Legal requirements for caravan breakaway systems


Did you know that it is now a legal requirement in all states that caravans over two tonnes gross trailer mass (GTM) are fitted with a caravan breakaway system, or independent brakes that will immediately kick in if the van becomes disconnected from the towing vehicle?

Vehicle Standards Bulletin VSB1, which covers the technical requirements stipulated by the Federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, says that:

  • Every trailer over two tonnes GTM must have brakes operating on all wheels.
  • The brake system must cause immediate application of the trailer brakes in the event of the trailer becoming detached from the towing vehicle.
  • Under these circumstances, the brakes must remain applied for at least 15 minutes.

Special requirements in NSW

In NSW there is an extra requirement that the charge condition of the caravan breakaway battery can be monitored from within the towing vehicle.

The NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) vehicle inspection bulletin VIB6 stipulates:

  1. 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.
  2. Trailers required to be fitted with caravan breakaway systems are not registerable if there is no means for maintaining the breakaway energy source in a fully energised condition (for example, if a charging and warning circuit is not fitted).
  3. An acceptable warning circuit must incorporate either a visual or an audible warning device.

This ruling only applies to caravans registered in NSW, not to interstate visitors towing recreational vehicles (RVs) registered in another state or territory and travelling through NSW.

So if you are planning a trip and have not installed a caravan breakaway system, pop down to your local mechanic and discuss the installation and get some advice on the best way to proceed.

More information can be obtained on the RMS website

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