Trailers are incredibly useful equipment and ideal for transporting items that cannot fit or are not designed to be transported inside a vehicle. However, different types of trailers are designed for different transport and logistics purposes, and working out the exact trailer you need, what your vehicle is capable of towing, and how to tow a trailer safely on the highway can be a tricky undertaking.
This article covers some of the important essentials of towing a trailer and carries information that will build your confidence about driving with a trailer on the road.
Note: this article covers towing with a light vehicle and does not contain information about towing with a tractor or other heavy equipment vehicles.
Getting the right trailer
As already pointed out, there are trailers that are specifically designed to serve specific transport and logistics purpose, and using the trailer that was not designed for a specific purpose can lead to problems. For example, there are trailers that are specifically designed to transport cars, while there are others designed to transport boats. Utility trailers are trailers designed to serve a variety of purposes, but particularly for transporting small equipment, hardware, and agricultural items.
It is therefore important that you choose the trailer that is specifically designed for the purpose you have in mind when going trailer shopping.
Fortunately, regardless of what you want to haul, you will definitely find a trailer for the purpose at Auckland Trailers or any trailer sales or hire point in New Zealand.
Trailer towing accessories
It is not enough to have the right trailer for you task, or having the vehicle that can tow the trailer. Equally important are the accessories for hooking up the trailer to your vehicle and for towing it from Point A to Point B successfully.
Here are the accessories you will need:
- Tow bar: The tow bar is meant to fit to the back of your vehicle so that you have a tow ball that connects to the trailer coupling. There are two main sizes of tow balls in New Zealand: the New Zealand 1”7/8ths standard ball and the 50mm ball commonly found on American or European manufactured vehicles.
You will need to take extra care if you have the smaller tow ball but a large coupling on your trailer, as the coupling can come apart, mostly at the worst possible time. On the other hand, you will not be able to use a 50mm ball on a smaller coupling. However, there are trailer couplings that can work with either tow balls. Ask the sales agent for this type of coupling so that you can hook up your vehicle without much problems.
- Coupling and Safety Chain: Every trailer comes with a secure coupling that includes either a double locking mechanism or a locking pin. They are also permanently attached to a safety chain.
The coupling and safety chain are what keep your trailer attached to your vehicle, so it is important that these items are present and well connected before embarking on any drive.
Be sure to double-check that both the locking pin and safety chain are properly engaged as the safety is meant to serve as a backup should the pin disengage, but losing both on the way can be disastrous.
Driving with a trailer
As well as understanding the basics of towing, it is also important that you understand how to handle your trailer and its load as well as your vehicle when you are on the road. But it is also important to remember that the most important ingredient when driving with a trailer is confidence.
- Know the road rules: In New Zealand, particularly in major cities, there is a maximum speed for towing a trailer behind a vehicle. As long as there is a rigid connection between the trailer and your vehicle, this speed is 90km/h. But if there is a loose connection between the trailer and your vehicle, such as if you are connecting via a chain or steel cable, you are expected to maintain 50km/h at most.
- ● Driving license: Towing a trailer behind a vehicle does not require any special driving license, however, if you are on a learner or restricted license, the combined weight of your vehicle, trailer and load should not exceed 4500kg.
As a full driving license holder, the combined weight of your vehicle, trailer, and load can be more than 4500kg, but it must not exceed 6000kg.
Even though you are allowed to tow a trailer irrespective of your license class, as a responsible driver, you can improve your towing skills by learning from people who are more experienced than you. In fact, it is a good idea if you do the first few trips riding shotgun and watching an experienced driver at work. This is definitely the best way to learn.
Towing a trailer behind your vehicle is not a difficult task to accomplish. As long as you are a reasonably good driver, and take the time to verify that your trailer is properly and securely connected to the vehicle, understand your towing weight, and obey the relevant traffic rules, everything should be all right.