at a government level.

Although statistics can tell you anything you might want them to. What they won’t tell you is you don’t need to have an accident to be incompetent…

Cheers, Baz

Cheers, Baz

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Reply By: The Bantam - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 09:32

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 09:32
Regardles of all the other issues and there are many, it is plainly rediculous that you need a higher level licence to drive single vehicle over 4.5 tonnes, but you can drive a 9 tonne combination on a passenger car licence.

AnswerID: 604185

Reply By: Erad - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 14:34

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 14:34
I reluctantly agree that an endorsement on a normal driving licence to tow anything would be a good move. The last thing I want is more rgualtion, but this is a safety issue and is thus justified.

Regarding reversing caravans, I have been reversing tractor/trailer, car/trailer and even semitrailers since I was 9 years old, so I have a reasonable idea of what to do. However, I still need another person to watch the rear of the van. My friend is super at this - he tells me when to start the turn, when to chase it and when to straighten up. He knows - he has done it many times, as I have with him. My wife is worse than hopeless. Many times, I have tried to get her to anticipate when to start & straighten etc, but it never works. " Straighten up.... Stop - you have gone too far". "You are too far to the left!" Her left or my left? She gets L and R mixed up when going straight ahead, so when reversing....I have lost count of how many times I wished she wasn't there. I have offered to teach her to reverse, but no way... At least when I am coupling up, I just ignore her and do it my way.

Maybe a driver traing course could teach her how to guide the caravan in? It is an endless source of amusement watching others struggle with this.
AnswerID: 604194

Follow Up By: Motherhen - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 16:00

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 16:00
Pretty simple for the caravanner to go out into a vacant parking lot or sportsground and practice reversing Erad. There is little risk that training can overcoming in reversing into a caravan park site. Accidents with a greater potential for harm can occur at highways speed so if any training or qualification is required, this is where it should be aimed.

There are towing training courses that many new to towing or lacking confidence when moving from a garden trailer to a large caravan can, and often do, undertake. These would include reversing.


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Follow Up By: Member - Bigfish - Thursday, Sep 08, 2016 at 08:54

Thursday, Sep 08, 2016 at 08:54
Reversing cameras are cheap...
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Reply By: Alloy c/t - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 15:10

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 15:10
The problem is that we need an actual Australia wide licensing and vehicle registration system not just state based, it is absolutely ridiculous that a vehicle deemed perfectly safe in 1 state is deemed unroadworthy in another , the thing with licences is that once you have it you are not retested so your competency is in question , having gone through the the joy [ not ] of my young fella getting his licence last year shows how much road rules and laws have changed over the years , my belief is that not only do we need a licence for towing a van but also graduated on the size of the van with ALL licences needing retesting every 5 years to ensure competency is maintained , yes it will cost $$ but road frustration will decrease and safety will increase.
AnswerID: 604198

Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 15:55

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 15:55
I watched an interview recently where people were asked how they approach, enter, and exit a round-about.

Most had no idea, some had it partly correct and one or two nailed it correctly. And these were people across a broad age group…

How hard would it be to give people a knowledge test at the time of a licence renewal? If you are competent and know the road rules you would complete 45 questions in a couple of minutes and be on your way – get it wrong and it at least identifies you need to revise the road rules…

Regards, Baz
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Follow Up By: Alloy c/t - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 16:10

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 16:10
Yes Baz , , you will now get the ' I've had my licence of 50 years and have never had an accident ' brigade screaming , people forget that a licence to drive is a privilege and NOT a RIGHT.
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Follow Up By: Erad - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 19:15

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 19:15
Agree totally about retest of licence holders. And not simply a test of the road rules - a practical driving test as well. Imagine how many that would remove from the road...

My point was that reversing caravan is not a simple matter. Using mirrors, you can have a reasonable view of one side but nothing of the other when turning. But you still cannot accurately know what is behind you. With my wife guiding me, I have even reverse parallel parked my rig with only a car length extra after I got it all off the road. However, my wife still cannot perceive how long it takes to get the rig straightened up, and whether it is even possible to get the van into a space until we actually try to fit it. 45 years married and she still cannot get it....

More importantly, driving schools should teach students how to load their vans as well as how to handle them. A friend of mine recently bought his first caravan. A monster. As soon as they got it, they went somewhere wiith it and did a training course. I felt comfortable with him driving me around before (no van) but I feel even more comfortable knowing he is on the road now with his van and that he won't cause a crash somewhere.

We should all have to have a retest for our regular licence, let alone a caravan or trailer licence, but just imagine how much that would cost.
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Reply By: 9900Eagle - Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 21:08

Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016 at 21:08
Baz, I know where you are coming from but here is the but.

Most of us get a licence at an early age and I had my HC at the grand old age of 19. Hell that was a long time ago.
In all the years since, except for upgrades in licence classes, I have never had to know the current road rules except for the ones aimed at the new class. It maybe better for us to focus on keeping up with the changes in rules than concerning ourselves with the cost of endorsements.

I learnt by the seat of my pants, today all people have to do is go on line and there will be plenty of instructional videos to help them with any problems or understanding the basic principles of a particular class of vehicle.

I know that what ever we do, whether it is an endorsement on a licence or driver training, you won't change the attitude of the particular person behind the wheel.
Now you have an MR licence, get one, load it up to gross and go for a big drive. Then your eyes will be opened to some of the aspects of driver behaviour. The longer the vehicle the more the following drivers can scare your pants off even if you are travelling at any of the posted speed.
I personally don't see the need for another cost for the motorist.

In my travels in the last couple of weeks and those travels are more for mates rates (bugger)than I want to, I can list the things that have happened me from other drivers and that includes my counter parts in heavy vehicles.

No problems with caravans except for a few slow ones, the worst offender was a late model camper van. Guess patience is one of my virtues. I think.

AnswerID: 604203

Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Thursday, Sep 08, 2016 at 06:27

Thursday, Sep 08, 2016 at 06:27
I'm hearing you, what prompted my along this thought is something appears grossly wrong with our licensing system that requires you to have an LR license to drive something over 4.5GVM but allows anyone to hook up a large rig on a car license weighing far in excess of this...

For example, some of the large fifth wheelers towed by utes are enormous combinations. Are we happy with that combination on a car license? If we are, why do we have an LR class of license, for example?

All food for thought, but I doubt anything will change...just thought I would air my thoughts and observations on the topic...

Cheers, Baz
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Reply By: Member - Ups and Downs - Thursday, Sep 08, 2016 at 08:11

Thursday, Sep 08, 2016 at 08:11
Have all the rules and tests that you can think of.

Then along comes the brigade that you share the road with that have never had a licence, or have had it cancelled but drive regardless.

As for stating that many can't reverse, so what? All that causes is possibly embarrassment, hardly the reason for a roll-over though?

We all complain about the 'nanny state' mentality, but some of us want to dream up even more reasons to make life a complicated drama. No wonder many people give up on trying to comply.

AnswerID: 604208

Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Thursday, Sep 08, 2016 at 09:16

Thursday, Sep 08, 2016 at 09:16
Hi Paul

This is not about dreaming up rules and tests or creating a nanny-state, but a reality check and acknowledgement that life on the road is far more complicated today than it was when many of us obtained our driving licences.

A drive along any major road or freeway highlights this…

Should we simply retain rules and regulations from another era because it is all too hard to change, or because there may be some inconvenience or cost associated with changing them? Or should we question the validity of those rules in an ever changing environment.

I am a firm believer in not accepting the status quo, but questioning whether what we are doing today is still appropriate for the times we now live in – perhaps it is, or maybe it isn’t, but the question should always be asked and debated.

Thanks for sharing your view…

Cheers, Baz – The Landy

FollowupID: 873937

Reply By: Baz - The Landy - Thursday, Sep 08, 2016 at 09:12

Thursday, Sep 08, 2016 at 09:12
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recently released data that indicates caravan registrations have increased by approximately 5% over the past 12 months.

What is good news for Australia is that the growth in the caravan and motor home industry in Australia has boosted production to its highest level in the past 30+ years, bucking the trend on manufacturing in Australia.

I suspect an aging population with more people heading into retirement, low interest rates, and a high propensity to spend the equity that is held in home ownership has helped this trend…

I guess the flipside to this growth is that the increasing number of caravans and RV’s on the road, potentially (potentially) driven by drivers without experience in handling large rigs.

So can I pose the question, are those new to caravanning provided with, and encouraged to undertake training to ensure competency? The answer is probably somewhere between those that will seek out training and those that won’t – at least by mandating something we will get some consistency. Essentially, if it is a requirement, most people will do it, if it isn’t the risk is that people won’t…

And whilst there are many arguments both for and against, I suspect the group that will eventually drive changes to either licencing or some competency based assessment will be the insurance companies. Eventually they will tweak to the fact that there is a gap in the licencing requirements in Australia that allows someone to drive a large vehicle and caravan set-up without necessarily needing to demonstrate they can do so competently.

Out of interest, the UK already requires drivers to pass a car and trailer driving test if you want to be behind the wheel of a vehicle towing a trailer where the combined weight is in excess of 3,500kg. The rules, when introduced, allowed those with licences issued before January 1997 to be grandfathered into the new arrangements – that is you do not need to undertake the test and you can potentially drive a combined weight up to 8,250kg.

Is that a model that could be adopted here?

And yes, that is the UK, not Australia…but, it will possibly makes its way on to an insurance company agenda eventually.

One Australian insurance company has already made the following observations…

“Lost control’ accounts for 91% of the rollovers and in all of these cases, the van began to fishtail and the driver wasn’t able to bring it back under control. This may indicate that some vans are not set up correctly with stabiliser bars. In a number of cases it appears the driver has panicked when the van began to sway and immediately applied the brakes rather than trying to accelerate out of the problem.

Driver education would go a long way to reducing the number of ‘rollovers’ and ‘lost control’ accidents and should include things such as”

Recommended towing speed
What to do if van begins to sway
How to set up a van correctly for towing
Ensuring that owner has a vehicle suitable for towing van”

It also had the following claim statistics to June 2013.

Caravan claim numbers

Total caravan claims reported: 14,000
The average age of driver is 63 years old

Most common claim types

Storm/Hail/Flood: 29%
Collision with stationary object: 24%
Accidental Damage: 10%

Rollover claims

135 rollover claims for the year
80% classified as a total loss

Causes of rollover accidents

Lost control on highway 30%
Wind caught van and lost control 14%
Hit gravel/verge and lost control 10%
Overtook third party and lost control 10%
Lost control on dirt/gravel road 8%
Wheel fell off caravan/car 6%
Lost control in rain 6%
Overtaken by third party & lost control 4%
Tyre blowout on caravan/car 4%
Van came off tow ball 4%
Mechanical failure 2%
Swerved to miss animal 2%

As I indicated in an earlier response, statistics can reveal anything you truly want them to, but ultimately, one needs to ask the question, with 5% annual growth in the industry there is a high risk that accidents involving caravans will also increase – statistics are a lagging indicator in that it will take time for this to be revealed…

I am a firm believer in not accepting the status quo, but questioning is what we are doing today still appropriate for the times we now live in – perhaps it is, or maybe it isn’t.

Thanks to those who shared their thoughts and observations and to my mind this won’t be the last time this issue will be discussed.

Cheers, Baz – The Landy
AnswerID: 604209

Reply By: Jeff P - Thursday, Sep 08, 2016 at 20:38

Thursday, Sep 08, 2016 at 20:38
Hey Baz
The time is coming and so it should, I just purchased a second hand 23 ft caravan 3.5 ton atm towed by silverado 4.5 ton GVM with total GCWR 9.8 ton now my wife can drive this combination but she can't drive a truck over 4.5 ton !Hello
When I rang to get insurance quote I asked if I get a discount because I have a road train licence and was told no dosent account for anything
AnswerID: 604226

Reply By: Dean K3 - Sunday, Sep 11, 2016 at 16:46

Sunday, Sep 11, 2016 at 16:46
probably start a war here but speak to any long distance truck driver and they will say articulated vehicle so needs a articulated licence to drive one.

easter 2 years ago i went upto coalseam reserve (out of wildflower season) and had a 5th wheeler as my neighbor had the exchange pleasantries and i causally asked what licence was required to tow it as a 5th wheeler.

I was kind of shocked that he only needed a normal car licence (upto 4495) as it was below weight even though it was "articulated" this particular chap was actually a truck driver who towed m/c so is used to it but also explained that 5th wheeler was also alot stable than the typcial 50mm ball or off road connection as weight sits above axle not behind.

And yes as a west aussie I am aware of incident that occurred 4wd of soem description towing a 5th wheeler and trailer hooked up behind so making it m/c status
AnswerID: 604296

Reply By: Member - Blue M - Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 15:41

Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 15:41
Baz, I have a couple of questions about how you would gain the competence by doing a driving course, if you were never put through what really happens in a real life situations, such as what is shown below.

Wind caught van and lost control 14%
Hit gravel/verge and lost control 10%
Overtook third party and lost control 10%
Lost control on dirt/gravel road 8%
Wheel fell off caravan/car 6%
Lost control in rain 6%
Overtaken by third party & lost control 4%
Tyre blowout on caravan/car 4%
Van came off tow ball 4%
Mechanical failure 2%
Swerved to miss animal 2%

I am almost positive that an instructor would not allow to get into any of the above intentionally, and unless you actually experience any of the above, how can you get to be deemed competent.

All the 'B' Double and road train drivers on this site may be able to correct me here, but if a young fella is going to get a road train/'B' double licence, he is not put in the rig and told to have a practice run and get it right. I would think he would have an experienced driver sitting beside him for a period of time teaching him the fundamentals of the beast. He would then go and get tested/passed and once again not let out on the road by himself until some one deemed him competent to handle the rig.

Now a lot of comments arise about reversing a van and I realise that a lot of people might not get it right every time when reversing a trailer/caravan, myself included.

But the way I look at some of the comments on the subject of reversing make me wonder, can reversing "poorly" can make you such a bad driver going "forward".

I have been around Australia 3 times, and numerous short trips.
The first time towing a camper trailer roughly 35,000k's
After this I towed a small caravan around 27,000k's and backed it roughly "150 metres".
I have just towed a 19'6" van 22,000 k's and covered some out of the way tracks and roads, but I would say I have only reversed it roughly the same distance.

In this time I have not had any altercations, frights, scary moments or anything else happen to me going forward, but I have gone the wrong way backing up more than I care to admit.

Now does this mean I am an incompetent driver to tow a van?

I think courses on how to do things are good, great in fact.
It will give you some understanding and insight on how things should be done, but in reality on the day that it happens, things don't always go the way the instructor told you it would.

There would be not one of us that drive a vehicle now were "experts" (some may have been) the day we got our licience, we all learnt what we know today through hands on experience.

I totally agree that some of these larger vans and light/smaller tugs should be looked at, as some of them look scary coming towards you, but some people just don't know or can't be told.

Just my thoughts on the matter.


AnswerID: 604454

Follow Up By: Baz - The Landy - Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 17:08

Friday, Sep 16, 2016 at 17:08
Hi Blue...

I can't say I have all the answers, in fact the search for answers has led me to discover many more questions that should be asked...

One question I find myself asking is whether the complexities of driving on the roads these days changed sufficiently to warrant a review of the licences we issue?

Do we need an additional class of licence to take account of large caravans available these days.

And importantly, is the current training rigour and testing sufficient and/or deficient for today's requirements? (more on that below).

For sure, you can’t train for every eventuality one might find themselves presented with. Does that mean we shouldn’t provide competency training and test ability?

You can get in a vehicle today on a C class licence and pull a caravan or fifth wheeler without any experience in driving a rig like that. Sensible people wouldn’t, but we wouldn’t need to have this discussion if we only had sensible people on the road.

Now I’m not a B Double driver and never likely to be. But it might be worth reading the following story. It relates to an over-height truck, a B Double, blocking the M5 East tunnel in Sydney because the driver could not reverse it.

Over Height truck causes chaos...

This story had two points to make, firstly it was driven by a foreign driver on a 457 Visa who shouldn’t be driving the truck on a 457 Visa. I’m simply stating that to highlight it as it was the main point of the story - but don’t get distracted by it.

The real issue was the driver could not reverse, was inexperienced, and was issued with a licence here to drive a B Double without any review of his driving skill by a regulated authority.

My point?

Something is wrong with the system that we are not testing people for the basic competancies, and this was a B-Double, but it could easily be an inexperienced driver on a C class vehicle licence towing a large caravan.

And it isn't about the testing, the reality was this driver could not even do what should be a basic task if you are going to be in control of a vehicle...

The point to remember about caravan designs today is manufacturer’s are pushing design limitations in a trade-off between safety and the ability for these large caravans to be towed by a vehicle that only requires a C class vehicle licence. Thus avoiding a competency test for an upgraded licence that recognises there are nuances involved in towing large rigs.

One might get away with being less than fully competent until confronted with an abnormal situation on the road...

And yes, for sure, there is a place for gaining experience – that is how most skill base things work, but that doesn’t negate the need to ensure a minimum level of competancy before setting someone loose on the roads.

Cheers, Baz
FollowupID: 874202

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