Health and Safety

Trailer Safety 

Camping, boating, horseback riding...many of us enjoy activities that require hauling a trailer, but there is more to hauling a trailer than just hitching up and heading down the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends the following safety tips for safe trailer hauling (however, the manufacturers' towing guide and vehicle owner's manual should be your first point of reference).

GENERAL HANDLING

  • Use the driving gear that the manufacturer recommends for towing.
  • Drive at moderate speeds to place less strain on the tow vehicle and trailer. Trailer instability (sway) increases as speed increases.
  • Avoid sudden stops and starts that can cause skidding, sliding, or jackknifing.
  • 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 wide turns at curves and corners.  A trailer’s wheels are closer to the inside of a turn than the tow vehicle, therefore are more likely to hit or ride up over curbs.
  • Load cargo into the trailer evenly to distribute the weight throughout and create a smoother, safer ride.
  • Control trailer sway caused by air pressure changes and wind buffeting by releasing the accelerator pedal to slow down.  Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel.

BRAKING

  • Allow adequate distance for stopping.
  • Activate the trailer brake controller by hand if a trailer brake controller is available and excessive sway occurs.
  • Do not attempt to control trailer sway by applying the tow vehicle brakes; this will generally increase the amount of sway.
  • Anticipate the need to slow down. To reduce speed, shift to a lower gear and press the brakes lightly.

Acceleration and Passing

  • Signal in advance and allow extra distance to clear any vehicle before entering back into a lane when passing or changing lanes.
  • Pass on level terrain with plenty of clearance. Avoid passing on steep upgrades or downgrades.
  • Downshift for improved acceleration or speed maintenance, if necessary.
  • Do not drive onto a soft shoulder when passing on narrow roads. Doing so could cause the trailer to jackknife or go out of control.

 

Downgrades and Upgrades

  • Downshift to assist with braking on downgrades or add power for climbing hills.
  • Apply brakes at intervals to keep speed consistent on long downgrades. Brakes may overheat if applied for extended periods of time.
  • Use the tow-mode recommended by the manufacturer, if applicable.

Backing Up

  • Place a hand at the bottom of the steering wheel to assist with backing up. To turn left, move your hand left. To turn right, move your hand right.
  • Improve visibility with the assistance of someone outside at the rear of the trailer for guidance since mirrors do not provide sufficient visibility when backing up. Back up slowly.
  • Use slight steering wheel movements to adjust direction. Exaggerated movements will cause greater movement of the trailer.
  • Pull forward and realign the tow vehicle and trailer and start again if the trailer is not aligning properly.

Parking

  • Avoid parking on grades. Guidance may be needed to park. Upon stopping, but before shifting into park, have someone place blocks on the downhill side of the trailer wheels. Apply the parking brake, shift into park, and then remove foot from the brake pedal.
  • Ensure the vehicle does not become locked in park following this parking sequence because of extra load on the transmission. For manual transmissions, apply the parking brake and then turn the vehicle off while in either first or reverse gear.
  • Place jack stands under the rear of the trailer to prevent injury before uncoupling the trailer. An unbalanced load may cause the tongue to suddenly rotate upward.
  • Insert blocks at the front and rear of the trailer tires to ensure that the trailer does not roll away when the coupling is released.

Sharing the Road

When driving on the roads this summer, be sure to follow these simple guidelines when sharing the road with trucks, trailers, and other large vehicles.

STAY BACK
Do not follow closely behind a trailer.  Be sure to watch for cargo that may not be secured. Stay back from trucks, trailers, and other large vehicles when stopped on an incline to allow for backward movement when starting from a stopped position.

LEAVE ROOM
Be sure to leave extra room when pulling out in front of a vehicle with a trailer.  Heavy loads take longer to slow down. Be extra cautious when pulling out in front of horse/stock trailers - the animals don't wear seatbelts!

STAY VISIBLE
Stay visible when driving near a truck, trailer, or other large vehicle.  If the vehicles' mirrors are not visible, then the driver can't see the other vehicle.  Do not travel along side the truck, trailer, or other large vehicle, instead, travel safely ahead or behind the vehicle where visibility is best.

WATCH FOR TURN SIGNALS
Be aware of turn signals.  Trucks and large vehicles need to make wide right turns to accommodate space for the trailer.

BE PATIENT
Do not become impatient and try to quickly pass behind a large vehicle that is backing up. Truck drivers generally need to block off a road to allow space to back into an area to load or unload.  Allow time for trucks, trailers, and other large vehicles to get into position.

DO NOT STOP SUDDENLY
Do not stop suddenly in front of large vehicles.  Trucks, trailers, and other large vehicles take longer to stop than smaller vehicles traveling at the same speed.