QUALITY & SAFETY FIRST
FAQS: Trailer Safety & Regulations
IS YOUR TRAILER SAFE
Have piece of mind knowing your towing a safe trailer. Do you have rust, loose bearings, lights that aren’t working? This may cause you to fail your WOF. Bring your trailer for inspection and we’ll let you know what it needs to pass your warrant. If you already have a warrant no problem we’ll still inspect it and let you know everything is safe, we often have trailers arrive with issued warrants only to find problems that have been overlooked and become larger problems in the future. Call us 09 360 5023, email: email@example.com or feel free to pop by 390 Great North Road, Grey Lynn, Auckland we’ll be happy to help.
HOW MUCH CAN YOUR VEHICLE TOW SAFELY?
Most vehicles have tow ratings given to them by the manufacturer specifying the gross trailer weight braked, unbraked, or both, that the vehicle can safely tow. Although the law does not require these tow ratings to be followed, the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) recommends that they be taken into account.
In addition to the requirements above, the law requires that every light vehicle and trailer combination must be capable of stopping within a distance of seven metres from a speed of 30km/h. In effect, this means that the maximum allowable weight of an unbraked trailer is limited by the weight and braking ability of the vehicle being used to tow it.
The NZTA recommends, as a guide, that the laden weight of an unbraked trailer should not exceed three quarters of the unladen weight of the towing vehicle and then only if the towing vehicle’s brakes and tyres are in excellent condition. A trailer heavier than this may prevent the vehicle combination from meeting the seven metre from 30km/h brake performance requirement. To illustrate the increase in stopping distance when towing an unbraked trailer, consider a trailer with a laden weight equal to the weight of the towing vehicle.
This combination can be expected to have double the stopping distance of the towing vehicle alone, and even a towing vehicle with good brakes is likely to fail the legal brake performance requirement of seven metres from 30km/h. If the trailer is equipped with brakes, it may be possible to safely tow a trailer heavier than three quarters of the unladen weight of the towing vehicle, but the seven metres from 30km/h brake performance requirement still applies.
Note: Remember that a car, utility vehicle or light van is not permitted to tow more than one trailer or vehicle.
TOW BARS AND TOW COUPLINGS
Although tow bars are not required to be rated and certified on light vehicles, there are safety requirements. Your tow coupling and tow bar must be strong enough to safely tow your fully laden trailer. The tow bar must also be correctly fitted so that it transfers the towing forces to the structure of the towing vehicle without any distortions of the tow bar or the towing vehicle’s bodywork/structure.
In addition, when you are loading the trailer, make sure that there will be a downwards force on the vehicle tow bar at the point of attachment equal to about 10% of the weight of the trailer plus load. Do not put too much weight at the back of the trailer. Ensure there is a downwards force at the point of attachment, to improve the handling characteristics when you are towing.
The coupling on the trailer must have a manufacturer’s rating appropriate for the gross laden weight of the trailer and be compatible with the tow ball size.
There are two sizes of tow balls in use:
- The older 1 7/8 inch diameter ball.
- The newer 50mm diameter tow ball.
The tow ball and coupling must be in good condition and securely attached to the tow bar and trailer draw bar respectively. When connecting the trailer to the towing vehicle, you must make sure that the tow coupling, electrical connection and safety chain/s are all connected correctly so that they work properly. Remember that the gap between the vehicle and the trailer must be no more than four metres.
There are three types of brakes:
Direct – this service brake system allows the driver of the towing vehicle to directly control the trailer brakes from the driving position. This includes vacuum-operated brakes and pneumatic over hydraulic systems, controlled directly by the driver of the towing vehicle.
Indirect – with this service brake system the action of the driver applying the towing vehicle’s brakes causes the trailer to push against the towing vehicle and this force indirectly controls the trailer brakes. This includes override brakes.
These brakes will apply themselves automatically if the trailer is accidentally disconnected from the vehicle.
These brakes are applied by hand and are useful for holding the trailer when it has been disconnected from the towing vehicle.
Light trailers may be required to have service brakes, parking brakes, breakaway brakes or safety chains depending on the gross laden weight of the trailer. The table below outlines the requirements for the types of brake that must be fitted to light trailers.
Requirements for service brakes, parking brakes, breakaway brakes and safety chains on light trailers:
Type of brake Gross laden weight of trailer of 2,000 kg or less Gross laden weight of trailer of more than 2,000 kg but less than 2,500 kg Gross laden weight of trailer 2,500 kg and up to 3,500 kg
Requirements for service brakes, parking brakes, breakaway brakes and safety chains on light trailers:
|Type of brake||Gross laden weight of trailer of 2,000 kg or less||Gross laden weight of trailer of more than 2,000 kg but less than 2,500 kg||Gross laden weight of trailer 2,500 kg and up to 3,500 kg|
|Service brake||Not required, but if fitted see Performance requirements for brakes on light trailers||Required: May be either direct or indirect (see definitions on Trailer brakes)||Required: Must be direct (see definitions on Trailer brakes)|
|Parking brake||Not required||Not required||Required|
|Breakaway brake||Not required||Not required||Required|
|Safety chains*||Required: Unless fitted with a breakaway brake The safety chain must be of sufficient strength to hold the trailer secure under all conditions of road use.||Required: Unless fitted with a breakaway brake.The coupling must have a manufacturer’s rating appropriate for the gross laden weight of the trailer and there must be twin safety chains that cross each other when connected.||Not required|
* The safety chains must meet the applicable warrant of fitness requirements.
PERFORMANCE REQUIREMENTS FOR BRAKES ON LIGHT TRAILERS
- Brakes fitted to a trailer, whether or not they are legally required, must be in good working order.
- The service brake, if fitted, must act on both wheels on at least one axle. The service brakes on the towing and towed vehicles must together be capable of stopping both vehicles within seven metres from a speed of 30 km/h.
- The parking brake, if fitted, must be capable of holding the trailer at rest on a slope of one in five.
Some trailers under 2500 kg are fitted with a hand brake. The hand brake operates by activating the hydraulic brake system and should not be used as a parking brake as it is not guaranteed to remain engaged indefinitely. However, this type of hand brake is useful for controlling and braking trailers under 2500 kg when not connected to the vehicle. It is also useful as a temporary brake when positioning chocks under the trailer’s wheels to permanently secure the trailer.
Regular maintenance of your trailer is very important:
- Check tyre pressures, and look for signs of wear or damage.
- Clean all lights and reflectors.
- Check all lights are working.
- Check with your us to ensure the tow coupling and brake mechanisms are well lubricated.
- Jack the trailer up and spin the wheels, listening for rumbling noises which indicate worn wheel bearings.
- Check all tie-down points are tight.
A poorly maintained trailer can be a hazard to yourself and other road users. No matter how good you are at towing, you can never tow a badly maintained trailer well and safely.
LOADING YOUR VEHICLE AND TRAILER SAFELY
How much can your vehicle carry?
Each vehicle has a maximum safe laden (or loaded) weight. Overloading the vehicle beyond this weight can compromise the vehicle’s body, brakes, chassis, wheels and/or engine.
The laden weight and unladen (also called unloaded, tare or kerb) weight will be in your vehicle manufacturer’s handbook or manual. Also look for any specific instructions on how to load the vehicle safely.
The maximum safe laden weight minus the unladen weight gives you the maximum load (including objects, people and animals) that the vehicle can carry.
Arranging loads safely
- Check that any goods or animals inside or on your vehicle are placed where they won’t injure anyone or distract the driver.
- If following another vehicle, make sure that any passengers are sitting in a safe position, using a safety belt or child restraint.
- Spread a load of goods out evenly across the floor or deck of the vehicle, to keep its height as low as possible.
- If you have to stack the load, put larger and heavier items at the bottom.
- If possible, arrange loads so they don’t project outside the body of the vehicle. Minimise any projecting loads so you reduce the risk of injury to the driver, passengers and other road users.
- Position loads on trailers as close to the axle as possible. Avoid placing heavier loads towards the rear of the trailer. Ensure there is a downward force at the point of attachment, to improve the handling characteristics when you are towing.
If part of the load is removed during the journey, you may need to rearrange and re-secure the rest of the load.
Securing your load
All loads including those carried on trailers should be properly restrained so they can’t shift around while the vehicle is moving.
All objects should be restrained by being:
- securely packed inside compartments that are rigidly attached to the vehicle, or
- held securely in racks or cradles or frames designed to fit that size of object and which are rigidly attached to the vehicle, or
- held by lashings (webbing straps, ropes, chains) or clamps securely attached to appropriate anchorage points (rails, hooks or eyes) on the vehicle.
When you secure a load, bear in mind that it will try to move:
- forwards when the vehicle brakes
- sideways when the vehicle turns
- backwards when the vehicle accelerates
- upwards when the vehicle goes over bumps
Lashings (webbing straps, ropes and chains)
If you’re using lashings to secure a load, you’ll need to work out the strength of the lashings – known as ’lashing capacity’.
If you’re using lashings to secure a load, you’ll need to work out the strength of the lashings – known as ‘lashing capacity’.
Look on the lashing or its packaging for a figure (in kilograms) beside ‘lashing capacity’. If you see ‘breaking strength’ – then the lashing capacity will be half of this figure.
Fasten your load to the vehicle using as many lashings as required to achieve a combined lashing capacity equal to at least twice the weight of the load.
Note: A minimum of two lashings should be used to prevent the load, or part of the load, from twisting, rotating, pivoting or slewing
Secure lashings to suitable anchorage points (rails, hooks or eyes) on the vehicle.
If your vehicle doesn’t have suitable anchorage points, investigate whether these can be fitted to your vehicle or use a vehicle that does have suitable anchorage points.
Tighten the lashings before beginning your journey. Check them during the journey and tighten the lashings again if necessary.
If possible, put the load against a headboard, sidewall or other rigid part of the vehicle structure to help hold it in place.
- If your load weighs more than 500 kilograms, refer to the Truck loading code.
- Remember to regularly inspect webbing straps and ropes (they can be damaged by wear, chemicals, heat, light, excessive knotting, bending, or chafing).
- Ropes made of natural fibres (sisal and manila) may stretch when dry (allowing the load to move) and shrink when wet (which might damage the load).