THE MAXIMUM WIDTH for trailers was raised nearly two years ago, from 2.3 to 2.55 metres, in line with a European ruling, but breakdown companies have been slow to catch up. The small print in most policies states the maximum dimensions of the vehicle or trailer they will recover.
Common sense would dictate that if the vehicle is road legal, there is no reason why it should be excluded from a policy. However, there can be practical limits to what some recovery vehicles can carry, especially as most of them will have been designed before the regulations changed. It is however hard to understand why a mere quarter of a metre (less than 10 inches) should make such a difference.
However,if the limit was in the policy documents which you received, then the company has the contractual right to refuse you a service if you are outside those limits. It is your responsibility to check all the details, but how many of us ever do that? Practical Caravan hopes that this will be a temporary problem as policy writers catch up with the law, but in the meantime who is dragging their feet and who is ahead of the game?
Green Flag’s website shows a limit of 2.3 metres at present but signs of change are in the air. A spokesman said: “we are looking at this with a view to changing the limit to 2.55 metres in due course.” Well done Green Flag. However, if you are a member of the Caravan Club and sign up to their Mayday version of Green Flag, any width limit is waived.
It was eagle-eyed reader Mr Eric Barker Clarke who fell foul of the AA rules (Practical Caravan March 2011). His Swift Challenger is 2.31 metres wide and so he cancelled his policy after discovering the limit deep in the policy documents. Probably the AA would have rescued him anyway, as it is doubtful they all carry a measuring tape or Swift brochure. A spokesman for the AA said: “ We can tow a caravan up to 2.55m wide behind our trucks and, and as long as the axle track doesn't exceed 2.25m, it can go on the back of most of our trucks. The policy wording is “under review”.
At least the RAC limits for UK are fairly easy to find on the front page of the website, under ‘important information’. The limit however is the same at 2.3 metres. Mysteriously, however, the width limit for European cover is 2.25 metres. The RAC says that it will recover caravans over 2.3 metres wide, “but at a cost to the member”. If however you are a member of the Camping and Caravanning Club, their Arrival scheme which is run by the RAC states that it has no width limits, though commercial vehicles are excluded.
You may find even lower limits quoted by other operators. Vehicle Rescue Direct quotes 2.1 m, and Churchill quotes 2.25 metres on its website but 2.3 metres in the policy document. Britannia’s small print quotes a 2.3m limit for the vehicle, but says caravans need only meet Construction and Use regulations (2.55m). The Caravan Club’s Red Pennant service for overseas travel says it will repatriate any UK built touring caravan whatever the width, but that there are ‘difficulties’ with local recovery in Europe as the loading beds on some rescue vehicles cannot take the wider ‘vans.
So what should you do?
A Swift Challenger or Conquerer is 2.31m, an Adria Astella is 2.48m, a Coachman VIP is 2.32m and a Dethleffs Nomad 2.5m wide. It is hoped all recovery companies will eventually change their terms to the wider limit, but in the meantime if your caravan is over 2.3 metres wide, carefully check the policy documents before you sign up, or join one of the Club schemes which waive the limits.
Discuss this on the Practical Caravan forum