Spotlight on trailer safety

The Club’s technical team answers your questions on trailer safety

Q In the May 2022 magazine we answered the question: ‘I saw caravans being checked by the police at a motorway services recently. Is this a national campaign?’ We can now update you with further advice.

A The Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has responsibility for ensuring vehicles on our roads are safe, both through MOT testing and roadside checks.

The latter normally focuses on heavy goods vehicles, but the Department for Transport’s 2019 Trailer Safety Report tasked DVSA with looking at ‘light’ trailers (up to 3,500kg, including caravans). In the Club’s submission to that report, we argued (successfully) that experience showed basic caravan roadworthiness was good enough to not require mandatory testing, but hard evidence to compare caravans with other trailer types was lacking.

We called for more focus on light trailer roadside checks to provide that evidence and the full report on that programme is now available (

Between 2019 and 2021, DVSA checked 3,813 trailers, including 730 caravans. Key findings were:

  • 50% of non-caravan trailers had serious faults, with 41% issued immediate prohibition notices as faults were so dangerous. Most common defects were roadlights (36%), running gear including tyres (21%) and brakes (20%). Trailer types included construction trailers, agricultural trailers, livestock and vehicle transporters.
  • Only 12% of caravans had serious faults, with 7% issued immediate prohibitions. Most common faults were roadlights (57%), chassis which includes breakaway cables (22%) and running gear including tyres (11%).

These results support the Club’s view that most caravans are fundamentally roadworthy – they compare well to other vehicles, such as cars and vans (around 30% failure rate at MOT) or heavy commercial trailers (15% failure rate at roadside checks despite rigorous mandatory testing). 

However, results could be significantly better with a little more focus on issues which owners really should identify and rectify – ie lights, breakaway cable and tyres.

A functional check of roadlights should be in your pre-journey routine, with most issues an easy DIY fix (replacement bulb, cleaned connections etc.)

Breakaway cables in poor condition or not used at all was another issue. If your cable is damaged, a new one typically costs £10-15. UK law doesn’t specify how breakaway cables should be attached to the towbar. Hence, where no better connection point exists, looping the cable around the towball meets the legal requirement, but not attaching it at all does not. More recent towbars have a ‘designated cable attachment point’ which is more secure – if you don’t know where this is, check the vehicle handbook or towbar fitting instructions, or contact your towbar supplier.

Caravan tyres rarely wear out in terms of tread depth, but damage and age-related deterioration should be looked for (along with correct inflation pressure, of course). Remember the Club’s longstanding advice to ideally change caravan tyres at five years old and never use them beyond seven years old. There’s lots of advice on caravan (and other) tyres on the TyreSafe website (

We’re pleased DVSA will continue to check light trailers and caravans in the future. It also plans to support non-mandatory servicing schemes (such as the Approved Workshop Scheme) with official recommendation on what roadworthiness checks should be included.

Remember, roadworthiness is only one aspect of safe towing. Excessive caravan weight, poor payload distribution and excessive speed also jeopardise towing safety. There’s advice on these and more in your Sites Directory & Handbook, while for those just starting out or anyone needing a refresher, our training courses cover these issues too.

Please address your questions to: Technical Information,
Tel: 01342 336611

...and quote your membership number

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