Caravan Rollover Data Australia

Introduction

There is much debate around towing rules. Are the rules we currently have the right ones? What is the safest speed limit when towing? Do we need a towing test for those new to towing? Or a towing theory test? Are RV drivers sufficiently aware of their obligations in relations to weight and towing equipment as well as the long vehicle rules?

Debate without facts is opinion. To determine whether any of the RV rules need changing, we need to know how safe driving an RV is today. And, like it or not, safety can only be measured by accident data.

This article provides some caravan rollover claims data for Australia.

Why Caravan Rollovers?

Caravan rollovers are a good indicator of general towing safety levels. This is because:

  • they often happen in isolation, i.e. without a collision with another vehicle or object
  • whilst their causes are complex, they are known to invariably involve a combination of exceeding critical speed whilst the tow vehicle or trailer (or both) are either overweight, incorrectly loaded or being towed with a high risk weight ratio

Lack of driver awareness of the factors that cause a rollover is a leading contributor to this type of accident.

Accident Data Sources

Obtaining meaningful data on RV accidents is difficult. This is because:

  • state and territory road and accident authorities focus (understandably) on accidents involving fatalities and serious injuries. Many RV accidents such as caravan rollovers involve (thankfully) neither
  • towing accident statistics that are available are often placed into the 'accident when towing a trailer' category. 'Trailer' could mean a caravan, a box trailer or a horse box
  • underlying causes of accidents are not always clear. An accident may have occurred because a driver 'lost control on the highway'. Why a driver lost control may not be revealed.

RV Books believes that due to these limitations, the best source of RV accident data is the insurance sector. Whilst we will continue to seek and collect data from any meaningful source, RV Books is working primarily with a number of supportive insurance companies to collate and publicise caravan rollover data on this page.

Suncorp Group

We are indebted to The Suncorp Group for the provision of this information.

The Suncorp Group consists of Suncorp, CIL, APIA, AAMI, GIO, Resilium, Shannons, Vero and AA Insurance. Whilst their share of the caravan insurance market in Australia is not known, Suncorp are one of the (if not the) largest caravan insurers in Australia.

Rollover Claim Numbers

Here is a summary of the Suncorp Group's caravan rollover claims for the last five years:

Rollover Locations

Here is a breakdown of Suncorp's caravan rollover claims by rollover location:

Rollover Road Type

Here is a breakdown of the type of road on which the rollovers occurred:

Findings

There appears to be a clear and welcome downward trend in the number of caravan rollover claims made to Suncorp over the last five years, after reaching a peak in 2014. This decline is particularly remarkable when taking into account the fact that caravan registrations in Australia have increased by about 5% per year over the same period.

The reasons for this decline are likely to be due to a range of factors including:

  • more lighter caravans becoming available to consumers
  • a trend towards purchase of lighter caravans, in turn caused (in part) by tow vehicles becoming lighter as manufacturers build cars to meet stricter emissions standards
  • an increase in driver education and driver awareness, especially regarding the risks involved in towing
  • more voluntary weight checks organised by caravan clubs and associations
  • greater incorporation of anti-sway technology into new caravans

In terms of rollover locations, Queensland and New South Wales are the most common states for caravan rollovers. This reflects the popularity of these states for caravan holidays. Western Australia is also notable for its relatively high number of rollovers - whilst WA's population is not large, its road network is long and it is a popular destination for holiday makers with caravans.

The type of road where rollovers occur is significant - more than half of rollovers take place on highways. This is consistent with the physics of rollovers - they tend to happen at speed, and in particular when a particular rig's critical speed is exceeded. When this happens, weight and loading become crucial in determining whether that rig rolls or not.

Still Too Many Rollovers

A 2014 insurance market survey estimated that The Suncorp Group of companies had a 37% share of the motor vehicle insurance market in Australia.

Whilst no information is available on RV insurance market shares of the major insurance companies in Australia, if the Suncorp Group has a similar share of the RV insurance market and if their claim types are similar to other RV insurers, this would suggest that there would have been approximately 195 rollover claims in Australia in 2017, down from 230 claims in 2016 and 235 claims in 2015.

Whilst the downward trend in caravan rollovers is welcome news, RV Books thinks these numbers are still far too high.

With the support of Suncorp and others, RV Books is planning to conduct an annual caravan rollover claim survey to keep an eye on this important indicator of towing safety. We'd also like to see more research carried out on the causes of these accidents.

Read more in our caravan rollover media coverage here and why rollovers occur here.

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