AFrames & 2014 – Truth so far
As we have all done so far, I have trawled the internet for the new rules and legislations on 2014 A-Frames. I have spoke to the relevant people at the Department for Transport and I have read “Regulation 13” front to back.
The long and short of it is :-
A-Frames will have to have a change of design in 2014. We are already prepared for that and our RVi system meets this completely. However, our standard cable braked A-Frame is completely legal and up until 2014 we will continue to fit them as any laws introduced will not be retrospective.
The current European Type Approval legislation for trailers,71/320/EEC,is due to be rescinded in 2014 and replaced by UN ECE Regulation 13. Part of this Regulation (section 126.96.36.199) stipulates that inertia braking systems will only be permitted on centre axle trailers. This may mean it will no longer be possible to use inertia braking systems on A-frames.
At the moment it is unclear how this change will be interpreted with regard to A-frames. This type of legislation change is not normally retrospective so A-frames currently in use should not be affected, however it is possible that the Department for Transport may take a different view.
The next question that arises is how does type approval apply in the case of a car on an A-frame? Obviously the car will be type approved in its own right, but what happens when it is converted into a trailer by the addition of an A-frame? It may be that it will be the original supplier/fitter of the A-frame who will need to ensure that the braking of the combined unit of car + A-frame conforms to UN ECE Regulation 13 for any A-frames supplied or fitted after this regulation comes into force. However, until the DFT make a decision it would be unwise to make any assumptions!
These comments below are listed on other companies websites, I’ve put their opinions forward too so you don’t need to do the searching. Where I’m opposed I’ve made notes for you.
There is a further ‘problem’ in the modifications done to the front of the towed car in order to attach the A-frame. This will most likely alter (strengthen) the crumple zone at the front of the car leading to premature deployment of airbags in the event of a very small bump at the front. It also has implications for the manufacturers’ homologation validity. (Except in most cases, the manufacturer has already implemented the fitting into handbook. See Suzuki’s for details)
When have you even seen a car come away or turn over when towed by a motorhome?
Now caravans hitched to a car in accidents are common sighting turned over or coming unhitched.
As to the receptor plate fitted to the front on a towed car it’s far less cumbersome than a massive tow bar fixed to the rear of caravaner’s car.
Camping & Caravan Club:-
For many years the Department for Transport (DfT) was clear that the use of devices such as A-frames, spectacle lifts and dollies were intended only for the purposes of recovery of broken down vehicles. The current information sheet on this subject states: “We believe the ‘A’ frame and car become a single unit and as such are classified in legislation as a trailer.” It continues: “We believe the use of ‘A’ frames to tow cars behind other vehicles is legal provided the braking and lighting requirements are met.”
Some inertia-braked A-frame suppliers claim testing has proved their system meets the necessary braking force regulations and argue that cars on inertia-braked A frames can be reversed without the need to manually operate any mechanism. “It takes a little skill, but with care, gentle reversing can be successfully achieved” one supplier is quoted as saying.
The continuing use of A-frame towing with inertia braking systems is under threat from prospective European legislation concerning trailers, which is due to come into force in 2014. Present UK Construction and Use Regulations incorporate a stipulation for trailer braking performance to conform to European Directive 71/320/EEC or UNECE Regulation No 13.09. The new legislation will require conformity with only the UNECE regulation. This latter regulation only permits overrun braking systems to be used on centre axle trailers such as caravans and traditional trailers and not cars towed as trailers.
VOSA, the Government’s Vehicle and Operator Services Agency, has yet to decide how to implement the regulation into UK national legislation and so it is uncertain whether the legislation will be retrospective for existing A-frame systems. Electrical braking systems should be able to meet with the UNECE Regulation No 13.09.
If you do go down the A-frame route, check your car can be towed. Some cars, especially automatics, can have their transmission system damaged by being towed. Also inform your insurance company for both the car and your motorhome and check it is happy with the arrangement. And remember, reversing with a small towed trailer is notoriously difficult, especially when it is out of sight. Using a rear view camera can be helpful. Such cameras are now readily available as an aftermarket accessory.
Note on A-Frames, issued by the Department of Transport
When an “A” frame is attached to a vehicle (e.g. a motor car) and towed by a motor vehicle (e.g. motorhome) we believe the “A” frame and car become a single unit and as such are classified in legislation as a trailer. As a consequence the car and A-frame are required to meet the technical requirements for trailers when used on the road in Great Britain. These requirements are contained within the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 (SI 1986/1078) as amended (C&U) and the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 (SI 1989/1796) as amended (RVLR).
Trailers having a combined axle mass not exceeding 750kg are not required to have brakes fitted. However, if the trailer (regardless of mass) is fitted with a braking system, then all brakes in that system must operate correctly. The regulations do not include design constraints on how this should be achieved but, for example, it could be met by direct linking of the trailer brakes to the brake system of the towing vehicle or by automatic inertia (overrun) operation via the towing hitch. Inertia systems can only be used for trailers with a maximum combined axle mass of 3500kg.
Regulations 15 and 16 set out the braking requirements – including minimum braking efficiencies for trailer brakes. Subject to certain age exemptions, the regulation requires the braking system to comply with the construction, fitting and performance requirements of European Community Directive 71/320/EEC along with its various amending Directives. The most recent consolidated directive is 98/12/EC. Alternatively the braking system can comply with the corresponding UNECE Regulation No.13.09
In addition, C&U Regulation 18 requires the braking system to be maintained in good and efficient working order. If the brakes of the towing vehicle do not directly operate the trailer brakes the use of an inertia (overrun) system is acceptable.