With the holiday period just around the corner, lots of holidaymakers will be hitching up and taking their caravans, trailers and boats on the road. With this in mind, we have put together some tips that should help.
The driver should be fully aware of the height, width and length of their coupling before heading off. This is absolutely vital, particularly when it comes to bridges and underpasses, but also to enable them to correctly judge overtaking manoeuvres.
Specific traffic regulations
Vehicles towing are restricted to a speed of 90km/h on motorways in Luxembourg. Speed limits vary in other countries. In France, the same speed limits apply as for privately-owned vehicles (in Germany and Switzerland this is 80km/h, in Austria 100km/h).
Specific traffic regulations must be adhered to. In Italy, for example, vehicles towing are generally prohibited from overtaking on certain major holiday routes, such as the Brenner-Modena stretch of the A22. It is easy to miss the small additional signs beneath those indicating the ban on heavy goods vehicles.
For a safe, accident-free journey the driver must be familiar with how their coupling handles bends and how it performs with regards to parking manoeuvres and in dangerous situations. A trailer significantly increases braking distance, for example.
Drivers who are inexperienced at towing should practice manoeuvring correctly and avoiding obstacles.
Speed limits, campsite guides and other useful information are available at the ACL.
It is important to adopt a defensive style of driving, braking smoothly and pulling away slowly. Tight bends should be taken wide to ensure that the wheels do not hit the pavement, and watch out for those crosswinds! The driver will feel every gust of wind when going under a bridge or underpass.
A matter of weight
Caravans often present weight-related problems, and not all cars are designed to tow a caravan. A trailer hitch alone is not enough - you have to take both weight and power into account. The log book/registration certificate will state the weight that the car is able to tow. For example, if the maximum authorised tow mass is 1,200kg, the empty weight of the caravan must be less than 1,200kg, because in the event of the police carrying out roadside checks it is the overall weight of the trailer with its entire load that will be taken into account.
When loading the caravan, care should be taken to ensure that heavy luggage is located as close as possible to the axle as this will improve stability.