How fast is too fast?

Especially when towing a caravan. And what speed can we do towing a van over a specific weight when the signs say '110Kmh' allowed?

Ken Wilson - founder of the national Truck Friendly Program has some great answers no matter which state you live in.

Includes full transcript if you prefer to read.



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Well, as you know, the Truck Friendly Program is an education program that helps people like us. . .  caravanners who are travelling all around the place, whether it's full-time or part time to be safe.  And on the line, we have Ken Wilson.  G'day Ken.

KEN: G'day Brian,

BRIAN: One of the things with safety is to do with speed.  And there seems to be this kind of argy-bargy. . .  let's call it, about if it says 100 kilometres an hour, you should be doing?? If it says you should be doing??!! (whatever). . . What's the deal with speed? And does it vary from state to state?

KEN: Speed on the highway is a very personal thing.  Now, some people see the speed limit signed as being the speed you need to travel. That is the maximum speed permissible by law on that road. So that does not mean by any means that you should be travelling at 100 kilometres an hour on the Bruce Highway all the time. Many people do.  Some people above, and some people are below. But what you need to remember is your own capability, and your own rig.  

No matter what you're driving, you need to drive what is safe for you. However, having said that, you also need to remember that there are other people on the roads who may be able to travel safely at higher speeds.

So we need to keep an eye on the rear vision mirror and make sure that anybody coming up behind you. You make it easier for them to pass so they can overtake and that'll remove a lot of frustration.

BRIAN: Exactly! And that's what the whole Truck Friendly thing is about whether it's trucks or other people just driving a car. It's being able to communicate with other people and let them know what's going on.

One of the questions I was going to ask you, in fact, was, if you're relatively new, or perhaps you're just not sure about what you're doing or where are you going? Is there a minimum speed? If it says 100 kilometres an hour on the Bruce Highway can I go at 50?

KEN: As far as the speeds on the highway are concerned. . . Some states I understand have a restriction that if you are unnecessarily holding up traffic flow, that would be a very contentious thing to fight. And you'd probably need to prove that you couldn't possibly go any further. And most people who would unnecessarily holdup traffic and being charged like that, there's got to be more to it than just the fact that they're towing a caravan a little bit slow.

The thing is, with towing a caravan, a lot of people tow a little bit slower than the posted speed limit. Many travel at 90 kilometres an hour for example, in the caravan. Now, they do that for various reasons. Number one is that a lot of them also find fuel economy is a lot better, so if they can save a few dollars on fuel, they can stay on the road a few days longer. Also for safety.  A lot of caravan rigs etc. . . . they're very large and they can get unstable at higher speeds. Now, you'll see, in New South Wales, for example, and Western Australia, towing a caravan is speed restricted to 100 kilometres an hour, no matter what the posted speed.  In New South Wales, if your vehicle has a GCM or Gross Combined Mass, which is the tow vehicle and the caravan of over 4,500 kgs, then you are speed restricted to 100 kilometres an hour. Now that GCM limit includes 99.9%  of all caravan rigs on the road, so that should be adhered to.

In Tasmania, I think it's 80 kilometres an hour towing any trailer on a dirt road. There's not too many people doing that, but it is something to sort of keep in mind.

BRIAN: It's also that old thing that you're always told. . .  "drive to the conditions!" If it's wet, even if it's a straight road, if it's wet, slow down. If it's dark or foggy or misty or whatever, put your lights on, etc etc. And if it's windy in particular, wind with caravans is a big issue. We found a thing called the Air Wing and it's really helped a lot with trucks passing either way, and it's also helped when it's been a very winding kind of road. But not everyone has that. And not everyone wants that, for instance, bu there are ways to combat it. So speed really is a great factor in keeping everybody safe, getting the right speed.

KEN: That's right. And I've heard some very good reports of the Air Wing and similar things on the roofs of the cars which help deflect the air. Every caravan is subject to caravan sway. Having said that, it varies depending on the setup of the van as to when that will come in. Now, there's a lot of factors in caravan sway and speed is one of them. There are other factors like tyres and loading of the caravan and so on and so forth. But every caravan is subject to caravan sway. Some may say, look, I've never experienced it & my caravan's fine and that may be true.

What it basically means is they haven't had the perfect storm, so they haven't had a situation where the caravan was just a little bit sort of unstable, but they hadn't noticed it. And there has been no problem. Suddenly a truck comes past very fast and pushes a huge amount of air on a windy day past the caravan and unsettles it. Or you might be going down a hill and the trailer’s starting to get a little bit pushy. And then a truck goes past as well. So there might be a few different factors that come into it. And we maybe just haven't had the perfect storm. Some may be able to safely tow at  150km an hour. Who knows?

But there is a point where every caravan will have some kind of a sway. Now, your individual set up will vary to everybody else's individual set up. So it's very important to stick to the basic rules which are to load it correctly. You don't have too much weight on the rear you need about 10 % of your load on the front, have a tow vehicle that is heavier than your trailer so that the trailer doesn't push the tow vehicle around it the other way around and make sure your tyre pressures are correct to help avoid the under-steer and over-steer of the tyres on the van when it's cornering and going around corners.

BRIAN: Ideally, we're possible. . . If you're fairly new to caravanning or towing a caravan, do a course. It's well worth doing a course about towing and how things work and let the people know this is my first time ever.

KEN: That's right. And we strongly recommend that people do a towing course. Look, they're not cheap by the time you spend, $100,00 dollars on a caravan and tow vehicle, a few hundred dollars to stay safe on the road is not a big deal. Absolutely. And I think your situation. You were saying some time back that you actually got a discount on your insurance.

BRIAN: Yeah, it wasn't a huge amount, but it was an acknowledgement that we did the course. It doesn't make us any better. It just gives us a little bit of an insight. You know. . . We'd been towing a caravan for years. an old foot Viscount and a boat and all the rest of it. But I had no idea about some of the other issues and thought, yeah. . .  well let's try it. And it worked out well.

KEN: And that's the thing like I don't cast myself as an expert on caravans. I'm a researcher and I pass on the information that I research from several reliable sources. And I always make sure that the information is correct before I post it to maintain the credibility. However, I've learned something new every day, and it's interesting that people can hook up a pig trailer, which is what a caravan is. It's a trailer with one point of contact at the front and 2 or 4 wheels in the middle of the vehicle.

The pig trailer is one of the most unstable trailers available on the market. And that's why the heavy transport industry very rarely use them. They are unstable. There are concerns with it. And yet we've got all these people who are un-educated on caravan safety and un-trained on loading the caravan, towing this un-stable trailer around Australia at 100 kilometres an hour at highway speed with a closing speed of 200 kilometres an hour with the vehicle coming towards you.

BRIAN: All right, well, I've just come up with the headline for our little chat here. NO NEED FOR SPEED!

KEN: Yeah.

BRIAN: Heed the speed limiter. No need for speed!! People don't like being told to limit stuff, but I think if we at least say, just be careful with the speed out there.  Ken Wilson from the Truck Friendly Program thank you very much, if you want to know more about pretty well everything to do with caravanning go to www. TruckFriendly.

KEN: Brian thank you for your time.


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