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Overloading: How Much Can You Legally Tow?

We regularly see inaccurate advertisements where certain 4x4s can tow anything up to 3500kgs. It is, in all probability, possible for a 4x4 to tow such an amount of weight – in fact, many of these 4x4s can tow much more. For example, many years ago, a Volkswagen advert showed their V10 Touareg towing a Jumbo passenger jet liner. So yes, it is possible; but is it legal? What many people readily overlook, is the legal towing capacity of vehicles in South Africa. This is where you can very easily and quickly become unstuck regarding the overloading of your vehicle. Here are the facts relating to towing in South Africa.

For ease of reference, the following definitions apply:

  • TARE – The registered mass of the unloaded or empty vehicle (tow vehicle or trailer)
  • GVM - Gross Vehicle Mass is the fully loaded registered mass of the vehicle (tow vehicle or trailer)
  • CGVM – Combined Gross Vehicle Mass is the combined total of the trailer’s GVM and the tow vehicle’s GVM.

When operating the vehicle or a combination of vehicles:

1. The tow vehicle, while towing a single trailer, may tow such a trailer where the trailer’s GVM does not exceed 750kgs and where the trailer does not have an independent braking system of its own.

2. The tow vehicle, while towing a single trailer, may not tow any unbraked trailer where the GVM of the trailer exceeds half of the towing vehicle’s TARE.

3. The tow vehicle, while towing a single trailer, may tow such a trailer where the trailer’s GVM exceeds 750kgs but not more than 3 500kgs, provided the trailer is fitted with a fully functional independent braking system, provided that:

i. The tow vehicle, while towing a single trailer, may tow any braked trailer with a GVM of up to 3 500kgs, provided only that the trailer’s GVM does not exceed the towing vehicle’s TARE, up to a maximum of 3 500kgs.

ii. The tow vehicle may tow a combination of no more than two trailers, provided that the trailer attached to the tow vehicle has a fully operational independent braking system of its own.

iii. The tow vehicle may tow a combination of no more than two trailers, provided that the CGVM of the two trailers being towed does not exceed the towing vehicle’s TARE up to a maximum of 3 500kgs.

iv. Where the GVM of a trailer or the CGVM of a combination of trailers being towed exceeds the limitation of the TARE of the towing vehicle or exceeds 3 500kgs, then the trailers being towed and the towing vehicle must be fitted with one of the following service brake options – Hydraulic, Pneumatic or Electrical.

4. Where the tow vehicle has in tow one or more trailers, the maximum length of the tow vehicle plus the trailer/s forming the combination may not exceed 22 metres.

5. The relevant legal drivers’ license must be held by the driver of the tow vehicle.

A recommendation regarding the towing of more than one trailer:

Keep in mind that the application of the weight limitations and braking systems also applies here. It can be construed that where the CGVM of the two trailers exceeds 750kgs, then independent breaking systems should be operation on both trailers being towed.

At REAM Insurance Brokers, we are committed to ensuring that our clients are informed of their duties as policyholders. Click here to contact us or request a call back from one of our helpful consultants.