With rigs of ever-increasing size hitting our busy roads every day, and with towing and road rules in a constant state of flux, practising safe towing techniques is an absolute must. And not just for beginners – even old hands who’ve racked up thousands of k’s with a van on the ball can benefit from a little refresher.
1. WHAT TO EXPECT
So I headed off to METEC Driver Training in Bayswater North, Vic, for a full-day practical and theoretical towing course.
There is a multitude of towing courses running in each state and territory, so finding one convenient for you shouldn’t be too difficult.
At METEC, you are encouraged to bring your own caravan to the session (and tow vehicle, obviously), however, they did have a couple of small old vans available to use.
In the theory session, we covered all aspects of towing from hitching up to hitting the road, including loading and mechanical knowledge of weight distribution hitches, caravan electrics, braking systems and more.
Then, out on the track, we were paired up with an instructor to put our knowledge into practice.
METEC has a purpose-built track, which enabled us to run through many real-life scenarios such as approaching traffic lights, going around roundabouts, navigating car parks, backing into campsites, travelling on highways, and avoiding road obstructions – all with a caravan on the back!
“All anyone wants to know how to do is reverse. But no one’s ever died reversing a caravan.”
While reversing a caravan might see many caravanners sweating in their driving seats, it does hammer home the point that there’s far more to towing than just reversing.
After a common-sense lesson, which included none of that ‘left-hand down, right-hand down’ palaver, it was time to crack on.
We were taught to think about where you want the A-frame of the caravan to end up, and what to do with the steering wheel to make that happen.
Likening the activity to ‘pushing’ the caravan into position and ‘following’ it with the car, reversing suddenly made a whole lot more sense.
And it doesn’t matter what terminology you choose to use: just pick one style and stick to it. And, most importantly, make sure the person who is guiding you into the space is on the same page.
Remember reversing is not a race – it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get into your site or driveway as long as you get there safely.
Don’t make sudden movements, use slight adjustments to coerce your rig to go exactly where you want it to. And, remember, it takes far longer to correct a reversing mistake than it does to make it.
MEET THE AUTHOR
An RV journalist working across Australia’s premier caravanning and camping magazines for the past five years, Laura is also a judge at the annual Best Aussie Vans awards. She has been camping in the great outdoors since the of two, when she was packed, by day, into a Toyota LiteAce van and, by night, into a brown canvas tent with her parents and two siblings for an extended trip around the vast playground that is northern Western Australia.