Self certification under a cloud
outlines pitfalls of buying and using new RVs
Have your say
regulatory control systems are a major reason for problems facing many
caravan owners and potential buyers, it is claimed.
And the Caravan Council of Australia believes that manufacturers and
dealers are not entirely to blame for industry issues.
"There are too many new, under-resourced
manufacturers and importers competing in a very limited and
highly-competitive market," founder and general manager
Colin Young said.
With self-certification permitted – combined with the lack of acceptable
regulatory auditing of businesses and audits of vehicles – it was not
possible for prospective buyers to have sufficient confidence in the
design, manufacturing, compliance, safety and quality of all new caravans.
"It is vital that potential-buyers do their homework thoroughly before
deciding on a particular make and model, rather than being persuaded by a
salesperson to buy a better (higher priced) caravan which may or may not
live up to the promises made," he said..
"They must decide beforehand precisely what type of caravan they really
need that will suit their intended travel plans, and what they can afford.
"This will be a major investment and as such the purchase must be made on
a practical basis ... not on an emotional basis."
Mr Young said sales personnel were professionally trained to sell.
"Caravan buyers are not trained to buy and as a result will very often
suffer severe buyer remorse when realising that what they have purchased
is not up to their expectations," he explained.
RV manufacturers were allowed to self-certify their vehicles, meaning that
caravan buyers were not afforded anywhere near the same degree of
assurance enjoyed by the buyers of cars and
buyers not expected to be experts
caravan buyers are certainly not expected to be experts on all applicable
regulatory requirements, hence a very high level of confidence in the
manufacturer and dealer is required," Mr Young said.
It was "reasonable" to expect that all dealers should provide adequate
professional written information on the vital aspects of ratings and
masses to all caravan buyers, he said.
"However, it is also reasonable to expect that all caravanners will have
the initiative to take the time to study the owner manuals supplied with
both the tow-vehicle and the caravan, along with the definitions of the
relevant ratings and masses in Vehicle Standards Bulletin No 1 (VSB1) so
they clearly understand the importance of ensuring compliance with the
It was essential that all drivers and relief-drivers towing caravans take
the initiative to ensure they adequately understand the laws and technical
issues involved so that they were not "an
accident waiting to happen" and a hazard on the roads.
"All drivers need to undertake driver training so they know what to do in
the real world when all hell suddenly breaks loose on
the road and lives are on the line.
"Having a cavalier attitude of 'I am a great driver' or 'it will never
happen to me' is a recipe for disaster. There is a very real possibility
that you are not as good as Lewis Hamilton!"
Mr Young said it was strongly recommended that all drivers take part in a
professional driver-training course conducted by a highly-respected and
experienced caravan-towing instructor.
"There is a strong push to require drivers to have an endorsed licence for
towing caravans, obtained after they satisfactorily complete a recognised
"However, there is opposition to this proposal, seemingly from parties
that have a strong vested interest in increasing ‒
and not decreasing ‒ the number of caravans sold
and used on our roads.
"An alternative, more practical and much faster proposal to achieve an
equivalent result, is to require drivers to pass an on-line theory test
encompassing at least the major aspects of the legal and technical issues
involved with driving a combination on the road.
"It is proposed that driver licensing authorities and caravan insurance
companies manage this system."
Mr Young thought there had been too many serious and tragic accidents
‒ and many more frightening incidents
‒ involving caravans on our roads.
"Obviously driver, road and atmospheric issues frequently contribute to
the cause of these events, along with mechanical failures of the tow
vehicle or caravan.
"However, in numerous instances the prime cause has been the tow-vehicle
not being suitable for towing the particular caravan."
The mass of a tow-vehicle must be appreciably more than the
caravan's mass ... at least 30 percent
"This figure is for a mature experienced driver with sharp faculties
(especially reflexes), on good roads, in good weather and with both
vehicles in good mechanical condition," Mr Young said.
"It is paramount that the tail never wags the dog," he added.
The tow-vehicle must have sufficient power (torque) to enable the
combination to accelerate at an acceptable rate and to enable a acceptable
speed to be maintained when climbing a hill so as not to frustrate
Sufficient power has to be "on hand" to enable overtaking manoeuvres to be
The distance from the coupling to the rear-axle of the tow-vehicle was
critical and the shorter the better, Mr Young said.
"One would certainly reasonably believe that suppliers have a vital
duty-of-care obligation to ensure a consumer purchasing a caravan from
them thoroughly evaluates the suitability of the intended tow vehicle to
safely and legally tow the caravan.
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