Pulling Trailers Safely
TRAILER HAULING CAPACITY
Each trailer has a gross vehicle weight rating assigned to it by the manufacturer based on the materials used to build the trailer. The gross vehicle weight rating is the total of the weight of the trailer plus the weight of what can be put on the trailer. Whitford said that some manufacturers aren’t quick to volunteer the gross vehicle weight rating.
A cheap trailer can be big and really look good, but it might be rated for hauling a very light load as Whitford pointed out in an example. “We think that a trailer can carry a lot because it is a big trailer, but as it turns out this is a worthless trailer. It looks good; it looks nice, and it has two axles. But it is a cheap trailer. It is not meant to carry heavy loads.”
The example Whitford used was of a 7,000 pound gross weight trailer weighing 2,400 pounds. That means the payload is only 4,600 pounds, even though it is a big tandem axle unit. A load of 4,600 pounds is about the equivalent of two pallets of products hauled by an ag retailer—not six pallets that the trailer’s size might allow on its bed.
Additionally, the trailer load needs to be balanced so that there is some weight on the tongue, but not too much. The load should neither tip the trailer onto the tongue too much nor off of the tongue with all the weight at the back of the trailer. The back end of the truck should not be pushed down too much.
“What helps keep a trailer hooked is some weight on the tongue; we want enough weight to help keep the trailer’s tongue pushing down on the ball,” Whitford noted.
Hundreds of trailer accidents happen every year, and a trailer that becomes unhitched in one way or another is a dangerous weapon with the potential to kill and maim. No one wants faulty equipment to be the reason for a fatality, he said.
Even in a minor accident, the investigation involving a trailer will come down to looking at the hitch system and the load capacity.
Being insured when an accident occurs is of major importance, too, and Whitford told the audience to check their vehicle insurance policies to see if the policy covers what happens when a trailer comes unhitched.
“Many insurance policies require you to list that trailer in the vehicle policy because once the trailer comes off and it isn’t listed, it isn’t part of the vehicle,” he said.
“I view transportation as the number one risk that we face,” Whitford said. “In my opinion, from all my years, it is not pesticide poisoning; it is not releases of dangerous chemicals or any of those other things we try real hard to avoid. It is the real simple things we do when on the highway that are the most risk.”
This article is brought to you in cooperation with the National Agronomic Environmental Health and Safety School (NAEHSS).