Is this the most significant court case relating to caravanners in Australia, ever?
by Marty Ledwich
For a number of years, many of us in the RV media have been writing about the importance of ensuring our rigs are within their weight restrictions. Certainly, ever since Sergeant Graeme Shenton of Victoria Police ran his caravan weighing operation in Newmerella, Victoria back in January 2017, awareness of the issue has dominated discussions around happy hour and online through social media groups. Irrespective, there are still a great number of drivers out there who know full well their rigs are overweight and they are complacent about the repercussions.
To date, it’s been extremely difficult to find anyone with direct evidence of being pulled over by police or roads authorities and issued with an infringement for having an overweight caravan.
Well, that’s changed.
On June 14 this year, a man was charged with a number of offences in relation to a fatal vehicle crash near Walcha, NSW, in January of this year which claimed two lives. The Toyota Prado that he was driving, was towing a caravan when the vehicle struck Armco railing and then a tree, killing the front and rear seat passengers of the vehicle. Another rear seat passenger and the driver survived the crash.
Out of the eight charges he is now facing, two are of particular note:
1. Towed vehicle weight exceeding the capacity of the towing attachment, and
2. Towed vehicle weight exceeding the maximum laden weight.
Given these charges have arisen following an investigation into a crash by police, we can determine a number of things:
1. It is possible for investigating police to ascertain the approximate weight of a caravan following a crash.
2. The caravan was allegedly found to be heavier than the rated capacity of the tow hitch of the towing vehicle.
3. The caravan’s laden weight allegedly exceeded the caravan’s ATM.
Regardless of the outcome, the implications of this case cannot be underestimated for anyone towing a caravan, camper, boat, horse float or, indeed, any other trailer. If you are found to have exceeded the ATM of the trailer or the rated capacity of the tow vehicle’s tow hitch, at least in NSW, you now know what you can be charged with. Further, if you are involved in a serious crash, you can be held accountable for the outcome if excessive weight of the trailer is found to be a factor.