Another spring spent caravan touring in France and Spain has given us cause to question whether the standards set for European trailing are strict enough. That will sound strange given that France and other European coutries have decided that trailers should be seperately registered, giving them their own number and their very own bureacracy. That might make sense if these European trailers and even motor homers followed simple safety rules. But they do not.
For a start the vast majority of caravans are being trailed by entiely unsuitable vehicles - way too light Citreons are especially noticeable but there are Vauxhalls, Renaults and Fiats as well. Worse still the majority of caravans are seriously low at the front, with the rear axles of the tow car also depressed. Watching them on the road their performance suggests the appearance is not deceptiive - they are over loaded and nose heavy for their tow vehicles.
Motor homes too are often seriously down on their rear springs and those with motor scooters and motor bikes on the rear are the worst. Interestingly those towing cars behind are less likely to be so depressed at the rear. And once on site when the 'garage' so-called is opened it is not uncommon to see it crammed with vast quantities of items, many very heavy. These vans usually have motor movers (40-50kg), carry their awnings on board (40-50kg) or have gutter fitted awnings (ditto). In fact usually the van seems crammed to capacity while the tow vehicle may contain little beyond the driver and passneger - madness, given the load cap[acity readily available in the main vehicle.
And then there are the on-site practices. The most offensive is the number of motor homers who empty their toilet cassettes into the drain provided specially for them for grey water. Do they not realise that this drain will rarely be connected to the sewerage system whatever type it is. They are dumping sewage into grey water drains that may well feed back into recovery plants. And then they use the hose, which is provided to re-fill their water tanks with clean water, to flush out their toiletcassettes! This is not so much a risk of cross contamination but a virtual certainty. I suppose we are used to the continental practice of allowing grey water to drain onto the pitch rather than use a containment but this all goes one entire step further.
And then there is the power cable. Firstly they will almost always connect to the mains before they connect to the van, thus running live cables across probably (this spirng definitely) wet grass. Bui t it gets worse since many of them do not use proper connectors - they have unearthed domestic two pin plugs (I am not talking here about continental two-plus-one plugs). And often the cable itself is just a normal domestioc one, probably rated at no more than 6 amps and definitely not properly earth bonded.
The time has surely come for the UK to take a lead in establishing some serious standard for camping behaviour before we are forced to accept a bunch of inadequate rules from Brussells - or worse, a totally unreasonable and daft demand that we register our trailers. What benefit that confers I am at a total loss to understand. The so registerd van is stioll required (rightly) to carry both its own and the towing vehicle registrations. If the purpose is to ensure safety compliance with some testing procedure I am in agreement but it takes nothing more than a current certificate to be displayed in the window of the trailer or in some suitable window if a transport trailer. Franklly it is typical of Europe that it should intsall a whole new bureacracy for such a process -and as a Europhile this is where I part company with the entire project.