Towing a Motorcycle

There are numerous ways to tow a motorcycle, and a more creative but common way has recently surfaced in Johannesburg traffic; being towed by car with a tow-rope. Of course, I had to stir the pot a little, calling it stupid and I choose to stand on this point. There are better and safer ways if you have the resources, but if all else fails you will end up opting for a method less safe unless you do it “right”. The law, as you will see, is not clear on this issue and it blows my mind!

Off-road riders often use this tow-rope method wrapped around the opposite (right-to-left / left-to-right), footpegs of the two motorcycles and held in place by the rider’s foot. This ensures for a quick release should any one of the riders lose control.

  1. The tow-rope on the towing motorcycle should be opposite side of the chain
  2. The towed rider is the most experience of the two
  3. The towed rider should follow to the side and not directly behind the towing motorcycle
  4. The towed rider should keep the tension on the tow-rope
  5. Do not tow down-hill; release the tow-rope then connect again at the bottom of the hill
  6. The lead rider must keep a slow steady pace
  7. Don’t tow if the towed motorcycle is bigger than the towing motorcycle

On-road it is a different story and completely illegal for a motorcycle to be the towing vehicle. Being drawn by a car with a tow-rope in traffic is simply too risky! Too many variables, but the law in South Africa do not forbid such a method; heaven knows why! This archaic 1996 NRTA is in need of serious revision, and not just a few amendments.

It is the stupidest omission in the law I’ve ever seen!

Question:
What does our outdated law say about towing a, or with a motorcycle?

Answer:
According to the National Road Traffic Act, 1996 (Act No. 93 of 1996), Regulation 303 it states that no person shall operate a vehicle on a public road towing another vehicle –

  1. if the length of the tow-rope, chain or tow-bar between the two vehicles exceeds three and a half metres;
  2. if the towed vehicle is connected to the towing vehicle in such a manner that both vehicles are not under control;
  3. unless the steering gear of the vehicle being towed is controlled by a person holding a code of driving licence authorising him or her to drive the class of such vehicle, if the towed vehicle is fitted with steering gear contemplated in regulation 200(1): Provided that the provisions of this paragraph shall not apply in the case where –
    i) the steerable wheels of the towed vehicle are being carried clear of the ground; or
    ii) the device connecting the towing vehicle to the towed vehicle is such that the steerable wheels of the towed vehicle are controlled by such device;
  4. if the brakes of the towed vehicle do not comply with the provisions of regulation 155, unless the towing vehicle is connected to the towed vehicle by means of a drawbar or tow-bar;
  5. at a speed in excess of 30 kilometres per hour, unless the towing vehicle is connected to the towed vehicle by means of a drawbar or a tow-bar;
  6. if the towed vehicle is conveying persons at a speed in excess of 30 kilometres per hour, unless the towed vehicle is a semi-trailer; or
  7. if the towing vehicle is a motor cycle, motor tricycle, motor quadrucycle or pedal cycle.

Hein Jonker

Founder of the Motorcycle Safety Institute of South Africa
Editor in Chief of Bike Talk South Africa
Chief Instructor of Bike Talk Motorcycle Rider Academy
Motorcycle Safety & Skills Expert for Arrive Alive South Africa

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