Check load, before hitting the road

Boats, timber and rubbish, the old trailers can have a hard life, especially through the summer months when they’re used more than ever.

The Motor Trade Association is urging drivers to make sure their trailers are up to standard and also to be safe on the road this summer.


Trailers will be working hard on the roads this summer.

MTA communications manager Hamish Stuart says the fine art of reversing is not the only thing you need to worry about when towing a trailer.

“No matter how skilled you are, your towing will only ever be as good as the condition of your trailer.”

According to a report from MTA, a trailer can suffer mechanical deterioration during winter months, including wheel bearings, lights, rust and tyres. All trailers must have a warrant of fitness and a registration as well as being certified to be on the road.

“Between a quick mechanical check, ensuring you haven’t overloaded the trailer, and being confident in your ability to control the weight and driving dynamics, drivers can easily avoid most causes of trailer failure.”

The Ministry of Transport’s latest available crash statistics show 8.4 injury-causing crashes per year are caused by drivers with trailers that are either overloaded or mismatched. Driver inexperience causes an average 2.7 injury-causing crashes, while failure with couplings and chains causes 1.3 crashes.

“These are just the crashes people where injured or killed in,” says Hamish. “Sadly, they’re almost always avoidable, a quick check of your trailer and your load can save a whole lot of hassle, and injury or death.”

“Make it a summer to remember, for the right reasons.”

Check, before you load up:

  •   •  Your trailer must be roadworthy – it requires a current WoF and registration.

  •   •  Police and transport officials regard trailer tyres in the same way as those on cars – so check your tread depth, and make sure they are in matched pairs on each axle.

  •   •  A trailer must have a secure, locking coupling and a safety chain – make sure the shackle pin is as large a size that will fit your chain and towbar.

  •   •  It must also have working lights and reflectors. There are a few different rules for this, depending on factorslike the width of your trailer – check NZ Transport Agency’s (NZTA) website for more details, or ask when you go in for your next WoF.

  •   •  There are two towball/coupling sizes: 17/8 inch and 50 mm. Make sure your car’s towball and the trailer’s coupling match – especially if you’re using someone else’s trailer.

  •   •  Make sure your load is secure – use ropes, tie-downs, a tarpaulin or a cargo net, if you’re moving loose material.

  •   •  If the total towed weight is more than 2000 kg, the trailer must have brakes. Irrespective of load, your vehicle and trailer must be able to stop in seven metres from 30 km/h. If it can’t, you must fit brakes to the trailer. Even unloaded, trailers take more time and effort to stop – take this into account.

  •   •  Refer to your vehicle’s manual and check the maximum trailer weight it can tow (both un-braked and braked). Failure to comply with manufacturer recommendations could affect your vehicle warranty – and will affect your safety.

  •   •  Try to centre your load over the trailer axle – not too far forward or back. Unbalanced loads are harder to control. Never put heavier loads to the rear of the trailer. Always make sure there is downward force at the point of connection to your vehicle.

  •   •  Give yourself more room. Remember that you’ll be pulling out wider at corners and when negotiating obstacles – give yourself enough room.

  •   •  Backing a trailer is a skill that needs to be practised – it’s all about small and deliberate movements – a decent pull on the steering wheel will result in a significant shift in direction of your trailer. Smooth and gradual is the key in most cases.

  •   •  Towing a trailer will require extra power – bear this in mind when approaching hills or steep driveways. You can also expect to use more fuel.


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