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Home > Tips and Hints > Trip planning and safety > Road Rules and Safety

Safety and security

Save driving and road rules

There are slight variations in road rules between the states.  As ignorance of the prevailing laws is no defence, be sure you know the speed limit and road rules each time you enter another state. 


Speed its limits for towing trailers where less than the posted limits can be seen on State by State Tow Vehicle Speed Limits.  


This New South Wales on line publication can be accessed in a number of different langauges: Australian Road Rules  


State road rules publications can be seen on


Northern Territory  


Western Australia  


South Australia  




New South Wales  


Australian Capital Territory  






If you are driving a vehicle that is 7.5 metres long or longer such as a semi trailer combination – including any load or projection – and it is displaying a “Do Not Overtake Turning Vehicle” sign, you may use either or both lanes if necessary, to turn left to right if it is safe to do so.   See more of the details and specific requirements for these signs.


Be careful when you are travelling near a large vehicle that is turning or negotiating a roundabout. Do not overtake on either side once the driver has signalled an intention to turn. They may cut the corner, when they are turning at an intersection and before they turn they are also legally allowed to cross over a continuous lane line leading up to the intersection.


Use your UHF radio to communicate with heavy transport, particularly on narrow roads, and when you intend to overtake the truck or to allow him to pass you.  Communicate with road users on channel 40 or the specified channel for that road. 

Do Not Overtake Turning Vehicle signs on the back of large vehicles:

Braking and safety chain requirements, and the need for towing mirrors for trailers:


Extract from Western Australian Drive Safe Book. 

Your trailer or caravan must have:

îthe correct coupling;

îat least one safety chain for vehicles up to 2.5 tonnes aggregate trailer mass (ATM) and two safety chains for vehicles between 2.5 and 4.5 tonnes ATM. The chains must be cross-hitched so that the trailer or caravan will still be secure if the coupling breaks;

îrear lights and reflectors;

îa light that illuminates the rear number plate;

îside lights – if the vehicle is more than 2.1 metres wide; and

îa braking system (for example, override brakes) if the gross trailer mass is between 750 kg and two tonnes and a breakaway braking system if the trailer or caravan is over two tonnes gross trailer mass.

Brakes are not required to be fitted if the trailer, caravan or plant trailer has a gross trailer mass less than 750 kg.

Ensure your car is fitted with good exterior mirrors so you can clearly see behind you when towing a trailer or caravan.

Trailers registered in New South Wales have additional requirements by which the state of charge of the battery providing power to the breakaway braking system must be monitored from the tow vehicle with a low battery alarm. 


The Road Transport (Vehicle Registration) Regulation 2007 requires that all trailers with a Gross Trailer Mass (GTM) exceeding 2 tonnes be provided with a braking system which will operate automatically and promptly upon breakaway of the trailer from its towing vehicle, and that such application should be maintained for at least fifteen minutes.


Such trailers, if fitted with electrically actuated braking systems, must be equipped with a device which applies the brakes in the event of a breakaway from the towing vehicle and maintains application for at least fifteen minutes. It is essential therefore, that an energy source, such as a battery, be carried on the trailer and that means be provided to ensure that the battery is maintained in a fully energised condition. In this regard, it will be satisfactory if any trailer mounted battery is constantly charged by the towing vehicle and a warning device is fitted to warn the driver (from the normal driving position) if the trailer battery charge falls to such a level as to render the trailer brakes incapable of meeting the requirements.


Read the Vehicle Inspector's inpection bulletin New South Wales inspection requirements for large trailers equipped with electrically operated brakes



Australian standards for trailers under 4.5 tonne: Vehicle Regulations VSB1


A correctly loaded rig when towing

It sounds like stating the obvious, but you will observe that not every caravan is correctly loaded and hitched, putting themselves and other road users at risk.


The Caravan and Camping Industry Association of New South Wales has a useful guide to towing on Towing Guide.  Additional towing advice sites can be found in the Links section here


The basics are:


Do not exceed the load weight specified for your caravan


Do not exceed the weight your tow vehicle is rated to tow


Do not exceed the total gross combined weight (fully loaded car trailer and yourselves) your tow vehicle is rated to tow


Do not exceed the tow ball weight your tow hitch is rated to tow


For all of the above points, when planning your rig and tow vehicle, allow a good margin for error.  There are sure to be times when you will add a bit more to your load. 


Where to find a weighbridge so you know your weights?  See Public Weighbridges 


Where manufacturer’s specifications of the vehicle are not known, then the maximum weight that can be towed is either 1.5 times the loaded mass of the vehicle (if the trailer has brakes) or, if the trailer has no brakes, the weight is limited to the unloaded mass of the vehicle.  However it would be unwise to travel with a trailer which outweighs the tow vehicle as recommended hereunder. 


Keep the heaviest items central in the trailer (ie over the wheels)


Do not add heavy items such as tool boxes on the back or front of your caravan, unless done at the construction of your caravan and allowed for to maintain a balanced rig, or done under the guidance of a suitably qualified engineer. 


A further recommendation is that the laden weight of your trailer doesn’t exceed the laden weight of your tow vehicle, even if it is within legal limits. It is a simple game of tug-o-war and you need to be in the winning side if something goes wrong.  Simple swaying of the caravan can result in the whole rig being taken off the road or a rollover if the caravan is the heavy end.  


A weight distributing hitch is highly recommended.  Weight distributing hitches transfer some of the load from the rear of the vehicle to the front, distributing weight evenly to all wheels for safer towing. 


A simple demonstration of the yaw (swaying effect) on a caravan or trailer.  Watch hereWhen this happens, the caravan inevitably rolls, usually taking the tow vehicle with it.  A too often reported scenario, and even if people get out of it not seriously injured, their dream or home is smashed or off the road for a long time (usually written off due to body twisting even if it holds together) and their travels curtailed or holiday stopped.  This video takes a caravan almost to the point of no return


Rob Caldwell has published Caravans and Trucks Sharing the Road which explains the effects of a truck passing or overtaking on airflow and caravan stability. 


Collyn Rivers has excellent information on his website explaining vehicle dynamics here and a further article on caravan stability


To check what a vehicle is permitted to tow, including GVM and GCM and other specifications, visit  Red Book.  This Beadell's Tours link can be used as a quick guide, but bear in mind there may be differences between year models and dates back to 2015. 

Weight distributing hitch in use
Lights on - be seen
The brochure on the following link gives a very good overview of safe driving, commencing with towing advice.  Safe Driving and Towing 

Road safety programmes of “Lights on – be seen” highlight the benefits of driving with vehicle lights on (dipped) during daylight hours on rural roads.  It is essential in wet, dusty or smoky conditions, but even on clear days, intermittent patches of light and shadow can cause a vehicle to become invisible when in the shade patch, particularly with darker coloured cars. 


Parking lights are not effective, but headlights on dip are a safe driving tool.  


It is an offence to drive with fog lights on in clear weather (day or night). 


Many modern cars automatically turn the lights off a couple of minutes after the ignition has been turned off, and others have audible warning beeps if lights have been left on.  For drivers of cars that don’t have these, an easy way to ensure lights are turned off when leaving the car is to lock the driver’s door.  This will be a reminder that the lights are on when alighting. 

Safety and security encompasses: Safe driving and road rules, Road conditions and closures, A correctly loaded rig, Sharing the road with trucks, Vehicle accident reporting, Animal strike danger, Safety at fuel outlets, Tyres, Safe recovery, Murphy's Law - what can go wrong?, Security of your personal property, Personal safety, Vehicle breakdown safety, First Aid, Sunburn safety, Weather safetyCampsite safetyFire safetySmoke Alarms, Caravan gas safety, and an Escape Plan in case of fire are all part of good trip planning and preparation.   

Road conditions and closures

Seasonal rains and cyclones in northern areas and occasional flash flooding and flooded rivers due to rain some distance away can cause roads to be closed or be unsafe to travel on.  Respect all road closures.  Due to damage that can be done, huge fines can be levied for travelling on a closed road.  To check on road closures and conditions the following resources can be used. These may not be up totally to date so if in doubt, check with the Shire office for roads in that Shire as these are the people that check and close roads.   Minor roads will need to be checked with the local Shire.


Queensland for road closures and alerts

131940 online or phone 131940

or RACQ road conditions list by region

RAC Queensland 1300 130 595


Northern Territory or new page

1800 246 199 for recorded information only


South Australia 1300 361 033

South Australia Northern and Outback Roads  


Western Australia by region or by Map.  Phone 1800 013 314


Australian Capital Territory 132281


New South Wales 132701 or New South Wales NRMA Road Report 131122.


Victoria 131170    


Tasmania Contact local Police 131444 for up to date information about road conditions and closures

To contact Tasmania Police from an interstate location phone 1800 765 827


See also Flood Levels from the Bureau of Meteorology.  Phone 1300659219 for the latest when travelling in areas where flooding has impacted on the roads.


Roads may also be closed due to bushfires.  If the road is closed, no matter how necessary you consider your need to cross, or whether you assess that the danger has passed, you may not enter a road that has been closed by authorities during a fire while the closure is in force. 


TARE / Kerb Mass / Tare Mass 

is the unladen weight of the vehicle or trailer/caravan


Simply put:  TARE is the base weight of the empty trailer/caravan at manufacturer and may be stamped on the VIN plate and will be shown on the registration papers 

GVM / Gross Vehicle Mass

is the total allowable weight of the vehicle including its load


Simply put:  GVM is the maximum allowable weight of the vehicle and its load, which includes yourselves and any tow ball download weight when trailer/caravan is attached.  GVM is specified by the vehicle manufacturer

GCM / Gross Combination Mass

is the total allowable weight of a loaded vehicle and its loaded trailer


Simply put:  GCM is the maximum allowable weight of the vehicle and trailer combination, including their loads, and is specified by the vehicle manufacturer


GTM / Gross Trailer Mass

is the allowable weight supported by the axle/s or wheels of a loaded trailer when attached to the tow vehicle


Simply put:  GTM is the maximum allowable weight supported by the axles and wheels when the trailer/caravan is attached to the tow vehicle, as specified by the trailer manufacturer and maybe stamped on the VIN plate   


ATM / Aggregate Trailer Mass

is the total allowable loaded weight of a trailer including the tow ball download weight when not attached to the tow vehicle


Simply put:  ATM is the maximum allowable weight of the fully loaded trailer and is specified by the trailer/caravan manufacturer and is stamped on the VIN plate

Tow Ball Weight / Tow Ball Mass / Download

is the weight transferred by a trailer onto the rear of a tow vehicle


Simply put:  This is the weight applied to the tow ball/hitch of the vehicle by the trailer/caravan.  This weight will vary according to how the load is distributed within the trailer and needs to be within the limits specified by the vehicle tow bar manufacturer and/or vehicle manufacturer. #



is the weight that is permissible to add to your trailer, including water, gas and anything added after the TARE was established.  This is specified by the manufacturer and may be stamped in the VIN Plate


Simply put:  This is the maximum allowance you have for loading into/onto to your trailer/caravan. It is the difference between the TARE and ATM as shown on the VIN plate.  By the time you fill your water tanks and gas bottles you may have a very limited allowance for your packing


#Note: If a ball weight is stamped on the trailer VIN plate it will generally have no relationship to the actual ball weight when the trailer/caravan is loaded. However when a trailer manufacturer specifically stamps the VIN plate with a Maximum Ball Weight then this must not be exceeded.

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See: Setting up your Hayman Reese Weight Distribution Hitch

Please note a flick with the right indicator should not be used to indicate to following traffic that it is safe to pass.  Indicators are for indicating turning, and to use for any other perpose is against the law.  Accidents, including fatalities, have occurred by drivers mistaking the indicator for a 'safe to pass' signal when it was in fact for diverging right.  Drivers behind you need to assess for themselves when it is safe to pass, regardless of any assistance you may want to offer.  Reaching them by UHF to discuss passing is a much better option. 

Drivers licence renewals for those with specified medical conditions and for seniors drivers are different in each state.  See what applies here.

Click here for a printable list of Road Conditions telephone numbers
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