Pulling Trailers Safely
The pin that holds the insert in the receiver should specifically fit the drilled hole, but Whitford explained that the pins are not load rated. “In talking to people who work in the industry, they say there isn’t that much pressure on the pin,” he said.
The ball that attaches to the insert does have its own rating. Example of a rating range for a two-inch ball maximum pull rating might be 3,500 pounds to 10,000 pounds. Whitford noted he found a two and 5/16th inch ball rated for 30,000 pounds.
A cheap ball can be the undoing of a hitch system’s safety. Whitford provided another example. He suggested a truck can pull 12,400 pounds, the receiver is tagged for 7,500 ponds, the insert is rated for 5,000 pounds and the ball is rated for 3,500 pounds; therefore, that really powerful truck can legally only pull 3,500 pounds.
Whitford used another example of a trailer weighing 4,300 pounds. The hitch ball is rated at 6,000 pounds and is the lowest rated of the three hitch components (receiver, insert and ball); therefore, legally the trailer can only be loaded with 1,700 pounds to not surpass the 6,000 pound maximum of the ball. The weight of the trailer has to be considered part of the total amount being pulled—4,300 pounds plus 1,700 pounds equals the 6,000 pounds of the ball rating.
MORE SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS
“The safety chain is your emergency protection if something comes unhooked,” Whitford noted.
A hard-working truck needs a hitch of receiver, insert and ball components of equal ratings to pull heavy loads. Chains have to be easily attached but securely attached, he explained. Employees can sometimes look to take the quick way out when in a hurry, but the chains have to be crossed, not twisted.
“If the trailer comes off, it is going to pull both chains as the truck and trailer separate, when it does that it forms an X, and the hope is that the trailer tongue will fall and rest on the chains,” Whitford said.
The chains should not be twisted because the chains are not at maximum strength when twisted. “When they test the chains and give them grades for strength, it is done in a straight pull. When you twist them, I’m told they break differently than as tested.”
The proper strength chain for the trailer and a chain that has never been broken or has been properly repaired to maintain its original strength is mandatory. Many repair options greatly compromise the strength of the chain, Whitford showed through example.