HomeTravelTravel news: Should this grey nomad favourite be licensed?

Travel news: Should this grey nomad favourite be licensed?

Should caravan owners be forced to qualify for a separate licence?

Many Australians’ reaction to the international travel lockdowns for COVID was to buy caravans and motorhomes in droves.

However, are enough of those new owners qualified to drive their new purchases, and should they have to pass another driving test?

Tony Maddison, director of towing technology company WiTi, told the Courier Mail that overweight and unstable caravans were a big problem for safety on Australian roads.


“In most cases, drivers only need their car licence and they can hitch up three tonnes or more of caravan and take it out on the roads with no training whatsoever … which is just crazy,” he said.

Joel Tucker, RACQ’s road safety manager, said the body supported “a closer examination” of the contributing factors of caravan crashes in Queensland.

“At our RACQ caravan training courses we find about 50 per cent of caravans are overweight, which is both illegal and unsafe,” he said.

According to Caravancampingsales, 28,301 recreational vehicles were built in Australia during 2022, up 17.1 per cent from the previous year and the highest figure since the 1970s.

The number of imported RVs entering the country also rose by more than 8 per cent year on year, to 20,498. The combined total of almost 50,000 RVs entering the market that year is claimed to be the highest on record.

That’s great for local manufacturers and grey nomads hitting the road, but the downside is inexperienced drivers are being involved in more accidents. 

It only takes a quick online search to find several fatal and non-fatal RV accidents, almost all of them involving older Australians. 

Safety skills

However, Queensland’s University of Technology, Natalie Watson-Brown, told Yahoo News: “The skills that make you a safer driver are not necessarily your vehicle control skills. 

“I guess that’s where everyone’s going with the people who tow caravans, that potentially they need to upskill in their ability to tow the caravan,” she said.

“That would be one component of it, but we talk about other skills that contribute to road crashes. Maybe it’s an attitude change, so maybe it’s having an awareness and understanding of things like they do on a long drive, so maybe they need to understand more about fatigue and how that affects the way that they’re driving, or maybe they need to self regulate.”

Do you think caravan drivers should qualify for a separate licence? Would you be happy to take the test? Why not share your opinion in the comments section below?

Also read: Make a plan for your caravan

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisherhttp://www.yourlifechoices.com.au/author/JanFisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.


  1. Most of the grey nomads with new rigs are because they’ve downsized. I don’t believe they are the problem on the roads as most have towed during their lives.
    The ones who are a real danger are the young ones who during COVID couldn’t leave the country so spent all their super (or house deposits) to buy super big rigs & have no idea on road etiquette or even economical travelling speeds either for safety or fuel economy.

  2. I am in my mid 60s and have been towing trailers, caravans since i was 17.
    i have also spent many hours behind the wheel of small and large trucks.
    this doesnt make me an expert, and would look forward to completing training as i will probably learn something.
    I completely agree with RACQ.
    from Natalie Watson-Brown comments it seems she has not towed large caravans, nor driven motor homes which need a standard licence.
    Natalie Watson-Brown comments do relate to single vehicle accidents, but not necessarily to multi vehicle accidents.

    Most caravaners and motr home drivers do not pay enough attention to where their vehicle or caravan is positioned on the road or in their lane.
    many times i have had to swerve or brake so as to miss be sideswiped by a caravan or back of a motor home.

    The industry has been threatening to do this for many years, but it seems politics and votes are more important than peoples lives.

  3. There is certainly an inconsistency in the licencing system that I need (and have) a heavy vehicle licence to drive a rig which might be smaller and certainly shorter than some of the truck-caravan combinations we see on the roads today. However, I live within reach of the Pacific Highway which carries numerous caravans and generally I must say they seem to be driven at least as responsibly as most other vehicles. If we were to isolate truck, ute and caravan towing accidents that we hear of, the latter would seem to be the group least involved in serious accidents.
    Having done most of our round Australia exploring in Kombis, station wagons and a tent or sailing boats, many years ago when the country was less populated by travellers and less controlled and licenced, I have no desire to tow a caravan, but I would hate to see yet another restriction or revenue raising licence imposed unless it could be demonstrated that it’s genuinely essential for safety.

    • I agree with all of the above comments. I have a Heavy Vehicle Driver License, and I am constantly drug and alcohol tested, I have to fill in a logbook to control all my driving hours and ensure I have the right breaks. I also tow a 3.2 caravan and put all my knowledge into towing my caravan correctly. I see all the different size trailers, boat trailers , car trailers, big & small caravans, horse floats, etc, etc, being towed by all sorts of vehicles that should not be towing these things. People need to be educated on what can be towed, and by what vehicle. I see many overweight trailers but because the car is rated at 3.5 tonne it ok to tow. I see trailers with hydraulic or no brakes being overloaded, people are unaware that to tow over 2.2t, the trailer must have electric brakes. How many people know the caravan with std coupling have height restriction unlike an offroad hitch where there is no height restriction. THE NATIONAL RECREATIONAL VEHICLE TOWING GUIDE is a very good bible for people to read before hitting the road. Education is the key. Caravan salesmen need to be more responsible and well as new car salesman because, when I picked up my new van, they didn’t even check my ball height, plugs and lights.

      • I totally agree with everything you have said.
        I recently handed in my Heavy Vehicle License, as I am now 70+ and no longer have the requirement to drive Heavy Vehicles.
        Over the years, as a requirement of the work I was doing, I have completed a number of Four Wheel Driving Courses, which includes towing of Trailers and Caravans, with all the requirements that go with them.
        I have also completed Advanced Driving Courses, and in my 20’s I also was involved in Dirt Track Racing and Rallying.

  4. I agree with sjdeez, for all the reasons given, maybe some information and a process to ensure all van owners have a sound knowledge of loading and weight. But new licensing systems don’t guarantee anything except more cost imposed on ordinary aussies. Also, 50% are not in accidents due to weight issues!

  5. I also have a Heavy Vehicle Driver License, for which I underwent numerous hours of instruction and practical testing, which included towing of large multi wheeled trailers. Because I am over seventy I am also required to have an annual medical test to keep my license. I also note the number of different tow and towed combinations on our roads, many, because of the weight combinations, that should not be on our roads. It’s my belief that there is not enough education and testing of current and prospective drivers of towing vehicles. Something like The National Recreational Vehicle Towing Guide could be adopted by licensing authorities nationally and used to educate and test (including practical) drivers. I don’t think a separate license is necessary, but an endorsement on your current license similar to that like a motorcycle would suffice.

  6. I would say its just common scene to have an up graded license to tow these rigs around as you can spend all your life driving around in the city in a little buzz box then go and acquire a big 4WD and a van and use the same license I live in a small town on the south coast and its hours of entertainment watching these people trying to park and reverse

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