Trailers used to deliver equipment and materials can create safety issues if used improperly. A mishap with a trailer can be expensive, it affects not only the trailer and its cargo, but most likely the tow vehicle, other vehicles and even other employees in the area. Here's how to stay safe:
Pre-Departure Safety Checklist
• Before driving, make sure your vehicle maintenance and trailer maintenance are current. This is very important because towing puts additional stress on the tow vehicle.
• Complete pre-trip inspections on the power unit and trailer to ensure safe operations.
• Check and correct tire pressure on the tow vehicle and trailer.
• Ensure the tires on the trailer are in good condition including the tire tread.
• Make sure the wheel lug nuts/bolts on the tow vehicle and trailer are tightened to the correct torque.
• Be sure the hitch, coupler, draw bar, and other equipment that connect the trailer and the tow vehicle are properly secured and adjusted.
• Connect the trailer safety chains securely to the trailer hitch or tow vehicle by crossing them underneath the coupler. The safety chains should be long enough to allow for tight turns. Anything longer may weaken the safety feature of the chains if other connections fail. Also make sure the chains cannot wiggle or bounce free and don’t let them drag on the ground
• Check that the wiring is properly connected – not touching the road, but loose enough to make turns without disconnecting or damaging the wires.
• Check the air hoses and glad hands, ensuring they are serviceable and are not leaking.
• Make sure all running lights, brake lights, turn signals and hazard lights are working. Verify that the brakes on the tow vehicle and trailer are operating correctly.
• Check that all items are securely fastened on and in the trailer.
• Be sure the trailer jack, tongue support and any attached stabilizers are raised and locked in place. Check the trailer deck to ensure it is in good condition and will hold the load placed upon it. Inspect the tie-down points to ensure that they will handle the stress that will be placed upon them.
• Check load distribution to make sure the tow vehicle and trailer are properly balanced front to back and side to side.
• Trailers and equipment should be marked with the center of gravity symbol which helps with the positioning of equipment upon the trailer unit.
• Cargo must be contained within the vehicle.
• Only DOT, grade 7/70, three-eighths inch or better tie downs shall be used to secure heavy equipment. Any unmarked chain will be considered grade 30. Do not use lever binders.
• Check side and rear view mirrors to make sure you have good visibility.
• Measure the height of your cargo to ensure you do not exceed the 13 foot 6 inch maximum height requirement.
Safety Tips for Driving with a Trailer
It is the responsibility of the operator/driver to ensure their cargo is loaded and secured to prevent the cargo from leaking, spilling, blowing, or falling from the vehicle, even if the cargo was loaded by someone other than the operator/driver.
• Be a defensive driver, scanning the road ahead and the area beside you for potential hazards or dangerous situations. Drive at moderate speeds. This will place less strain on your tow vehicle and trailer. Trailer instability (sway) is more likely to occur as speed increases.
• Check your tie downs for tightness after the first 50 miles and every 150 miles or 3 hours of your trip. Check your mirrors frequently to ensure your cargo is still in place.
• Avoid sudden stops and starts that can cause skidding, sliding, or jackknifing.
• Give yourself extra distance to stop while pulling a trailer.
• Avoid sudden steering maneuvers that might create sway or undue side force on the trailer. Slow down when traveling over bumpy roads, railroad crossings, and ditches.
• Make wider turns at curves and corners. Because your trailer’s wheels are closer to the inside of a turn than the wheels of your tow vehicle, they are more likely to hit or ride up over curbs.
• To control swaying caused by air pressure changes and wind buffeting when larger vehicles pass from either direction, release the accelerator pedal to slow down and keep a firm grip on the steering wheel. Increase following distance to allow more time for slowing/stopping. Always anticipate the need to slow down. To reduce speed, shift to a lower gear and press the brakes lightly.
• When parked, have wheel chocks available to help prevent the unit from rolling.
The bottom line is to use caution and slow down. Protect yourself, your coworkers and other traveling motorists by following the above check list and safety tips.