Fifth (5th) Wheel / Gooseneck Trailers
trailers in America are often referred to as Gooseneck
trailers, or just Goosenecks. The 'gooseneck'
referring to the forward part of a trailer being arched
like a goose's neck over the tow vehicle tray body.
There is some history in the term 'fifth wheel'
(turntable hitch) but today it refers to a fifth wheel
turntable as part of the articulated coupling fitted to
the tow vehicle. Although the turntable coupling
is not always used nowadays, the RV trailer body/living
quarters is called a 'fifth wheeler' in Australia.
The suspension on the 5th
Wheel trailer carries most of its gross weight with the
balance of weight distributed forward of the rear
suspension over the differential rather than the extreme
rear of the tow vehicle. 5th Wheel
trailers are reported to be more stable to tow and
reverse than conventional caravans or travel trailers.
The body of the 5th Wheel
trailer extends over the body of the tow vehicle.
The 5th Wheel trailer can be detached from
the tow vehicle and used separately.
A large number of
are imported into Australia. Conversion to
230V AC wiring,
trailer lighting to Australian Standards and
installation of a left hand door is required. The
maximum width of the fifth wheeler (including awnings
and any other protruding devices) should not exceed 2.5
metres (8ft 2.5in).
conversion to obtain certification is also required.
Due to demand in Australia some
Wheelers made in the USA are built and designed to suit
There are also
built in Australia such as
Jayco Fifth Wheeler, Southern Cross Fifth Wheel
Caravans, Winjana Fifth Wheelers Australia, Travelhome
in Newcastle NSW,
are built in Toowoomba and Dryden Trailerhomes at Yatala, Brisbane, Queensland.
eligible to join the Campervan and Motorhome Club of
Australia Limited (CMCA).
It is unlikely you will want for anything
Wheel trailers come equipped with gas bottles and all
the modern conveniences such as insulation, roof
hatches, air conditioning, gas/electric hot water
storage system, deep cycle batteries,
converter and 30 amp battery charger, water pumps,
shower, basin and vanity cupboards, water tank level
monitors, LP gas detector and smoke alarms, TV, CD
player, cooktop, oven, microwave and standard 3 way
There are options for electric step,
compressor type 12V refrigeration, solar panels, arm
chair layout, LCD flat screen TV, satellite TV
reception, single or double beds, DVD player and annex.
Check out the specification list for the
Wheeler you intend to purchase.
They are equipped with a swivel toilet
with a removable cassette. Some models provide for an
internal and external shower. For the shower and
toilet there is a ‘fresh’ water tank for your taps,
toilet flush and shower. There is an option of a
‘grey’ water tank for sullage.
What sort of tow vehicle is required for a Fifth
The tow vehicle must be legally rated to tow a
back style vehicles and utilities are commonly used due
to the style of hitch required to couple the fifth
wheeler to the tow vehicle.
You will need to know the weight of the
Wheeler and check your tow vehicle has the capacity to
tow that weight. This towing capacity of your
vehicle is found in the vehicle Owner's Manual.
Wheelers come with electric brakes ?
Yes. They are also fitted with a
For trailers up to 2 tonnes Gross Trailer Mass (GTM) an
efficient braking system is considered to have brakes
operating on the wheels of at least one axle. Trailers
over 2 tonnes GTM must have brakes operating on all
wheels and be equipped with an Emergency Brake System
that will cause immediate automatic application of its
brakes in the event the trailer accidentally becomes
disconnected from the tow vehicle
If the fifth wheeler has an Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM)
of more than 4.5 tonnes, then larger axles and air
brakes have to be fitted. Conventional caravan
electric brakes are suitable for those fifth wheelers up
to 4.5 tonnes.
further information refer to Australian Government,
Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development,
Vehicle Standards Bulletin (infrastructure.gov.au) and
their links to Vehicle Standard (Australian Design Rule
38/02) - Trailer Brake Systems.
Will they fit on a conventional caravan site ?
Generally, yes, but it depends on the
length of the
as well as the length and width of the tourist
park site especially for use of slide-outs.
Remember it doesn’t have a draw bar or A Frame.
This makes the
the vehicle can approach at much tighter
How wide are they?
Wheelers are 8 foot wide.
The slide-outs can add up to another 2 – 4 feet. By
comparison, caravans usually come in widths of 7 foot 6 inches or 7
foot 8 inches.
Do I need a special
licence for a
This will depend on the type of tow
vehicle you purchase, but most
can be towed throughout Australia with an
ordinary passenger Class ‘C’ vehicle licence. A 'C'
Class Licence covers
tow vehicle up to 4.5
tonnes Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) and any towed trailer
must not exceed 9 tonnes GVM. If the tow vehicle
has a GVM between 4.5 tonnes and 8 tonnes, then a Light
Rigid (LR) truck licence is required.
Are there any disadvantages to owning a Fifth
disadvantage of the fifth wheel is the choice of tow
vehicle dictates how many people can be carried.
Much of the truck bed space is unavailable as the fifth wheel hitch will occupy the centre of the tow
vehicle truck bed and the hitch pin should be in front
of the tow vehicles rear axel.
Standard utilities have only two seats
although some are fitted with a bench seat which will
allow 3 people. Space cabs also known as Extra
cabs or Freestyle cabs have a back seat but it is not
full size. It may be suitable for children but it
would be too small for an adult for long trips.
Dual cabs generally are larger and would provide more
space for an adult for general touring but check first
if it is suitable for a fifth
The tray back load space may also limit
load space for other items particularly while hitched
A couple of other areas
that may be of concern is firstly the height of the
bedroom area (over the pin) unless you choose a high
roof front and secondly, very few fifth wheelers are
built to cope with 'off-road' conditions.