There is no denying that camping or caravanning is the best way to explore everything New Zealand has to offer. Modern-day caravans are packed with all the necessary comforts and the towing vehicles are powerful enough to make your journey safe. Having said that, you still need to be aware of the major rules (legal and community) to follow for a safe and enjoyable caravanning experience.
This blog post is focused on exploring the legal requirements and road rules when towing a caravan as well as helping you with useful tips on caravan towing in New Zealand.
Tips on Towing a Caravan in New Zealand
The most important factor that matters when it comes to safe caravanning is the compatibility between the towing vehicle and the caravan. Here are a few more tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable caravanning experience every time your caravan on an adventure:
Using the right tow vehicle — Choose a towing vehicle that has enough power to safely tow your caravan. Every vehicle has a maximum towing load recommended by the manufacturer. Make sure you respect this maximum limit.
Tow bar & hitches — Make sure the tow bar or hitch you are using is rated for the kind of load you want to pull. Not all the tow bars available in the market are capable of towing heavy caravans. When in doubt, do not shy away from speaking to a specialist to choose the right equipment.
Proper weight distribution — Before setting out on a trip, make sure the tow vehicle and the caravan are perfectly level. Proper weight distribution is necessary to ensure safe travels.
Controlling sway — Caravan sway happens due to a variety of reasons including underinflated tyres, improper weight distribution, and several other reasons. Use the right sway control equipment to keep everything in line and travel safely.
Driving — While you will continue to learn the rules of the road while taking your caravan out, it is important to be aware of the legal requirements and to stick to them. Make sure to keep a distance of at least 50 metres from the next vehicle and always respect the speed limit.
Vehicle Requirements When Towing a Trailer
Make sure you are aware of the towing ability of the vehicle before you take it out on the road. Here are a few things you need to know about legal requirements when towing:
Maximum towing capacity — This information should be available with the vehicle. You should know the unladen weight or unloaded weight as well as the laden weight. Determine the maximum load that can be towed by subtracting the unladen weight from the maximum safe-laden weight.
Loading the vehicle — Make sure to follow the loading instructions provided with the vehicle. Do not overload as it can damage the wheels, chassis, brakes, or even the body of the caravan. Overloading also has the potential to invalidate the warranty on your vehicle.
Weight limit — If you have a restricted or learner’s licence, the maximum amount of weight you can drive is 4,500 kg and for a fully licensed driver, the maximum weight limit is 6,000 kg.
Stopping ability — If you’re driving at 30 km/h, you should be able to bring your vehicle and caravan to a stop within a distance of 7 metres. This is the NZTA requirement.
Road Rules When Towing on the Open Road
If you are using a light vehicle for towing a trailer on an open road, make sure you stick to the maximum speed limit of 90 km/h.
Make sure everything is secured tightly and there are no loose items in the caravan. Make use of nets, tarps, or straps to secure the load inside.
When it comes to load overhang, it is permitted to overhang the load by up to 4 metres as measured from the axle. However, you must flag an overhang of 1 metre or more in length. Use a yellow, orange, fluorescent red, or white flag and make sure the size is at least 400 x 300 mm.
During the nighttime, your trailer must have red lights at the rear. As far as the sideways extensions are concerned, it is allowed by up to 1.25 metres when measured from the centreline of the trailer. If the side extension is above 200 mm, it needs to be flagged.
Overall, caravanning or camping is one of the most popular leisure time activities in New Zealand. However, a planned fun activity can quickly turn sour if you do not follow the established rules. Make sure the tow vehicle and the caravan are compatible, and always respect the maximum speed limit and maximum towing capacity requirements. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to speak to an expert to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
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