What A ridiculous Situation

When we purchased our motorhome in 2017 one of the things we wanted fitted to the motorhome was a towbar. both as protection for the rear and if needed so we could take a car around the South Island. In the end we made the decision to head to the South Island without a tow vehicle behind us. It did mean that we couldn’t go to some of the places we might have wanted to visit. But, it also meant that it forced us to get out and about either walking or using our bikes. Increasing our fitness and helping with weight loss. So a major benefit to both of us.

One interesting thing about the towbar aside from the cost ($2500.00) was that it was only rated to 1500kg’s braked when the sales information from the dealer at the time stated a 2000kg capacity. Not a major issue to us but the first in a long line of inconsistencies related to the towbar. Even though we have never used the towbar it has proved more than useful on a number of occasions. Given the overhang at the rear of our van multiple scrapes in driveways and bumpy roads have dragged the towbar rather than the rear end of our van.

Many of you might remember back in early 2019 when the NZTA first started cancelling the certification of towbar’s. Ours was one of those effected by this situation. At first the NZTA tried to wash their hands of the situation stating that each person was responsible for their recertification at their own cost. The backlash to this was rapid and widespread forcing the NZTA to backdown and agree to bearing the costs. What it didn’t cover for was the amount of time involved in getting the towbar recertified. One of the biggest questions at the time in my mind was “What’s to stop this happening again?” The NZTA’s position was that they wouldn’t recommend a certifier and that you should choose from the list of those currently approved. I remember thinking at the time it wasn’t a very satisfactory solution.

At the time Best Bars Ltd the company who fitted the towbar took charge of the recertification. They organised the certifier and a mutually convenient time bring the motorhome into their workshop. It was a few hours out of my life and a few dollars in diesel spent but hopefully a problem solved. A couple of weeks later the new paperwork arrived in the mail with the towbar again certified by an approved NZTA certifier. I think it’s important to state that Best bars really stood behind their work, you cannot ask for a better recommendation.

So imagine my surprise when another letter arrived in the mail in January this year telling me that the NZTA wished to re-inspect my motorhome. At first things were a little unclear as the letter didn’t say why they wanted to look at it again. A phone call a week later confirmed that they were auditing the work of the second NZTA approved certifier and wanted to arrange a date to re-measure the motorhome. We arranged a date in late February and met a third certifier and a member of the NZTA, where we have our motorhome stored in west Auckland. These two spend an hour or so underneath the motorhome measuring and doing whatever else needed to be done.

As the weeks went by Sarah and I wondered what was going on. Finally in the middle of April I had a call from the NZTA telling me that they were again revoking the certification on my towbar and that rectification of the faults would be at my expense. I wouldn’t quite say that I “lost it” but I was certainly less than impressed. Rather forcefully I explained that I had already been through a recertification using one of their “Approved” inspectors. If they chose to revoke certification then that was on them and if they wouldn’t pay for it I would pursue a claim for expenses through the small claims court. The lady I was speaking to listened to what I had to say, to her credit she acknowledged it and told me she would refer it to someone else. In the meantime she sent me an email cancelling the certification on my towbar. One hour later I received an email recalling the message.

Without any further correspondence from the NZTA I had to ask them if they were cancelling the certification or not. It turns out that the recall on the email was just because the attached letter had the wrong date. They never sent another email or followed up. Very unprofessional from a Government organisation. The letter arrived the next day cancelling the certification of the towbar and again highlighted the fact that the NZTA would not pay costs involved in the recertification.

Having had such stirling service from Best Bars over the issue last time I made contact with them again booking the vehicle in and to meet up with a third certifier who would look at the towbar. While I waited for the appointment Best Bars took it upon themselves to contact the NZTA to find out the extent of the problem. It turns out that there is no issue with the towbar the issue lies with the chassis in our motorhome. Our motorhome has an ALKO chassis but as it’s a tag axle (two rear axles) it has an extension on the chassis to support the rear of the motorhome. Whilst our towbar is in part bolted to the proper chassis the NZTA is not convinced that there is sufficient support. Hence the cancelation of our certification.

The new certifier looked at things today and under instructions about what to do from the NZTA has decided that the existing towbar is scrap metal. He will design and fit a new towbar but one that comes with a rating of only 1200kgs braked. This will still fulfill the requirement to tow a Suzuki Jimmny but is well short of the 2000kgs rating I thought we were getting at the outset. It also still doesn’t guarantee that the NZTA won’t change their minds again. Although drawings for the new towbar will be approved by them first. One bonus to today is that Best Bars have agreed to get the NZTA to pay for the rectification work saves me dragging them through the courts.

This may be just the tip of the iceberg as I have seen very little about this on social media. But if they are looking hard at my tag axle motorhome and you are driving one with a towbar rating 1500kgs or above I would now be rather worried.

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4 thoughts on “What A ridiculous Situation

  1. Great article on your woes with nzta re your towbar…similar to my own with a 2500kg fiat factory fitted towbar that is now only rated at 600kg….the inconsistency gets worse when you consider what they don’t require for WOF.

  2. Hi John did you get my previous comment? – It just disappeared when I pushed “POst comment”, no acknowledgement that it was received and doesn’t appear as any comment on your article

  3. Hi John;

    This is something I have been beefing about for some time, the fact that Al-ko have designed their high-tensile chassis to bolt towbars directly onto (supplied in the UK by Sawiko, a subsidary of Al-ko).

    The design calculations that they have used in designing the two chassis and towbar together and UK and EU certification is fine for the rest of the world, but NZ alone decide to discount all the design calculations that Al-ko put into the design of their chassis and instead insist on re-inventing the wheel and way over-designing towbars for NZ alone.

    I have a lot more background on this, can you please email me or give me a call on 09 377 5301.

    Cheers

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