By Mark Cartwright, FTA’s Head of Vans and Light Commercial Vehicles
When confronted with the need to tow a load, it may be tempting to simply 'hitch up and go'. But this is a very unsafe approach; it places both yourself and other road users at risk.
A number of best practice tips are identified within the Van Excellence Code. Here are five questions to ask yourself before you head off on your journey:
1) Are both the towing vehicle and trailer suitable for the task? Trailers, in particular, may not have been used for a while; make sure you check tyre pressures and treads, as well as lights, to ensure they are roadworthy.
2) Are you qualified and competent for the task? Many of us simply leap behind the wheel and drive, but don’t forget that those born after 1 January 1997 may need an additional qualification; check your licence to be certain you are permitted to tow a load.
3) Have you overloaded the vehicle or trailer? It's very easy to forget about equipment that has been stored in the van overnight, but this can make a big difference to its weight. Make sure to check the weight of the vehicle and the trailer thoroughly to avoid overloading gross and axle limits when towing.
4) Is the load secure? It must be tightly fastened to the trailer before driving away; remember to secure it for both forward/backward and lateral movements.
5) Have you considered adapting your driving style? Many drivers forget their vehicle will handle differently when on the move. As the vehicle's weight has increased, so too will the braking distance. And do not make any sudden manoeuvres from lane to lane, as the resulting movement of the trailer can have devastating effects on other road users.
As you are driving a vehicle with a greater surface area, remember that it is more likely to be affected by side winds and turbulence on motorways; the impact of these on the trailer can have a significant effect on the steering of a van. Take care!
FTA's shop has a number of products specifically related to towing safety including DVDs, guides and straps to secure your loads. Check them out here: https://shop.fta.co.uk