When you’re driving down the highway, how do you know if that trailer ahead of you is safely secured to its tow vehicle? The answer is you don’t, until you see it come loose on the freeway.
Runaway trailer wrecks are common and often deadly. Here’s one incident filmed by a lucky driver who lived to tell about it:
Each year hundreds of drivers are injured or killed by runaway trailer wrecks. From flatbed trailers that come loose to unsafe RV toads, many drivers neglect to take safety precautions to avoid horrible fatal towing accidents. The good news is you can prevent a runaway trailer wreck with three cheap and fast trailer towing tips.
Don’t skip safety chains
Trailer towing laws vary across the U.S. For example, not all states require the use of safety chains on trailers. Among those that do, drivers can use any chains they want because there’s no national standard on the rating of safety chains. This cheap safety implement is the only backup system that prevents a runaway trailer.
For ultimate insurance when towing a trailer, secure it with towing safety chains manufactured by towing specialists. A trailer towing shop can help you find the right trailer safety chain setup to stay safe on the road. You’ll also want to follow these towing tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
When connected, safety chains should have some slack to permit sharp turns but should not drag on the road. In addition, they should cross under the trailer tongue to help prevent the tongue from dropping to the road in the event the trailer separates from the tow vehicle.
Always connect with the right ball hitch
Trailer hitch balls are the critical connection between a trailer and tow vehicle. With a proper hitch ball size, the trailer can safely pivot without incident. If the hitch ball size isn’t compatible with the trailer in tow, any bump or pothole can jostle the connection loose. The result is often a devastating accident.
To avoid a runaway trailer wreck, confirm your hitch ball size. First examine your trailer’s tongue, coupler or frame. Look for a stamped plate that indicates: a) maximum weight capacity and b) a number between 1-7/8″, 2″, and 2-5/16″ stamped onto it (the required ball hitch diameter). Confirm that your trailer hitch ball matches the diameter and meets or exceeds the stated gross trailer weight capacity.
Distribute your cargo evenly
Is your cargo spaced evenly around the trailer? If not your trailer will carry an uneven load and the shifting weight will make it susceptible to a trailer sway wreck. Always keep approximately 60 percent of your cargo directly in front of the axle. Evenly space your cargo around the trailer and keep a low center of gravity to maintain stability.
Whether you have a simple flatbed trailer or a 30′ bumper pull RV home on wheels the principles are the same. Safety comes first when hitching up or your next trip could be your last.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.