Caravan carnage

EU legislation didn't include a recommendation for annual trailer or caravan checks

Published:  23 July, 2014

Last month, we reported about the scare over the potential split of MOT and servicing workshops, with the EU already having passed legislation on roadworthiness and not including any such proposal.

Martin Spencer, Caravan Club Technical Manager, says: "Caravanning's safety record is very good, not only due to manufacturers' efforts to design for safety but also as caravanners see their caravan as their 'home from home' and look after it accordingly. We support moves to make caravanning even safer but these proposals are poorly targeted to do that. The roadworthiness condition of a caravan very rarely causes accidents and introducing a costly inspection scheme, when the potential for accident reduction is perhaps only a handful of cases a year, makes no sense. A fraction of that cost spent supporting education and training of caravanners would be far more effective at making a safe pastime even safer still."

However, such a dramatic change in regulation would also cause a problem, with a serious amount of infrastructure needed to be put in place. Vernon Taylor adds: "It would be wrong to single out caravans for any special attention and any legislation should affect all trailers of all types. Before any sort of MOT test for trailers could be made mandatory there would have to be a national system of registration with each trailer being given a registration number to display and the owner of each trailer registered to that number, entailing changes of ownership whenever something is bought, sold or scrapped. The current legal position where a trailer becomes part of the towing vehicle while it is attached must also be looked at.

"The whole thing would be a legal and an administrative nightmare and once started down that route, government would eventually 'go over the top', making it so difficult and expensive to build and sell one-off trailers the market would collapse and it would potentially make criminals out of anyone who kept a camping trailer in the garden for occasional use."

Brian Spratt, former chief executive of the IAAF, also adds: "As a responsible caravan owner, I have my unit checked through a specialist workshop each year so, as much as one can be, I am confident as to its condition. As I travel around I very rarely see 'vans that would give cause for concern. However, the state of towed trailers is another subject altogether. They are regularly seen with broken lights, out of skew because of overloading and, time and time again, travelling in the outer lane on motorways. On that basis alone, I'd be in favour of regular testing."

"There are some practical problems however; many garage/MOT testing stations couldn't get a caravan through the doors and onto the ramps, brake testing rollers and other areas, there probably isn't enough money in caravan testing to encourage caravan workshops to invest in the equipment they need either."

Regular checks will not be introduced just yet and there is lobbying against the practice. For now, the MOT will remain exclusively for vehicles and it will be down to law enforcement to stop any towed trailer that appears in a poor condition on the road.

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