1. SINGLE-AXLE VANS ARE MORE MANOEUVRABLE
True. It is considerably easier to negotiate tight turns, city traffic, holiday parks, etc., with a single-axle caravan in tow when compared to a larger tandem-axle van. Having towed countless caravans in all sorts of configurations, from 24ft-plus tandem-axle rigs to diminutive 16-footers that ride on just one axle, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that single-axle caravans are easier to handle. This is partially a function of their size. By their nature, single-axle rigs are shorter and lighter, which on their own makes them more manoeuvrable.
Additionally, there is less surface area that is in contact with the road with single-axle caravans. This, combined with their more compact size, means less steering input is required to manoeuvre the van. In my experience, this difference becomes quite obvious when attempting to reverse.
2. I SHOULD TOW AT THE SPEED LIMIT
This is a total and complete myth. You should tow your van at a safe and legal speed. Full stop. The operative word here is, in my opinion, ‘safe’. Naturally you should tow legally. But ‘legal’ isn’t the same as ‘safe’.
Yes, the highway speed limit might be 100km/h but remember: you are towing a large object behind your vehicle, perhaps with high sides that can act as sails, catching unexpected cross winds or being buffeted by passing trucks.
The technology exists to automatically arrest sway – I’m thinking about AL-KO ESC here – but it is not a licence to tow your van recklessly or to not pay heed to common sense safety practices.
Having said that, towing well below the speed limit shouldn’t be considered ‘safer’, either. Ultimately, it is up to you, the driver, to use good judgement.
3. MY SECOND-HAND VAN IS SAFE AND COMPLIANT
Not necessarily. Yes, that used van you’ve just purchased has been registered and no doubt towed for thousands of kilometres.
Without getting into Australia’s checkered history with caravan compliance, let’s assume that the van fulfilled all relevant compliance standards when it was built. It’s what its owners may have done to it that I’m talking about here.
For example, fitting a storage box to the rear bumper is a common owner modification; however, these home-fitted boxes too easily obscure tail lights, making the van automatically unsafe for our roads. What about the side markers? Have they been obscured by a DIY accessory?
Consider, too, the weight of such accessories. This weight must be considered payload, since it was fitted afterwards and not accounted for by the manufacturer when it was weighed for Tare.
We could also think about the width of the van. Many caravans are built right on the 2.5m maximum allowed for our roads, meaning anything added to the side could easily tip it over this dimensional limit.
The point is that there are any number of things that a caravan owner could do to their van that would make it non-compliant, whether they realised it or not. Sometimes, these mods seem useful and harmless, such as a 100mm PVC pipe fitted across the drawbar that juts out ever so slightly, in so doing putting the owner at risk of a fine. Other times, the modification could be downright unsafe.
If in doubt, take that used van to a caravan specialist for assessment.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Max Taylor has been caravanning since he was a kid and was the editor of some of Australia’s most well-known RV publications for almost 10 years.