Can the passenger operate the power brakes

Can the passenger operate trailer brakes?

If you tow a trailer that has an Allowable Trailer Mass (ATM) that’s over 750kg and under 4.5kg, that trailer “must be fitted with an efficient brake system” (Building Small Trailers National Code of Practice).

While this ‘efficient brake system’ needs to meet design requirements, you will no doubt see them as electronic units fitted in your car.

RVDAILY posted a buyers guide article on electronic brake controllers earlier this year if you need more info.

Can the passenger operate trailer brakes in an emergency situation?

Of particular attention for this Tip and Hack, is that while “all brakes must be operable from the driver’s seat of the towing vehicle” (National Code), there’s a push for passengers to also play a part in their use.

This push comes not only from the likes of RVDAILY, but also from the caravan industry through training bodies like Tow-Ed.

The idea here is that, in an emergency situation, it is suggested that the passenger should be able to access the brake controller and engage it – while the driver handles the car and maintains their attention on the road.

Naturally, the driver and passenger need to work as one here and have a pre-planned agreement on when and how to do this.

What is an emergency situation that allows the passenger to operate trailer brakes?

The emergency situation that’s being referred to here is the occurrence of trailer sway or a car flat tyre. Here the brakes of the trailer can be used to effectively hold back the whole rig and reduce its speed. The effect is that the trailer pulls back the car (and itself) rather than the car trying to hold the trailer up or compound the situation that’s arisen.

The other way to look at it is that by manually applying the trailer’s brakes you pull the car and trailer apart. But, by applying the car’s brakes as usual, you effectively push the two together.

Bottom line…. the driver needs to be in control (and responsible); this needs to be practiced safely; and the procedures (and their effect) need to be fully understood by the driver and the passenger.

Keep safe and have a plan in place.

Operate Trailer Brakes
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