Going to be towing these school holidays? Know the rules

With the winter school holiday time here, many drivers will be hitting the roads with trailers, boats and caravans in tow. “Whatever you are towing it should be done right to avoid damage to your vehicle and accidents on our roads. It’s also important to understand the rules around what your driving licence entitles you to tow,” says Dewald Ranft, Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA), a proud association of the Retail Motor Industry Association (RMI).

He says the first thing to ensure is that the trailer or caravan has been properly serviced by a competent person. “During the service the following areas should receive special attention: brakes (if fitted); electrical connections and components such as lights, cables etc; wheel bearings (these need to be greased if the trailer has been standing for a lengthy period); and tyres with emphasis on the tyre age i.e. cracks etc.” He highly recommends using a MIWA-accredited workshop.

He adds that it is also important to ensure you have the correct licence and what you are towing falls within the legal requirements in terms of weight in relation to your vehicle. “Many motorists don’t realise that their driver’s licence regulates what vehicle they can drive and what type of trailer they can pull.”

A basic breakdown of the different driver’s licence codes can be found on the back of the driver’s licence card. A B driver’s licence code entitles you to tow a trailer or caravan no heavier than 750kg. The Gross Motor Vehicle Mass (GVM) cannot be over 750kg. Caravan towing regulations lie in the last three codes starting with an E: EB (light vehicle); EC1 (heavy vehicle) and EC (extra-heavy vehicle). These driver’s licences are the only ones with which you can tow a trailer or caravan with a GVM of over 750kgs.

“If you don’t have a driver’s licence for towing, you’ll need to do the K53 again. You need to write a learner’s test and then go for a towing driver’s licence test,” explains Ranft. “It is important that motorists don’t attempt to tow an item that is too heavy for their vehicle. It’s not just a fine you need to be worried about – your insurance won’t pay if you’re involved in an accident and don’t have the correct driver’s licence for towing.”

The cost of fuel and fuel consumption is also a factor to consider before heading off on holiday with an item tow. “Towing roughly halves your normal distance so be careful to plan your stops beforehand. It’s also important to budget for the additional fuel you’ll use when towing. You’ll need to double your usual fuel expenditure,” he advises.

Ranft says that speeding is the number one cause of accidents when towing. “Drivers need to be aware that the stopping distance is far longer when towing and allow for this.”

He adds that passing heavy vehicles and vice versa creates a vortex which can affect the towing combination stability. “Ensure that you are not caught unawares. Do not use excessive braking when descending a steep descent as this may overheat the brakes on the units and lead to premature brake failure. Rather select a lower gear to assist with the braking force and keep to the recommended speed limit.”

He also encourages drivers who stop to assist a broken-down vehicle to ensure they use the correct equipment before attempting to tow the vehicle. “Use only approved towing equipment such as towing bars and ropes. Be aware when using a rope that it will slacken on deceleration. By using the correct rope you avoid the risk of the rope snapping on acceleration. A tow bar should be used if the towed vehicle’s brakes are not working. Be aware that the steering on the towed vehicle may be extremely heavy when the engine is not running so too are the brakes without vacuum assistance,” he adds.

“Every holiday season we have many fatalities on our roads. Let’s make sure that we tow responsibly and take it easy this winter,” concludes Ranft.

Avoid hijack kidnappings

Recently, there has been a spike in the number of hijackings in Durban. Along with this spike there has been an increase in the number of people who are kidnapped when their vehicles are hijacked.
The reasons for this are varied. Sometimes the hijackers believe the owners know where their tracking unit is. Sometimes it’s to get the victim to withdraw money from their bank account.
In the wake of these events, the importance of paying attention to your surroundings to potentially avoid a hijacking all together, cannot be stressed enough.

“Forming simple habits such as not turning into your driveway when there is a vehicle behind you, pulling up parallel to your gate as it opens or checking to see if you have been followed from a shopping mall, can all save you from the trauma of being hijacked,” says Eugene Herbert, Managing Director of MasterDrive.
“Other things that you can do, is avoid stopping completely at intersections but rather anticipate light changes and approach traffic lights slowly. Be aware of your surroundings: pay extra attention in areas where people are often hijacked, recognise the people standing at intersections on regular your route so that you are aware when there is someone new, scan the areas around your gate before driving through.”
Unfortunately, even in spite of your best efforts, there is still a high chance you may find yourself in a hijacking situation.
“If you do, you need to know what to do to remove yourself from it safely. Learn how to get out of the vehicle quickly and safely so that the interaction is over as quickly as possible. Practice your plan of action on a regular basis so that if the worst happens, your reaction is second nature,” says Herbert
“At MasterDrive events, we are often asked if the hijackers want you to go with them, whether you should comply or refuse. There is no simple answer to this. In this instance, you need to use your instinct to decide your course of action. If there is no way to safely escape we, however, strongly caution against physically engaging with hijackers or infuriating them. You do not know what state of mind that individual is in or if the gun they hold is real or not.”
MasterDrive wants to equip South Africans with knowledge on how to react if they are hijacked, to help them escape safely.
“While we can’t predict exactly how it will play out, we believe knowledge will empower your decisions,” says Herbert.

Flying Start To 2012 Tyre Check Campaign

Bridgestone’s ongoing Tyre Safety Check programme celebrated the start of the 2012 survey season by recording the highest-ever percentage of safely-inflated tyres yet measured by the tyre maker in a single location. The benchmark was set during the first Tyre Safety Check event of the year, conducted in February in conjunction with Pick n Pay in the car park of the Carnival Mall in Benoni.
The survey was performed by Bridgestone tyre specialists who categorised each tyre tested as ‘fine’ (inflation pressure between 180 kPa and 290 kPa), ‘dangerous’ (below 180 kPa but above 150 kPa) or ‘extremely dangerous’ (below 150 kPa or above 290 kPa).
“A total of 1132 tyres, fitted to 283 vehicles, were surveyed at Carnival Mall,” said Bridgestone Public Relations Manager, Mandy Lovell. “We were pleased to discover that 95 percent of tyres surveyed fell into the ‘fine’ category, with only one percent in the ‘dangerous’ category and four percent in the ‘extremely dangerous’ bracket,” she added. “Two of the three categories set new records for inflation safety in a single location.”
Lovell said that the 95 percent of tyres in the ‘fine’ category was a dramatic jump over the previous record of 88 percent, which was achieved once in 2009 and again in 2011. The new record for the ‘dangerous’ category was also a considerable improvement over the previous record of five percent, which was achieved in two surveys in 2011. However, the record for the ‘extremely dangerous’ category remains at three percent and was set during a survey in Durban in 2009.
The Tyre Safety Check survey is now in its sixth year and the surveys include extensive interaction with vehicle owners, including distributing leaflets on tyre safety. In addition to the tyre pressure data gathered, it was found that three percent of tyres surveyed at Carnival Mall were worn past the legal tread depth limit or had other flaws like cuts or bulges.
Lovell said that the ongoing nature of the National Tyre Safety Check programme meant it was possible to start identifying long-term trends in tyre condition and inflation pressure. “Up until the end of 2008, we were routinely finding that more than 20 percent of tyres checked in a survey location were so badly worn or damaged that they required replacement. By the end of 2009, this figure had dropped to around 10 percent. But since 2010, a level of three to six percent has become typical,” she explained. “We have noted a steady improvement with each passing year.”
She said that the improvements in inflation accuracy and condition of tyres meant that motorists were less likely to face road emergencies arising from tyre failure. “Incorrect inflation and poor tyre condition are the leading causes of tyre failure,” she commented. “Bridgestone commends the Carnival Mall survey participants for taking tyre safety seriously,” she concluded.