Tips and hints for safe towing
Trailer boats are a great idea for many people as they not only save you money on berthing and mooring and hence reduce hull maintenance and anti-fouling costs but they also give you more options as to the waterways you want to enjoy.
Capabilities is the key word here, as towing a boat involves two sets of elements: the equipment elements and the human elements.
To safely and legally tow your boat and trailer, your vehicle must meet the specifications and towing capacity requirements as defined by the manufacturer, the National regulations and the individual state regulations.
These regulations cover the specifications required of both the towing vehicle and the trailer.
Check the manufacturer’s handbook or website for your vehicle and your trailer for towing capacities. Ensuring you correctly calculate the specific weights, allowing for the boat and any equipment and accessories you may have onboard and for passengers and gear in the vehicle.
Pay particular attention to tyres, brakes, shock absorbers and lighting!
Check the specific state regulations for your area and the area you plan to travel in. These sites provide both legal regulations and valuable additional information
New South Wales www.rms.nsw.gov.au
South Australia www.sa.gov.au
Western Australia www.transport.wa.gov.au
Northern Territory www.transport.nt.gov.au
The Human Elements of Towing
Knowing your vehicle and trailer are properly set up to tow your boat is one thing, but safe towing also depends on the ability, action and attitude of the vehicle driver.
Do you have the capabilities to tow your boat?
From a range of sources, we’ve brought together a range of information to assist you in safely getting your boat to and from the ramp.
License Requirements: Check with your state transport authority if there are any restrictions or special licence requirements to tow a boat of your particular size.
Learner drivers are not permitted to tow a trailer.
Ability: If you don’t have a lot of experience in towing a trailer, are not fully confident or would just like a refresher course, boat towing training courses are available in all states.
Towing a boat effects the handling of a vehicle in regards to braking, acceleration and control, which place greater responsibilities onto the driver.
Knowledge: know the rules for towing applicable in your state by following the links provided earlier. Rules include that no person is permitted to ride in the trailer or the boat while it is being towed.
Know your equipment: ensure you know how to correctly use every item of your towing set up: vehicle, trailer, tyre settings, tow bar, coupling, chains, brakes and lighting.
Check the manufacturer’s specifications for all couplings – the capacity should be marked on the coupling.
Safety chains must comply with the Australian Standards for the size and weight of you rig.
Braking systems must meet the requirements for the size and weight of the loaded trailer.
Have the correct mirrors installed to allow for a wider load.
Maintenance: follow a stringent maintenance schedule for all your towing equipment for safer towing and to keep everything in good condition. Flush the trailer, including brakes and shock absorbers, with fresh water after every boating trip to prevent rusting.
Checklist: make a written checklist for every stage of the trip and follow it religiously: pre-trip, arrival at the ramp, unloading, loading and post-trip.
If you’re going on a long trip, have a mid-trip checklist. When you have a rest stop, do a walk around your rig to ensure nothing has moved or any conditions changed.
Loading: knowing how to correctly load your boat onto the trailer is essential to safe towing. The weight distribution of the boat on the trailer will effect vehicle performance and driving control. As a guideline – one source recommends that 60% of the weight of the boat should be in the front half of the trailer.
If you have extra weight in the boat for certain trips, eg extra scuba tanks or heavier fishing gear, make the necessary allowances for this extra weight when loading the boat onto the trailer.
Don’t forget to allow for the weight of fuel! If you have a larger fuel tank fitted for longer trips, make sure you adjust all your calculations accordingly.
Know how to correctly attach and secure your safety chains and straps. For even the shortest trips they must be secure!
Driving actions: effectively towing a boat involves not only knowing the road rules but also involves special skills and techniques. Some of which require practice and some come from experience. Here’s a few points to remember:
Take the right, wider line when turning. Trailers tendy to cut in on corners and curves.
You have a big load behind you which effects the performance of your vehicle. So keep your eyes well ahead on the road so you are ready to react in time, to any changes in road conditions or traffic.
You can increase the control of your vehicle and reduce brake strain by selecting a lower gear when driving downhill.
Swaying trailers can be a sign of potential problems so you need how to deal with this scenario. Authorities advised not to apply the vehicle brakes, this can cause the rig to jack knife. Either apply the trailer brakes gently or maintain a steady speed or slightly accelerate until the swaying ceases.
These are just a few points to get you thinking. Consulting with an expert training course will assist further.
Speed limit: some states have speed limits for vehicles towing boat trailers. Check with your state authority for details. Manufacturers may also set speed limits for trailers and towing vehicles.
This is not intended as a fully inclusive list of everything you need to know about towing your boat. There is a lot more to know and you should follow up with other sources for hints, tips and advice to ensure you have the capabilities to safely tow your boat.
Tips and hints for safe towing