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Why Caravans Don’t Have Reversing Lights

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Australian caravans and camper trailers are fitted with brake lights, tail lights, indicators, as well as side running lights. But astute observers might notice one set of lights missing: reversing lights.

If this seems strange, that’s because, in my opinion, it is. After all, caravans are big objects that by their very nature obstruct the driver’s field of rear vision. Anything to aid the driver’s ability to see what’s going on behind the vehicle and van has got to be a good thing.

So what’s going on? Why is it so rare to find reversing lights fitted to caravans and camper?

REVERSING LIGHTS: A STRANGE SITUATION

The draft of Revision 6 of the Vehicle Standards Bulletin (the most current guidance RV manufacturers have) stipulates that reversing lights are optional equipment.

This is passing strange, frankly. The tow vehicle is required by law to have reversing lights; however, the larger object behind is not. Reversing lights are there to aid the driver see as they back-up their vehicle at night, as well as to provide a visual cue to pedestrians and other motorists that you’re reversing. Should this not also be the case for a caravan, especially considering the conditions are more challenging for the driver when hooked to a caravan?

The ability for the tow vehicle’s reversing lights to light the way, or to show others that you’re reversing, becomes highly compromised once there’s a caravan back there.

But my caravan has a reversing camera, you might say. Great! That will certainly help you to safely back-up your caravan. However, it will not show others that you are reversing. Besides, wouldn’t it be easier to see what’s going on in the camera’s display if the rear of the van was lit by reversing lights?

WHAT VSB 1 SAYS

Reversing lamps are optional on trailers. If fitted, the following applies:

·       One or two lamps on trailers of less than 6000mm length.

·       Two lamps on trailers of over 6000mm length.

·       Maximum height of 1200mm.

·       Minimum height of 250mm.

·       Must operate only when reversing lights are operating on the tow vehicle.

MOTORHOMES

What about motorhomes? you might ask. They have reversing lights, right? Good question, especially when you consider that the average tow vehicle and caravan combination is longer (and possibly heavier) than the average cab-chassis motorhome conversion. To be honest, the logic here doesn’t add up.

To be clear, I am not criticising caravan and camper trailer manufacturers for not fitting reversing lights. After all, they’re only following the guidance provided in VSB 1. And, I’m pleased to point out, some manufacturers do go to the effort of fitting them, while others will happily fit them upon request during the manufacturing stage.

Further, they can usually be retrofitted. It is not, however, always a straightforward job. Older caravans with a seven-pin plug might be easier, especially if it just requires swapping to a 12-pin plug. Newer vans, which have lots of standard features, can be a little more problematic and would probably require the addition of an Anderson plug.

SUMMING UP

The law might not require Australian caravans or camper trailers to be fitted with reversing lights; however, logic demands that they are a useful, if not crucial, safety feature. It would be well worthwhile asking your next manufacturer about having them fitted.

MEET THE AUTHOR

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Max Taylor

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.

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