Caravan owner taken for a ride

By Wade O'Leary on 22 May 2015
Parked Caravan with car in bush
caravan owner advocacy

Would you cop a $415 fine and three demerit points for something you didn’t do that was approved by someone who should know better?

NRMA Member Steve Laws had to – but he’s not happy about it, and wants to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

A keen caravan owner, he had towed his Crusader model around Australia and was on the way home when he was pulled over by Highway Patrol and given a ticket.

And what was his offence?

A rear licence plate sitting 30cm higher than regulations allow.

“It’s one of those things – when I got the fine, I thought I’d just pay it and shut up,” he said.

”And then when I got home and found there were three demerit points involved I thought, ‘that’s a bit harsh’.”

Thinking he was the victim of a newly-passed law, Mr Laws did some investigating – and when he enquired with the NRMA, so did we.

Our research found NSW road transport vehicle legislation drafted in 2007 (where the offence occurred) and Victorian road safety regulations enshrined in 2009 (where the caravan was built) both require the numberplate on a caravan to be no more than 1.3 metres above the ground.

“What gets up my nose is that the caravan is three years old, it passed rego and it was built locally so I thought this rule was a new thing – but it’s not,” he said.

“The guys who made it should know the rules and the guys who passed it for rego should know too.

“But the policeman who pulled me over said ‘it’s your fault for driving it’.

“He said a couple of other things that didn’t impress me either, like ‘it should’ve been picked up during your yearly check’.”

As most motorists know, a car doesn’t need to have an annual rego inspection in the first five years after manufacture.

The same rule applies to caravans – but the Highway Patrol officer who knows his licence plate law so well was apparently not aware of this.

“I’d been driving all over Australia and nobody said anything until I got this one policeman,” Mr Laws said.

“He’s probably been sitting by the highway and gotten used to pulling up trucks for this sort of thing and so he gets a caravan.”

So Mr Laws searched the internet for other caravans and found plenty more with higher-than-legal numberplates.

“When I spoke to the manufacturer, he said they’re all like that and there’s no regulation,” he said.

“How many more people have got this particular caravan?”

Gaining no satisfaction, Mr Laws spoke to us on the record so that other caravan-owning Members could be made aware of the potential fine and demerit penalty they face.

“Ever since I got booked, I look at caravans all the time on the road now and I reckon 30 percent of them aren’t legal – why aren’t police pulling them up?” he asked.

“There are actually a couple of caravan parks up my way and I reckon there’d be a traffic jam if police were pulling them all up.

“I’ve told a lot of the old blokes I run into at caravan parks about what happened to me and they think it’s ridiculous … where does it all end?”

NRMA is awaiting comment from Crusader Caravans.