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5 Tips for Safe Trailering

September 11, 2020
Wheel loader on a low boy.

Low-boy equipment trailer safety techniques do not stray far from decades-long recommendations. Following these basic steps can help prevent mishaps on the road, and keep equipment in proper condition. 

Avoid overloading: Federal and state regulations help users prevent overloading, a common offense in trailering. Overloaded trailers can cause unsafe conditions leading to roadway accidents. They can also cause tire damage, as well as premature axle and bearing failure. Similarly, users should avoid exceeding maximum allowed tongue transfer. Typically, tongue weight should make up about 10-15 percent of a trailer's total weight. However, that percentage can differ depending on vehicle, hitch style, coupler rating, load, etc. Under-loaded or negative tongue weight is worse than excessive tongue weight, and can cause the driver to lose control.

Watch hitch height: “We call it ‘nosediving’ in the industry,” says Nathan Uphus, sales manager at Felling Trailers, “If the trailer sits lower in the front than the back, then you’re focusing most of the weight on the front axle and it doesn’t tow well.” As a rule, the company tells customers if the trailer is not level, adjust so it sits higher in the front. “That’s going to ensure proper trailing,” he says. “Between level or at least an inch higher in the front than the back.”

Track tire pressure: When a tire is underinflated, the rated capacity of the tire decreases as the pressure goes down. “If you’ve got a tire that’s rated at 120 pounds per square inch (PSI), and it’s only at 90 PSI, you’re losing 10 percent of your actual rated tire capacity,” says Uphus. “If they’re underinflated they’ll also heat up faster, so there’s a lot of different technology for tracking and managing tire pressure,” he says. “That technology will use the trailer’s onboard air to maintain pressure."

Lowboy trailer.

Know GCWR and GVWR: A vehicle’s GVWR refers to the weight capacity of the vehicle alone. GCWR is a weight rating for both the vehicle and a hitched trailer. To determine the available payload, users also need to know the curb weight of the empty trailer plus the curb weight of the towing vehicle. Curb weight refers to the total weight of an empty vehicle. If the truck’s GVWR is 10,000 pounds, for example, and weighs 6,000 pounds empty, payload capacity is 4,000 pounds.

Properly tie down machinery: Improperly secured equipment can shift loads, sway trailers, and place additional stress on the tow vehicle. Drivers should ensure their trailer’s tie downs are properly rated for the machine being transported. To start, the sum of the working load limits from all tie-downs must equal at least 50 percent of the weight of the cargo. When hauling a skid steer loader weighing 10,000 pounds, for example, drivers will need tie downs that can support a minimum of 5,000 pounds. 

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