Safety: How To Load & Hitch Your Van

Words & Images Francois Huysamen

It’s time to start packing for the long end-of-year holidays, but loading a caravan is not just throwing all your items into it before hitting the road. It’s important not only to stay within the caravan’s maximum load capacity, but also to ensure that any cargo is properly positioned.

This month, our safety feature looks at showing travellers how to pack their vans so that they are safe on the road.

Categories covered will include packing, balance distribution, the tow ball, nose weight, security, staying legal, how to hitch up, and more.

Staying Legal

For the past couple of months, the towing industry has been buzzing about vehicle weight and overloading. If you are new to the conversation, or new to the caravan and camping world, what follows is a quick summary of what you need to know.

Your caravan or trailer has two important weight figures – the Tare and the GVM.

Tare is the weight of the caravan when not loaded. This figure includes the spare wheel, all equipment supplied by the manufacturer as standard, and anything that has been attached to the caravan/ trailer so as to form a structural alteration of a permanent nature. (In other words, is attached permanently to the caravan body). Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) is the maximum mass the caravan/trailer is allowed when fully loaded.

The difference between your GVM and Tare is your payload, which determines how much weight you can pack in your unit.

Remember, if you have made modifications to your caravan (such as an aircon, movers, awning, etc.), this will increase your actual Tare and consequently lower your payload.

Make sure you do not overload your caravan. Not only is this illegal and can cost you a hefty fine if you are caught, but it is also dangerous to tow an overloaded unit.

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