Al-KO revolutionised caravan towing safety with its Electronic Stability Control, but how widely has it been adopted?
In May 2012, AL-KO introduced a revolutionary, world-first breakthrough in caravan towing safety – Electronic Stability Control (ESC).
And within the space of four years, the Australian caravan industry’s overall uptake (new and aftermarket) for this leading edge technology has been phenomenal if not overwhelming.
The acceptance rating is underlined by the fact there is now a national network of more than 300 AL-KO ESC certified installers (caravan dealers and repairers). Additionally, AL-KO ESC is fitted to more than 50 per cent of new caravans (more than 10,000 units per year).
HOW ESC WORKS
Specifically designed to provide the best possible response in an emergency avoidance manoeuvre, AL-KO ESC is a sophisticated brake actuation system in critical towing situations that could save a life.
AL-KO ESC brakes all wheels on the caravan simultaneously as soon as a dangerous sideways movement is detected by the lateral acceleration sensors inside the unit. It continuously evaluates the data and when critical lateral movements are recognised, ESC activates and applies the electric brakes immediately to bring the vehicle back into line in a smooth and controlled manner.
Brad Hooper, AL-KO marketing services manager, says AL-KO ESC has been endorsed by the industry as a revolutionary technology.
"AL-KO ESC provides the best possible performance in an emergency situation. It continues to work effectively in offroad conditions. And it is the only product of its kind developed in Australia specifically for our conditions," he said.
Meanwhile, the overriding consensus from certified installers (who have been factory trained by AL-KO on the installation of the system) is that without AL-KO ESC, your towed vehicle is not as safe as it could be.
Dale Lawrence, general manager of the dealership Kratzmann Caravans in Burpengary, Qld, says there has been a fantastic uptake on AL-KO ESC.
"Obviously people like the safety aspect, and it’s an easy sell to new clientele," he said. "I’ve also noticed an increasing number of manufacturers getting right behind the system."
Dale estimates Kratzmann Caravans is fitting AL-KO ESC to at least 50 per cent of its new vans.
"We also encourage aftermarket fitment and approximately 10 per cent of our service bookings involve AL-KO ESC installation," he said. "A lot of manufacturers out there have embraced it; I predict it could be brought into standardisation within five years. You only have to see how the car industry has evolved in this respect."
Dale adds that caravan rollovers sadly receive regular news coverage.
"ESC may not prevent all of them, but even if it’s one it’s worth it. In my opinion, every caravan should be installed with ESC. And AL-KO is a trusted brand; I reckon any caravanner would feel safer putting their hands on the steering wheel knowing they have AL-KO ESC backing them up."
David Pester, proprietor of Essential RV in Hastings, Vic, says the efficacy of AL-KO ESC has spread like wildfire through the caravan industry.
"A lot of it has been word of mouth, but AL-KO’s publicity campaign has been excellent. From a safety perspective it speaks for itself, you only have to watch the AL-KO ESC video."
David adds that the reaction time of the units is great, and as long as it’s correctly fitted it’s a very good system.
"Uptake is much broader because AL-KO has increased the compatibility of the system. And the retrofit installation process is fairly basic."
David estimates Essential RV is fitting about two AL-KO ESC systems per month, and says the process is generally propagated at the new caravan stage.
"AL-KO ESC is a must-have. It tips the safety scales in the driver’s favour."
PEACE OF MIND
Rob Prosenik, service manager of Supreme Caravans in Craigieburn, Vic, agrees that the AL-KO ESC system works very well. He said it gives peace of mind to all customers, especially the ones new to towing.
"AL-KO has come a long way with the design, marketing and implementation of its system. Just about every customer is getting or has heard of ESC and the benefits of using it."
Rob adds that he has seen some vans that have been out of control and saved by the AL-KO ESC system.
"It is fairly simple to install and there is no need to service the unit; all you need to look for is some green lights. So, all in all, I think it’s great and anything else to improve safety on our roads is a big plus."
CIL, a market leading specialist in caravan insurance, estimates 1500 caravans are written off annually. Its national business development manager, Robert Hare, says the CIL team is focused on promoting safer towing and highlighting the ways in which its customers can protect their RVs.
"We believe that making customers’ towing experiences safer and easier increases their overall confidence on the road, and helps to promote caravanning as a great holiday and lifestyle choice. There are a number of products on the market that assist in this area and CIL is rewarding customers who use them."
CIL gives an ongoing 10 per cent premium discount if a customer has Electronic Stability Control installed on their caravan.
CIL doesn’t have any current statistics on how many of its customers have these units fitted, but this data is something it will be capturing in the future.