Keep the Trailer Connected to the Truck

July 18, 2011 07:01 PM

Accidents involving detatched trailers happen every day across the country.  Many end tragically. One such accident that Fred Whitford witnessed prompted him to address critical factors that can help drivers keep trailers properly attached to their trucks.

Whitford, a coordinator for the Purdue University Extension service, is sharing the results of his work with farmers and retailers this week at the 2011 Corn College. The results from much of the research he and colleagues conducted is available in their publication, Keep The Trailer Connected To The Truck. The publication is available for $5 at
Here are some highlights from the publication:
Hitch component ratings matter                 
Whitford says the weight of a trailer and its load should never exceed the rating of any hitch assembly component. If it does, then that trailer cannot safely be used with that towing truck.
Understand your truck’s limits
Every truck has a specific tow rating, which depends on its design.  Trucks with larger tow ratings usually have high-performance features such as heavy-duty engines, springs, transmissions, frames, U-joints, rear axles and brakes.  These features have nothing to do with whether the truck is a three-quarter ton or half-ton.
Select the right hitch mount
Keep in mind that a bumper-mounted hitch will always tow significantly less weight than a properly designed frame-mounted hitch. Growers and commercial industry operators should not use bumper hitches to tow equipment unless their trucks have customized, reinforced bumpers.
Choose the proper frame-mounted hitch
Generally, these type of hitches fit one of three categories: weight-carrying hitches, gooseneck hitches or weight-distributing hitches.
Know the hitch assembly’s components
Each component of a hitch assembly is individually rated for the maximum load it can tow.  This is an important safeguard that can reduce the risk of trailers detaching on the road.
Pay attention to trailer ratings
Metal or plastic plates on the fronts of trailer tongues indicate how much tongue load is expected when the trailer is fully loaded as well as other critical information.
Safety chains are an important backup
Safety chains provide secondary protection. Trailer safety chains with a suitable size and grade can keep the trailer and towing truck attached long enough for the driver to pull over.
Emergency trailer brakes are the last backup system
Most states require trailers of certain gross weights to have both trailer brakes and a breakaway switch mounted on the tongue of the trailer.  A breakaway emergency brake helps a trailer stop itself if it separates from a towing truck.
Watch your load distribution and tongue weight
Make sure that the weight of any load is less than the gross vehicle weight rating of the trailer.
Use Reflective Tape
Consider placing reflective tape on the sides and rear of your trailer to mark the extreme widths and to define the rear of the trailer.
Drive safely when transporting trailers
Trailers simply follow the vehicle. Improper tire pressure, poor alignment, or bad suspension will affect the drivability of the truck-trailer combination. The driver is responsible for making sure the unit is working properly.  Read and follow the ratings of the truck, hitch and trailer when towing so that accidents are prevented.
Watch to learn more:

Make Plans to Attend these Upcoming Corn College Events
Can’t make it to one of the Illinois Corn Colleges? Check these out.
Soybean College: Aug. 1 to 2., Coldwater, Mich.
With a large focus on in-field diagnostics, let Farm Journal Associate Field Agronomist Missy Bauer teach you the secrets to soybean production. This event will focus on fundamentals, soybean growth and take-home knowledge of how to raise better beans. World-record soybean yield farmer Kip Cullers will present a special breakout session. Click here to register.
Corn College “Fundamentals”: Aug. 3 to 4, Coldwater, Mich.
The Farm Journal Corn College Fundamentals session provides practical, hands-on training to help corn growers advance their production skills, increase yields and improve their profitability. This session is geared for the first-time Corn College attendee and will provide them with the core knowledge of how to use the Systems Approach on their farm. Click here to register



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