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WORDS MARTY LEDWICH, IMAGES RV DAILY AND VARIOUS

Is this the most significant court case for Australian caravanners, ever?

With prosecution now pending in a NSW court, the time for complacency about what your car and caravan actually weighs is over

Many of you would have seen the news story we published on June 25 highlighting the significance of a pending court case that involved an allegedly overweight caravan. A man has been charged with several offences in relation to a fatal crash that occurred near Walcha, NSW in January this year.

That story certainly hit a nerve and was subsequently shared on Facebook more than 200 times. One of the people it reached was a lady called Tracey Wilcox. It was her mother and her brother who were killed in that crash and her stepfather who was the driver. Tracey contacted RV Daily to tell her story in the hope that it would bring a heightened awareness of the dangers, as well as the possible consequences, of driving an overloaded rig.

There is a lot about this story that we cannot share with you at this time as the case is yet to go before the court. Given that, for the last few years, RV Daily has been heavily promoting the safe towing message, we don’t wish to prejudice a court case where an allegedly overweight caravan is a possible contributing factor in the crash.

What we can tell you is this. Tracey's mum, Lynette, who was 72 years old, bought her caravan, a Jayco Heritage, in order to fulfil her lifelong dream of travelling around Australia. On January 3, 2019, she, and her 58-year-old husband, her son Stephen and his girlfriend, headed off from Tamworth in her husband's Toyota Prado with the caravan in tow, bound for Port Macquarie where they had planned a four-week trip. They had pulled over for lunch in Walcha and had resumed their trip when the crash occurred.

ABOVE Lynette and Stephen Russell were the two people who died in the accident 

Practical Guide to Modern Towing Part One: Weights, legalities and insurance 

See this feature for everything about calculating weight and the legal limits

Related article

FEATURE Caravan crash tragedy

BELOW The crash scene presented many factors to be considered by the investigators

Tracey’s stepfather was a former driver in the Army and, in his civilian life, worked as a truck driver. He, along with his son's girlfriend, survived the crash. He has been charged with multiple offences including: Doing an act intending to pervert the course of justice; two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death; negligent driving occasioning death; dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm, and negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm.

According to Tracey, police investigating the crash arranged for the remains of the caravan and its contents to be collected from the accident scene and weighed. As a result of their investigations, her stepfather was also charged with: Towed vehicle weight exceeding the capacity of the towing attachment, and towed vehicle weight exceeding the maximum laden weight.

For all of us who tow large trailers, be they caravans, boats or horse floats, this is the part of the story that demands our attention.

You may have thought if your rig was overloaded, the worst that could happen is that you may have a crash, you'd walk away, perhaps with a few bumps and scratches, claim it on insurance and be back on the road in a new rig in a matter of months. These are dangerous assumptions.

Have you got a weight problem?

We examined caravan design and how to make the best of loading your payload

Related article

Cops take action on overweight caravans

Victoria made headlines with the police operation in Newmerella last year 

Related article

What your towball weight will cost you

The effect played by your towball weight on your payload

Related article

It is absolutely possible that you could kill someone and, in the case of such a serious incident, if the investigating police suspect that your rig was overloaded at the time of the crash, they can and will weigh the remains of the vehicle and lay charges if they believe any limits have been exceeded. Those charges are serious, and a custodial sentence may be the outcome if proved.

It isn't worth taking the risk.

As the driver of your vehicle, you are solely responsible for ensuring it is not overloaded. To do that you must make yourself aware of its limits, get your rig weighed either at a public weighbridge or by engaging one of a number of vehicle weighing service providers. The information you need is all right at your fingertips. The compliance plates on your car and trailer are not there for decoration or, as one person tried to tell me one day, a guide. They detail the limits of what the manufacturer has determined are safe for that vehicle. Put simply, GVM is the maximum your tow vehicle can weigh. ATM is the maximum your trailer can weigh. GCM is the maximum the combined rig can weigh.

That said, be careful how you interpret the marketing hype around the 3500kg towing capacity of many popular towing vehicles. As we've seen in previous articles, by the time you attach a trailer weighting 3500kg, you'll be lucky to put another 260kg into the tow vehicle before you exceed either its GVM or GCM.

None of us can afford to continue to keep our heads in the sand, unaware of the weights of our rigs with the 'she'll be right mate' attitude.

If you do nothing after reading this, at least consider what Tracey told me when I spoke to her. She said she was comforted by the knowledge that the tragic story of what happened to her mum and her brother was getting more publicity. Her only hope is that by telling her story, if it saves the life of just one person, then she would feel that their deaths were not in vain. Tracey wants everyone reading this to know and understand the very real risks that exist with driving an overloaded rig and that the consequences are potentially deadly.

Weight distribution and water tanks

Fitting the essentials such as water tanks is critical in caravan balance and handling

Related article

CIA Vic weight checks on the roadside

The industry body decided to be proactive and conduct an education program

Related article

There's one last detail we want to share with you.

Tracey was at home at the time of the accident. She was scrolling through social media when she saw a post on Facebook about a crash that had occurred near Walcha involving a caravan. The post detailed that two people had been killed and that two others were trapped in the wreckage. At the time she didn't think too much of it. It was only later that day when police knocked at her front door and informed her of the tragic news that she realised the post was about the crash involving her family.

If, during your travels, you come across an incident or a crash involving a caravan, you may be compelled to post details about it on social media. Perhaps now you will think twice.

Safe travels.

BELOW As it stands, many roadside weight checks have not resulted in penalties en mass. We may expect this situation to change

ABOVE Armco barriers involved in the crash itself

BELOW Traumatic scenes. While news has to be reported maybe social media isn't the forum anymore? image credit NBN News

ABOVE A roadside memorial to Lynette and Stephen

Many of you would have seen the news story we published on June 25 highlighting the significance of a pending court case that involved an allegedly overweight caravan. A man has been charged with several offences in relation to a fatal crash that occurred near Walcha, NSW in January this year.

That story certainly hit a nerve and was subsequently shared on Facebook more than 200 times. One of the people it reached was a lady called Tracey Wilcox. It was her mother and her brother who were killed in that crash and her stepfather who was the driver. Tracey contacted RV Daily to tell her story in the hope that it would bring a heightened awareness of the dangers, as well as the possible consequences, of driving an overloaded rig.

FEATURE Caravan crash tragedy

Is this the most significant court case for Australian caravanners, ever?

WORDS MARTY LEDWICH, IMAGES RV DAILY AND VARIOUS

With prosecution now pending in a NSW court, the time for complacency about what your car and caravan actually weighs is over

ABOVE Lynette and Stephen Russell were the two people who died in the accident 

There is a lot about this story that we cannot share with you at this time as the case is yet to go before the court. Given that, for the last few years, RV Daily has been heavily promoting the safe towing message, we don’t wish to prejudice a court case where an allegedly overweight caravan is a possible contributing factor in the crash.

What we can tell you is this. Tracey's mum, Lynette, who was 72 years old, bought her caravan, a Jayco Heritage, in order to fulfil her lifelong dream of travelling around Australia. On January 3, 2019, she, and her 58-year-old husband, her son Stephen and his girlfriend, headed off from Tamworth in her husband's Toyota Prado with the caravan in tow, bound for Port Macquarie where they had planned a four-week trip. They had pulled over for lunch in Walcha and had resumed their trip when the crash occurred.

Practical Guide to Modern Towing Part One: Weights, legalities and insurance 

See this feature for everything about calculating weight and the legal limits

Related article

Tracey’s stepfather was a former driver in the Army and, in his civilian life, worked as a truck driver. He, along with his son's girlfriend, survived the crash. He has been charged with multiple offences including: Doing an act intending to pervert the course of justice; two counts of dangerous driving occasioning death; negligent driving occasioning death; dangerous driving occasioning grievous bodily harm, and negligent driving occasioning grievous bodily harm.

According to Tracey, police investigating the crash arranged for the remains of the caravan and its contents to be collected from the accident scene and weighed. As a result of their investigations, her stepfather was also charged with: Towed vehicle weight exceeding the capacity of the towing attachment, and towed vehicle weight exceeding the maximum laden weight.

For all of us who tow large trailers, be they caravans, boats or horse floats, this is the part of the story that demands our attention.

You may have thought if your rig was overloaded, the worst that could happen is that you may have a crash, you'd walk away, perhaps with a few bumps and scratches, claim it on insurance and be back on the road in a new rig in a matter of months. These are dangerous assumptions.

Have you got a weight problem?

We examined caravan design and how to make the best of loading your payload

Related article

BELOW The crash scene presented many factors to be considered by the investigators

Cops take action on overweight caravans

Victoria made headlines with the police operation in Newmerella last year 

Related article

What your towball weight will cost you

The effect played by your towball weight on your payload

Related article

It is absolutely possible that you could kill someone and, in the case of such a serious incident, if the investigating police suspect that your rig was overloaded at the time of the crash, they can and will weigh the remains of the vehicle and lay charges if they believe any limits have been exceeded. Those charges are serious, and a custodial sentence may be the outcome if proved.

It isn't worth taking the risk.

As the driver of your vehicle, you are solely responsible for ensuring it is not overloaded. To do that you must make yourself aware of its limits, get your rig weighed either at a public weighbridge or by engaging one of a number of vehicle weighing service providers. The information you need is all right at your fingertips. The compliance plates on your car and trailer are not there for decoration or, as one person tried to tell me one day, a guide. They detail the limits of what the manufacturer has determined are safe for that vehicle. Put simply, GVM is the maximum your tow vehicle can weigh. ATM is the maximum your trailer can weigh. GCM is the maximum the combined rig can weigh.

That said, be careful how you interpret the marketing hype around the 3500kg towing capacity of many popular towing vehicles. As we've seen in previous articles, by the time you attach a trailer weighting 3500kg, you'll be lucky to put another 260kg into the tow vehicle before you exceed either its GVM or GCM.

None of us can afford to continue to keep our heads in the sand, unaware of the weights of our rigs with the 'she'll be right mate' attitude.

If you do nothing after reading this, at least consider what Tracey told me when I spoke to her. She said she was comforted by the knowledge that the tragic story of what happened to her mum and her brother was getting more publicity. Her only hope is that by telling her story, if it saves the life of just one person, then she would feel that their deaths were not in vain. Tracey wants everyone reading this to know and understand the very real risks that exist with driving an overloaded rig and that the consequences are potentially deadly.

BELOW Traumatic scenes. While news has to be reported maybe social media isn't the forum anymore? image credit NBN News

Weight distribution and water tanks

Fitting the essentials such as water tanks is critical in caravan balance and handling

Related article

CIA Vic weight checks on the roadside

The industry body decided to be proactive and conduct an education program

Related article

ABOVE A roadside memorial to Lynette and Stephen

BELOW As it stands, many roadside weight checks have not resulted in penalties en mass. We may expect this situation to change

ABOVE Armco barriers involved in the crash itself

There's one last detail we want to share with you.

Tracey was at home at the time of the accident. She was scrolling through social media when she saw a post on Facebook about a crash that had occurred near Walcha involving a caravan. The post detailed that two people had been killed and that two others were trapped in the wreckage. At the time she didn't think too much of it. It was only later that day when police knocked at her front door and informed her of the tragic news that she realised the post was about the crash involving her family.

If, during your travels, you come across an incident or a crash involving a caravan, you may be compelled to post details about it on social media. Perhaps now you will think twice.

Safe travels.