29 "ON ROAD" TIPS FOR SAFETY WHEN TOWING

 
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 13, 2007 3:39 pm    Post subject: 29 "ON ROAD" TIPS FOR SAFETY WHEN TOWING Reply with quote

Some Towing Tips for "Newbies" and reminders for others.

Many have requested this one. This does not come from Bushtracker as they are not Licensed to give Driver Education. This one comes from me, Steven Gibbs personally. It is by no means all, but here are some basic ones. I have a Medium Rigid truck License, and many of the tips are the same for towing a Bushtracker as running a bigger rig. These tips are almost all for the highway, which is the dangerous way..

I have towed with a number of vehicles, in Australia it has been Toyotas 61 Series, 80 Series, Troopcarriers, and 100 Series, Ford F-350, F-250, Mitsubishi truck, Mack 4x4 horse truck, and a Chevrolet Silverado to mention a few... Laughing . Here are some basic ideas to take on board, if you do not understand any, ask and I will elaborate.. OK?

These are not meant to be a safety course, I accept no liability for your use, abuse, or misconceptions regarding these tips.. And you will have to put up with my sense of humour.. Make sure you understand these Tips fully before implementing them, they are just here as safety tips to help you along.. And best wishes.

If you have bought a Bushtracker from us, you have already gotten your recommendations on upgrading the suspension on your tow vehicle to do the job you are asking of it. So I will skip that bit.

1. Double check your rig, hook up, safety chains, plug, and brake away switch.

2. Before you go, check your lights, and do a walk around the rig. Have a look, tyres and all. Never know that guy might have only unbolted half the wheel trying to steal it before you came out of the pub in Woop Woop..

3. Cross over your safety chains underneath, the idea is that it is supposed to catch the hitch should something fail.

4. Check your brake controller as you pull out, slide over the slide bar and feel it. Make sure your van parking brake is off, you would not believe how many ruin and burn up the brakes by driving off with it on until they are smoked. I will not admit to having done that more than twice. Ha!

5. Adjust your brakes response on the Brake Controller to suit road conditions. In traffic, snow, mud, gravel curves, rain, ice. You may want to turn up the gain a bit so the caravan brakes come on first. Then back it off again for normal straight driving in the dry, so that you feel them but the tyres do not lock up with normal braking. You want to feel them come on as you apply the vehicle brakes but not severely and not locking up and smoking the tyres. Play with the Brake Controller until you know it by feel.

6. If possible have the Brake Controller mounted so you can reach the slide bar in a panic. No, down under the dash on the other side is not where I would have it.. Ha! Laughing If you are going around a curve, gravel, ice, rain, sway, something happens that causes the van to feel out of control, putting the caravan brakes on first with the slide bar will snap the van back to a steady track behind you. If the van was starting to jack-knife or sway out of control in the mud or ice on a curve, normal braking of the vehicle might not be enough and might bring you to grief. Where if you use the slide bar to snap the van back into its track behind you first, and then apply the brakes, it has been my experience that this gives you better towing control. Examples: For instance in a domed road in the wet black soil country in the mud, at a certain speed the van can start to sway a bit sliding side to side in the mud. You can turn up your Brake Controller in those conditions so that the van brakes come on first as you just tap the brake pedal in your tow vehicle. Good idea. Also, if you were going around a curve and it felt like the van was sliding off the road, the slide bar will put on the van brakes instead of the tow vehicle brakes, and pull the van back in directly behind you. Now mind you, these conditions are extreme, you are not likely to encounter them if you are not looking for trouble and taking it easy. But if you do encounter them, having played with the slide bar a bit, being familiar with it, having it in an easy location, making it your panic button can make the difference.

7. Next item, watch your mirrors. Look in your mirrors more often than when in your car. I mean make it a habit. If you are backing up a lot of traffic do the right thing and pull over in a convenient spot to let the traffic go by. Not doing that common courtesy is why "caravan people"are disliked by many, especially Truckers. Don't get silly and pull over all the time, there are usually passing lanes coming up, but think of it and do it when convenient and safe if you are running a bit slow. Now besides courtesy, this is a major cause of accidents, as someone is pissed right off by being stuck behind you for so long and they try to pass you when it is not really safe to do so. Guess what happens if they don't make it. You are likely to be involved as well. So this tip is watch your mirrors and be a courteous driver. Also, you might want to pull over in some places like the NT when trucks are coming up fast behind you, for when you are just poking along..

8. Next, and no I don't mean you the experienced, so stop calling me stupit, I am not Sshhttoopitt ! Laughing I know you know, but some of the Newbies might not: Watch the passing distance. You need many times the distance to get by a slower caravan or truck. Be very careful, because it is a lot longer than you think! (Now that's a change for some of you Blokes) Ha! (Ladies, forgive my rough humour) Give it plenty of room. It is a lot longer than you think.

9. Towing vans should have the same driving time limitations and regulations as Truck Drivers. Never mind, but keep in mind you could weigh 6 tonnes or more all up.. Stop for coffee or a stretch every couple of hours. Stop for a full half hour every four hours minimum or an hour stop at five hours. No more than ten hours before a minimum eight hour rest stop. Don't push yourself, if you are tired, pull over, it is not worth it. You get a Bushtracker to have a rest and have some fun, now start to unwind yourself before you take off on the trip. Don't take off high strung and in a hurry, expecting that the trip is going to slow you down. OK?

10. React slowly if you run off the edge of the shoulder, don't over-react, come back off the shoulder gently and slowly. And don't panic if you get a blow-out flat tyre, just cruise along nice and steady and pull over in control and in a safe spot.. Better to ruin a wheel than cause an accident by pulling over in a dangerous spot. Running on a wheel is no big deal, find a safe place to pull over in control and where there is room for a tyre change.

11. Head to head on the one lane bitumen road with the dirt road on both sides, don't fool around with the Road Train people, slow down a bit and get off early, those Blokes are earning a living and in a hurry, give them the road courtesy.

12. Put lots of lights on your tow vehicle. You will get more respect from the cars and utes on the back tracks at night.. They will think you are a Road Train and pull over themselves. Then smile and wave as you go by when they are shaking a fist.. Just kidding.. But I always put extra lights on my tow vehicles.

13. Watch your corners when in town, particularly if you have a long draw bar, as you will cut the corners a bit. I flattened a mushroom room light at a BP about ten years ago. They thought it was funny and were all laughing so hard they almost fell over, as they did not like the mushroom light either.. But anyway, you have to swing wide about a foot or two on your turns.. Have a play with this and see how far it cuts the corner on right and left turns so you will know.. In most instances it just means swinging out the outside edge of your lane as you approach the turn at an intersection, but practice first. This will vary with vehicle and length of a-frame, so practice in an industrial area for a while..

14. Find a closed Woolies or Coles, and park all over the parking lot looking crazy. Do it until you are good at it.. It will save you a lot of embarrassment later.

15. The same goes for backing up, don't wait till you need to do it in a mess. It will always happen in the dark, when you are tired, the Missus is cranky, and it's raining. Practice in the industrial area until you can do a comfortable three point turn into a tight driveway and parallel park your long rig, not when your friends are watching and laughing while you struggle.. Also, when ever possible, like even when the Missus is cranky, it is dark, and raining, have someone (Her) get out and watch on your blind side when backing up. The rule is: Stay where you can see my face in the mirror. If you can't see my face, I can't see you, OK?

16. I don't like the high speed coastal highways. That is where it is always a worry. When ever possible, I take the next highway over, little smaller, a lot slower, and I can pull off in the trees for a break. That is what a Bushtracker is all about. And the Truckies get a bit wild on the main highways at night. They are making time, making money, and trying to get home. No disrespect intended, I have been there, but give me a quiet country route every time.

17. Carry a shovel when off road, that way you won't need it. Don't carry one and see what happens.

18. Carry a Col-light. If you get a flat, the first thing you do after you pull over is put on your hazard lights. But then the next is to plug in the Col-light into your tow vehicle.. It is a big flouro drop light, Col, or something like it, essential safety and light.. When travelling at night.. Lays on the ground illuminating the tow vehicle and is better than someone standing out behind you with a torch, especially on the road side. And remember to run on a wheel with a flat, to get to a safe spot to stop, don't worry about ruining the wheel by stopping in a bad spot, get off the road! I don't want to read about you in the paper like that!!!

19. Do not ride your brakes on a hill. Especially the caravan brakes, but also your tow vehicle brakes. Use the engine decompression and gears and approach a hill at a slow speed. Don't go over the edge and then slam on the brakes trying to slow down in a panic when you figure out what you are in for.. On all of the steep grades with %decline signs, slow down before you enter them. Let the engine compression brake and slow you, but watch your RPM, don't let it get too high. You can even drop gears in an automatic on most vehicles, and do the same thing, but watch the engine REVS. Then when you have to, place on the brakes firmly, but only for short durations. Then let up after you have slowed down to below what you think is safe. If it is a long down grade, look for a truck pull out, pull off and use it and let the rig set for ten or fifteen minutes to cool down the brakes as needed. On the hills, SLOW is SAFE. So approach them slow, take it slow, and don't ride the brakes. Use the combination of engine compression to keep you slow. Whatever you do, do not get going too fast as the recovery is too hard to get under control. Use the slow lane, and slow going is the key to steep descents down a grade. It might say 60, but 25 might be safer if there is a slow lane.. If you see a big rig crawling along slowly down a grade, and you are unsure of the steepness or your brakes, it would not hurt to get in behind him on your first big hill doooowwwnnnn! If all else fails, understand what the truck emergency ramps are for if your brakes fail you, doubtful to ever need it, but understand what they are for, don't ever think you can run it out down the grade if brakes fail. Slow running down is to give you some emergency options, like hand brakes and engine compression to get you off in an emergency.. Take it slow, until you know your limitations.

20. Look ahead, I mean way ahead. Watch the oncoming traffic and leave plenty of space in front of you. You can't stop on a dime. Sure there will always be an Idiot pull into the space you are leaving, and let him. Relax, slow down again, stop cursing at him, pull your head back in the window and roll it up. Get used to is, cause it is going to happen again and his stereo is probably so loud he can't hear all the things you are screaming at him anyway. Ha! Allow plenty of room, and let them be Jerks. Odds are you will see them in a ditch someday anyway. Leave plenty of space, so when they get out of control with their dirtbag bald tyres, and swerve and cause a wreck, you have time and rooooom, to avoid it. Give yourself that safety space. And it is bigger than you think. (How is that for a change, Boys?) Cool

21. Watch your weight. They do spot checks with portable scales. If you need to upgrade suspension or hitch or Compliancing, do so. Overweight is not OK.

22. Learn to roughly service and inspect your tow vehicle and caravan. Go under and have look for loose bolts and bits.. Learn to routinely check things out on the tow vehicle, like belts, fluids, and brake adjustment. Like belts, you do not wait until they break! Learn to recognize the worn look, as it can drive your water pump or power steering. Remember, if something is going to go wrong, it is always on a steep grade, at night, on a narrow road, and in the rain. Keep up too the maintenance. And flares and triangles are not so silly to have on board just like the trucks..

23. Watch out for the other guy, assume something stupid is going to happen, it will sooner or later, so pay attention. When did you ever hear "Caravaner goes amok and wrecks into four other cars as he careens down the highway drunk"? Assume it is the other guy, as it usually is.. You are not going to take a chance hurting your Fabulous rig It is always some junk heap with a dirtbag at the wheel, and often the worse the car the worse the driver. Ever notice? Ha! (Not always). And Lighten Up! I was not talking about your rusty ole Holden.

24. Watch the tyre pressure when you are heavily loaded, particularly on the back tyres of your tow vehicle. When your truck is loaded and the van is hooked up, for highway use you want to be up on the higher end of the tyre pressure range, not at the normal tyre pressure, particularly in the rear of your truck that is carrying the weight. And know the difference between cold tyre pressure and hot. Hot can be as much as 10 psi more. Real hot weather can mean even higher of a difference. Example, a tyre that is heavily loaded on the rear might have a maximum tyre pressure of 65 psi. Cold you don't want to go over maybe 50, in hot weather I have seen as much as a 15 psi increase in tyre pressure as it heats up, and too much is just as dangerous as too little. Learn, what your tyres need and can take.

25. Listen to the road tips on UHF channel 40. The Truckies are good about giving warnings down the lineā€¦ Not a bad idea to have a UHF on board and listen in.

26. Not even a bad idea to have a portable hand held UHF, so the Missus can tell you what She thinks of you while She is standing in the rain and dark while you back up.. Ha! Shocked Then you can offer to let Her back up the rig while you stand out in the rain to guide Her.

27. Assume that the guy sitting at the cross section is going to pull out in front of you.. Sooner or later he will.

28. Every vehicle I get, I add on fish eye lenses on the lower corner of the mirrors to see in the blind spot. You are always looking out way behind when you are towing, and it is easy to overlook the little car in the lane just on your shoulder.

29. When driving in, or particularly when parking in the kerb lane, be aware of the cross fall of the road. Your BT is wider and higher than your tow vehicle (unless it's a Mack Truck!), and often there are signposts, trees, poles and traffic signals close to the kerb. The steeper the crossfall, the more chance there is of damaging your awning. - Adjust your left mirror so you can see the awning, and, slow to a crawl. I personally cleaned up one of the running lights on my Mack Horse truck this way, leaning over against a light post.

Take care, and keep the shiny side up!!!


Last edited by Bushtracker on Tue Oct 21, 2008 9:13 pm; edited 3 times in total
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Bushtracker
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 19, 2008 3:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Unfortunately I have just heard that a Bushtracker Owner, a Newbie, has just banged up a few cars..... No one hurt, we give Thanks for that.

Following too closely is always a problem. Forgetting a big van is on the back and not allowing extra distance is a common problem. Yes there will always be a hoon that will cut in front of you when you are leaving extra room. Get used to it and back off, you might be 6 or 7 tons, you need the extra room... These Tips for Safety when towing are important, make sure you understand the value of all of them... Wink

Hopefully you will learn these things the easy way here and now, rather than the expensive mistakes teaching the lessons..

Regards from the Ranger
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john steffensen



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2008 12:52 pm    Post subject: tips on towing Reply with quote

Steve, thanks for the time spent with us when at bt a few weeks ago . as a newbie I am probably going to badger the hell out of you.Might i add that the tips on all topics in the forum are invaluable i think i will print out much of this and keep it in a folder to take with us for constant perusal.As you know we opted for the 22ft van and while i have had limited experiencing towing trailers i consider myself reasonably competant, the trailer having ranged from jet skiis to ski boats and at one stage a 23ft bertram reading all your tips and considering the fact that one will be spending much more time on the road it would appear that towing a van paticularly a big van is a whole new ball game.my queston is to you think it would be prudent to obtain the truck license which you presently hold. Regards John.s
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2008 2:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello John,

If you are made of money and have time to burn, it is not a silly approach. But the Driving School and two road tests to get mine cost about a month and $750 ......

It is really up to you, but many of the principles they will teach you are what I have put into the Topic above; that and the experience towing is where I got a lot of them.

I don't know if I would tell you to do that higher license for the cost and time involved... But certainly a long Sunday in a big empty parking lot somewhere, backing and parking, backing in three point turns, turning by swinging wide so as not to cut corners, backing into spots left and right; those sorts of things will be a big help if practice before going anywhere. That and understand and practice the 29 points above.

A truck license grills these things into you, about added braking distance, checking behind you in your mirrors every minute or so, pulling over to let traffic by and so on...

I don't know that the higher grade license is going to be necessary if you study and fully understand all the points, and do a couple of day parking lot bits to understand the distances and backing and moving around in tight spots before taking off on a trip... However it would give you hands on coaching by a Professional, and grill all these points into you... Up to you.

Cheers. stg
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john steffensen



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 28, 2008 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Steve, as usual you advice is excellent. It really gets down to understanding the principals which you have clearly stated and putting them in to practice lots of it.Looking forward to catching up with you at BT
in the near future.By the way one further question for the moment,decided to stick with the F250 for the time being,intend carrying a motor bike (approx 150k plus other gear in the back of the truck no doubt you would recommend upgrading the rear suspension what would be the best way to do this ? John s
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 7:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I did have an air bag suspension in my F-250..... My F-250 was set up with air bags front and rear, and a compressor, and paddle switches and guages on the dash to vary the suspension to suit the road conditions and ride, looked like this in the F-250:



And I must admit, I just added air bags in my Chevrolet Silverado.... You have not indicated you are carrying a load in your F-250 to warrant such an expense... But I am putting in a full bed slide out drawer system in the Silverado, that will be loaded with hundreds of kilos of tools as I service my own trucks and tractors and such on the 30 acre horse property, as well as maintain it for the special needs Children riding programs I sponsor with the RDA maintenance on their grounds and arena and such. With all those tools, I would also have a hundred kilos of bolts and screws and plumbing bits and pieces and a gull wing sides canopy I have ordered, and will probably end up with additional diesel tankage and a fridge in the back on top of the drawer system to fuel tractors and myself... Laughing Laughing Get the picture? I might be carrying a long ton (usual for me being a packrat)... And then air bags can level out the Silverado with a van on the back. You may not need to do that if you are carrying a modest load...

Look John, a 150 kg bike would not even be noticed, it is not like you are trying to carry this:



Ha! Shocked Shocked Laughing
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john steffensen



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks again Steve, apart from the bike it will be a bit of camping gear plus the ball wt of the caravan.As far as I am concerned safety issues are my main concern,however I take your point and heed your advise.No doubt air bags can be added later if necessary.By he way Steve I think you should stick with the Mack !!!! Regards John s
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john steffensen



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PostPosted: Sat Mar 29, 2008 4:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve, I trust hat wasn!t a photo of your old F250 that would seriously shake my confidence in your advise.John s
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2010 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote



Last edited by Bushtracker on Sun Jan 10, 2010 9:40 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 09, 2010 9:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As a relative novice to caravaning and having only towed small to medium trailers in the past your tips are much appreciated Steve.

Regards
John
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 7:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Love your safety tip cartoon Steve.
Shocked Shocked Laughing Laughing Laughing
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 23, 2010 1:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Friends,

An important thing we forget to do, is number 2 in the 29 Safety Tips of this Post:

2. Before you go, check your lights, and do a walk around the rigā€¦ Have a look, tyres and allā€¦ Never know that guy might have only unbolted half the wheel trying to steal it before you came out of the pub in Woop Woop..

Here are some recent ones just this year that might have been averted with a "walkabout" the rig: One of our Owners lost a wheel, we had torqued it on when it left here, he had checked the tightness down south after some couple of thousand k's, and only a few days into his big trip a wheel wore the holes right through over the nuts and the whole thing went sailing off to leave him stranded on the shoulder. Someone had loosened the nuts on a wheel and probably found they did not know how to jack it up or got scared off before he could pinch it.... He took off on the next day, and lost the whole mess. He was stranded until a new hub drum could be sent to him, as it buggered the studs as well.

Even the lone Ranger: Took off to weigh a van, and about a mile down the road the whole van came undone off the coupling... The same Man, been with me a dozen years, hooked me up 500 times, but a phone rang or a person asked a question, or something else happened and he forgot to swing the lock over on the hitch... Shocked Shocked Exclamation Luckily, I was going up hill and the whole thing went down.. It could have been down hill or a bump that put the whole hitch into the tailgate of my new F-450.... Shocked Exclamation Now our Policy is THE DRIVER CHECKS THE HITCH LOCK WITHOUT FAIL.. duh....

Third, a walk around and examination of things for a minute could have possibly caught this boo-boo... Seven year old Bushtracker, "T" handle worn or not tight or someone loosened it, and half of the jockey wheel parted company to bounce on the highway, up through the stone guard (not jockey wheel proof - DOH! as Homer would say) and bounced off the nosecone of the van...



Around $2400 in damage, nevermind, I was thinking of where that j-wheel could have gone through the windscreen of oncoming traffic... Now maybe it would have been picked or maybe not, maybe it was played with or an attempt to steal it, maybe it just came loose... There is even a safety pin that it could ride on for a long time if the T handle came out... My point is you might see something on your walkabout. The advice from the "Road Ranger" is to do a walkabout the rig on every stop...

Wink

Semper Fidelis...
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