BEST PRACTICES FOR TOWING
BEFORE TOWING ANY TRAILER
COMPLETE THE FOLLOWING TASKS!!
- Inspect all components –Begin with a thorough inspection of tires, wheels, brakes (if equipped), wheel bearings (know maintenance schedule), spring mounts and snubbers, lug nuts (properly torqued), and fenders (fasteners, adequate tire clearance when loaded.
- Examine load-bed, repair damaged load bearing components in load-bed.
- Inspect cargo tie-down fittings for tightness and function. Repair faulty tie-down fittings.
- Carefully check side paneling or side railing for structural integrity and damage. Repair damaged panels as required.
- Check electrical integrity and physical condition of wiring system on trailer. Verify after connection to tow vehicle that all lighting and signaling circuits are working and matched to the correct tow vehicle control device. Wiring may be partially hidden so including cargo tie-down fittings electrical integrity is an essential check.
- Verify that the cable connecting the trailer to the tow vehicle has adequate length and location to allow sharp turns left and right. A different tow vehicle may reveal a trailer cable to be too short due to different connector location. Too short a cable will damage both ends of the connector when tow vehicle and trailer are turned.
- FINALLY — The MOST IMPORTANT SAFETY INSPECTION must focus on the ball hitch connection, the tow vehicle hitch frame or assembly, and the tongue/ball coupler attached to the trailer. These three component assemblies comprise, in the aggregate, critical connection strength and safety – the failure of any one of which spells danger for towing vehicle, tow vehicle passengers, and nearby vehicles and occupants. No inferior or damaged or improperly installed component should be tolerated.
- Assure tow vehicle hitch is securely mounted to the vehicle frame (bumper hitches should be avoided entirely} and that the hitch category rating is appropriate for the trailer capacity and intended use.
- If it is a receiver type hitch (most are) make certain that the ball is securely tightened to proper torque on the ball mount. Make certain that the retaining pin (ball mount/receiver hitch) is the proper size and has a retaining spring keeper.
- Make certain that the ball size matches the trailer coupler size and that it has been lightly greased to prevent excessive wear.
- Check the welds or bolts connecting the coupler assembly to the tongue. Refer to the coupler manufacturer’s data sheet to verify proper connections.
- If the tongue is a separate assembly from the frame of the trailer (like the FoldABull) be certain to visually check hinge pins for proper position.
- Make ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that there are TWO safety chains – not just one; verify condition of the chain (if a chain has dragged on the pavement it may be unusable); verify proper length of each chain to allow full right and left articulation of the trailer/tow vehicle without binding; examine and verify that hooks, clevises, or bolts used to fasten the chains to the tow vehicle on one end and the trailer on the other end are in “as new” condition, adequately sized to control the loaded trailer if it should become detached from the tow vehicle. THIS COMBINATION OF COMPONENTS IS CRITICAL TO SAFE AND LEGAL OPERATION OF A TRAILER. OTHER THAN OPERATOR FAULT, THEY ARE ALSO THE MOST LIKELY TO BE RESPONSIBLE FOR ACCIDENT AND DAMAGE TO THE VEHICLE/TRAILER COMBINATION.
THREE CRITICAL PARAMETERS SHOULD BE APPLIED BEFORE PLACING A LOAD INTO THE TRAILER LOAD-BED.
- **Be especially mindful of the maximum load capacity of the trailer – NEVER EXCEED THAT LIMIT.
- The load capacity limit of a trailer generally refers to the maximum EVENLY DISTRIBUTED WEIGHT that may be transported over smooth roadways. Evenly Distributed means the weight of a liquid filling the load-bed to a depth at which the weight of said liquid equals the trailer’s maximum load capacity. Of course no load is likely to be so evenly distributed, but that criteria should guide decisions about how to protect your investment in your trailer.
- Significant reductions in load capacity may be indicated if travel over rutted, rocky, or uneven terrain. A well-planned route will inform a well-planned loading scheme.
- **Always place 55% – 60% of the load ahead of the axel – NEVER DISREGARD THIS CRITICAL LOADING INSTRUCTION. An incorrectly loaded trailer can, and will, make the tow vehicle/trailer combination UNCONTROLLABLE!
- **Properly distribute the load over the trailer load-bed. Do not place any concentrated weight in the load-bed without palletization or bolsters between the load and the trailer load-bed as a means to “spread” the weight over a larger area.
- Keep the center of gravity of the load as close to the load-bed as possible (vertically) to prevent unsafe towing characteristics from developing.
GENERAL TRAILER MANAGEMENT
AND LOADING ESSENTIALS
- Be mindful of potential cross-winds or unstable air masses on your route. Loads having large surface areas extending more than a couple of feet above the load-bed will affect the stability of both the trailer and tow vehicle.
- If the planned route will traverse known gusty wind regions, add extra time to allow slower speeds.
- Gusty winds can drastically affect directional stability if large surface areas of loads face perpendicularly to direction of travel and loss of directional stability may arise quite suddenly.
- The “relative wind” generated by traveling at highway speeds should be considered a significant load configuration issue. Minimize large flat surfaces that allow passing air to impact the trailer stability.
- If stability becomes a problem, stop to adjust the load or travel more slowly.
- Install adequate tie-down rings, hooks, or “track assemblies”, per manufacturer’s instructions, and securely fasten them to the trailer frame.
- Specially fabricated fixtures are available to secure most any type of cargo such as motorcycles or jet skis.
- Always apply the properly designed apparatus and/or fixture to ensure that cargo does not shift or travel about the load-bed.
- Unconsolidated or amorphous loads require close attention at the time of placing the load in the load-bed.
- Be very careful, if the load is being placed by machine, to ensure that its center of gravity falls within the parameters indicated above.
- It may be necessary to manually reposition parts of the load to accurately meet load placement guidelines.
- Cover all loads of material that would be affected by the “relative wind” generated by highway speeds.
- This is required by law, and law enforcement will cite uncovered loads for littering or causing a hazard to following traffic. This is a law which must be followed strictly.
SAFE TRAILER TOWING HABITS
- A trailer may significantly lower cost of many recreational and business tasks through a universe of options. This occurs as a relatively inexpensive trailer may be configured to meet any general or specific load carrying duty.
- Eliminating a separate powered vehicle will simplify transport requirements; and, if trailer connection and loading are easy and quick by design, no need arises to complicate the task with powered vehicles.