Agricultural producers use a variety of trailers to carry out daily business, including trailers to haul livestock, feed, supplies and implements. Routine safety towing tips should be kept in mind before venturing out on the road, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Disaster Assessment and Recovery unit agent.
“We see it so frequently when traveling across the state where a vehicle is on the side of the road with a broken-down tow vehicle, a blown-out tire or broken axle,” said Jeff Fant, AgriLife Extension Disaster Assessment and Recovery agent, San Angelo. “After spending my college years working for a livestock/horse trailer manufacturer and the rest of my adult life in law enforcement and disaster response, I’ve found that the best insurance against these catastrophes is proper preparation and preventive maintenance.”
The following are recommended tips:
- Know your vehicle’s capabilities. Pickup, trailer and cargo combinations have significant effects on handling and overall performance of the vehicle. The addition of trailer weight and cargo impacts acceleration, turning, stopping and general navigation. Become familiar with the way your vehicle and trailer react when driving before you take a trip.
- Allow additional time when pulling into traffic. The additional load will impact the amount of time it takes to enter a lane of traffic.
- Allow for additional time and space for stopping. Stopping distances increase with the weight of a trailer and cargo. Allow additional space between you and traffic ahead. Begin to decelerate or stop earlier when approaching traffic or traffic lights and intersections.
- Make turns wider to allow the trailer to clear the corner. This also depends on the length of the trailer.
- Drive in the right lane or slow lane to not impede faster traffic.
- Adjust the trailer brakes.
- Do not rely on brakes when going down hills.
- Use a spotter when backing up.
Other mindful points
Aside from mechanical safety, Fant recommends drivers put together pre-trip planning information to make the route efficient and more enjoyable.
“Check your route before departing,” he said. “Traffic, road closures and construction can affect your travel route. Pre-planning can prevent having to re-route at the last minute.”
Fant also recommends inspecting and maintaining the vehicle throughout the year.
“We are all busy and routine maintenance items tend to get overlooked on vehicles and trailers,” he said.
“Inspect and maintain your vehicle,” he said. “Check tire pressure, condition, fluid levels, lights and electrical system, wiper blades and air conditioning system.”
Finally, Fant said it’s always good to be a safe and courteous driver.
“Use the far-right lane as often as possible when trailering,” he said. “Watch for smaller vehicles since pulling a trailer creates a larger blind spot and the need for more reaction space around you.”
Fant said to make sure the trailer is properly connected, and all systems are working correctly. Physically walk around the trailer and inspect. Check coupler, safety chains and lug nuts. Check that safety chains are secure and off the ground to prevent potential fire. Make sure all lights and turn signals work properly.
“And always fasten seatbelts before departing,” Fant said.