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Motor Insurance
Thursday, June 1, 2006
Getting it taped

In true South African tradition the laws concerning trailers are confusing, obscure and difficult to interpret. They are also difficult to find. The beginning of the year when all trailers had to be adorned with reflective tape, the SA Insurance Association was unable to provide guidance, and in fact knew little of the legislation. Trailer companies said you needed the tape, but didn’t know much else.

After several months of digging around when I had the time, I hope I have come up with some clear guidelines, specifically for ‘light trailers’, the type for towing by standard saloon cars and bakkies, for example.
With effect from 1st January 2006 such trailers, including caravans, must be fitted with reflective tape (and together with the red and yellow retro-reflectors known as ‘contour markings’) along at least 80% of the sides and rear of the trailer. Such tape must comply with the SABS ECE R104 specification.
The reflective tape must be fitted at least 250mm above the ground but not higher than 1.5m.
From this date any trailer (new and old) not complying with the regulation will be classified as ‘unroadworthy’, and will expose the owner to a possible fine. There may also be insurance implications (unroadworthy vehicles cannot carry insurance).
The relevant regulation is 192A of the National Road Traffic Regulations (Government Notice R.255 of 17th March 2000), issued in terms of the National Road Traffic Act 1996, as amended 1998, 1999 and 2003: Side and rear retro-reflective material to be fitted to vehicles (contour markings).
Being legislated and being an SABS approved product, it is not surprising the reflective tape is expensive. Prices range from R19/metre up to about R30/metre and people were being told to buy six metres. Pick ‘n Pay was close to the highest price at just under R29/m. We managed to get some for R21,93/metre after hunting around for a couple of months.
Most people are being told ‘just to buy six metres’, and that might be fine for a caravan. But I suggest you measure up exactly and you could find five metres will be enough. Since there are about 540 000 registered light trailers and about 110 000 registered caravans around the country that makes a hefty saving. If we all keep our order to exactly the length we need the consumer could save as much as R20m!
Let’s take an example of a standard light trailer. I suggest you measure round the trailer along the lowest part along where the yellow and red retro-reflectors are. I reckon that’s above the minimum 250mm height, so it is OK. A standard trailer might total 6,8 metres for its perimeter. Reduce that to 80% in terms of the regulations, then take off an allowance for the eight reflectors. In this case you would end up requiring 4,9 metres of tape. If the supplier won’t cut an odd length (like 7,4 metres) then arrange with a neighbour to buy a whole length for the two of you.
Don’t forget about the towing limit for normal licensed drivers, by the way. See article in Insurance Times & Investments April 2006 Vol 19.2, which indicates that many people who first got their driver’s licence after 1998 cannot tow a trailer above 750kg without taking an additional test. By Nigel Benetton

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:19.3 1st June, 2006
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