Tips on How to Load a Trailer Safely

Towing a Trailer

We’ve all seen it. A trailer piled high to the sky, with bits of furniture or rubbish hanging out over the edges, or half the load looking like it’s going to end up on the road at any moment. When you see a driver like this who has clearly miscalculated the size of their trailer (or is just too lazy to make two trips!), our first instinct is to avoid them so that whatever falls off their trailer doesn’t land on us, or block the road and cause huge delays.

Not only is a poorly-loaded trailer a danger both to that driver and other road users, it is also against the law and can end up in a hefty fine.

So that you can avoid being THAT person, here are some useful tips from Basic Trailers on the dos and don’ts of loading a trailer safely — and legally.

Know the law on load limits

A key part of towing a trailer safely is understanding how much weight the trailer is geared up to carry, as well as how much weight your vehicle is capable of pulling.

Some useful terms you need to know are Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM), the combined weight of the trailer with its full load when not coupled with a tow vehicle, and Gross Trailer Mass (GTM), which is the weight a fully loaded trailer puts on the axle when it’s coupled to the towing vehicle.

As for you car, SUV or 4WD, the owner manual will tell you the towing mass i.e., the maximum weight it is capable of towing, while your towbar will have a plaque on it that shows its maximum weight capability (known as rated capacity). Most owner manuals will also indicate a recommended speed for towing.

In South Australia, the maximum weight that can be towed cannot exceed the rated capacity of the tow bar and tow coupling, nor can it exceed the vehicle’s towing mass set down by the manufacturer, or the Gross Combination Mass (GCM) which is shown on the registration certificate of the vehicle.

Don’t overload your trailer

As well as following the legal framework and manufacturer’s specifications, it is also important to be realistic about how much a trailer can carry. One of the reasons drivers often get themselves into difficulties when towing is because they underestimate the size of their load and/or the capacity of the trailer, and so end up with a load that is too large and unwieldy to manage safely.

A trailer that is piled too high becomes even more susceptible to dangerous swaying when being overtaken by another vehicle, and this can result in drivers losing control (particularly those who are not especially experienced at towing), and so this is one of the primary reasons as to why it is so important to adhere to load limits.

Keeping your load inside the trailer

One of the biggest hazards that drivers towing a trailer pose to other road users is a load that sticks out from the trailer at the back and sides. Each state will have their own specific regulations in this regard, but in South Australia the laws regarding load widths and how far a load can project from the sides of a trailer are as follows:

  • The maximum width of a trailer, horse float, caravan or boat trailer is 2.5 metres.
  • The maximum that a load can extend beyond the sides of a trailer is 150 mm side ie., adding 300 mm to the total width.
  • A load cannot project more than 1.2 m beyond the front of a trailer.
  • If a load projects more than 1.2 m from the rear of a trailer, then it needs to have either a brightly coloured flag at least 300 mm x 300m in size attached during daylight hours, or a warning signal that can be seen for at least 200 metres when driving at night e.g., a bicycle light.

Basic Trailers is here to help

If you’re considering buying a trailer in Adelaide, but are not sure which size to get for the sort of loads you are likely to be towing, then speak to Sam at Basic Trailers. As the leading South Australian trailer manufacturer, there’s not much that Sam doesn’t know about trailer loads and capacities, and he can help to guide you in the right direction. Call Sam at Basic Trailers on 1300 770 770.

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