Farm Trailer Safety and Maintenance
Whether you’re towing with a tractor or a pick-up truck, hauling soybeans or livestock, staying safe on the road is always a priority. Take a look at these helpful towing and maintenance tips to be sure you’ll get where you’re going safe and sound.
Trailer Inspection and Care
Regular maintenance and inspection of your farm trailers is important for keeping your equipment in top shape, so that it’s ready when you need it. And having the right insurance for your trailer is important, too. Contact your agent to learn more.
Get the details. Knowing the weight limits and capacities of the truck and trailer is key. Information about the towing capacity and other important information can be found stamped in the vehicle identification number (VIN) placard on the trailer, and the towing vehicle’s details are usually found in the driver’s side doorjamb.
VIN placards will vary by manufacturer, but here’s what you’ll likely find on the trailer:
- MFD. By: The name of the manufacturer.
- Date: The date the trailer was produced by the manufacturer.
- VIN: This is the trailer’s vehicle identification number.
- Rebuilt By: If rebuilt, you’ll find the name of the rebuilding company here.
- Year: If rebuilt, this you’ll find the year of the rebuild here.
- Model No.: This is the manufacturer’s model number.
- Fleet No.: This is the manufacturer’s fleet number.
- GCWR: Gross combination weight rating. This figure identifies the maximum weight limit that the towing vehicle can safely haul, per the manufacturer. The figure includes the weight of the trailer.
- GAWR: Gross axel weight rating. This figure states the maximum gross weight that all of the trailer’s axels can carry. This figure may be less than the GVWR because some of the load is carried by the towing vehicle.
- GVWR: Gross vehicle weight rating. This figure states the maximum operating weight of the trailer and its cargo.
- With Tires, Rims, PSI: Above trailer rating only applies if the specified size and rim sizes on the trailer are inflated according to these figures.
Update the tags and registration. Before driving onto public roadways, be sure that your trailer complies with federal and local codes. In many states, you may need to register it if it’s over a given weight. A plate and tags will need to be purchased, and some trailers may require a US Department of Transportation number to be displayed. Check with your local DMV to get the specifics.
Tour the trailer. Rust can accumulate causing the undercarriage of your trailer to deteriorate. Inspect outrigger welds, or the structural supports that extend off the trailer’s frame, and be sure that they’re in good shape. Look under the trailer and in the cabin for stowaways to remove things like wasp and animal nests. Gates, doors and windows should also be working and lockable as designed.
Pair the coupling system. The ball hitch and receiving cup must match in diameter. Be sure that the safety chain is in good shape and that the chain’s towing capacity matches or exceeds the gross vehicle weight of your trailer.
Inspect the tires. Check the tire pressure. Are the tires doubled-up? If so, remember to check the inside tire, too. Examine the condition of the sidewalls, interior and exterior for cracks or bumps since these can be signs of an upcoming blow-out. Remember to rotate the tires annually, or according to manufacturer’s specifications.
Be ready to change a tire. Check the spare tire changing equipment and be sure you’ve got a spare tire, jack and lug nut wrench on board. It’s also a good idea to have flares or safety reflectors on hand.
Inspect the brakes. Source a trailer that has implement brakes, or its own brakes onboard. This way, you’re not completely relying on the towing vehicle to stop the trailer. Match the type of brakes installed on the towing vehicle to those on the trailer. Inspect the physical condition of the brakes regularly, then repair and replace as necessary. Brake controllers should be inspected and in proper working order.
Maintain and inspect your breakaway kit and battery. When electronic brakes are in use, these are essential to help prevent the trailer from breaking free from the towing vehicle. It uses a battery powered system that applies the trailer’s breaks if the cable connecting the trailer to the control pin is pulled free.
Tour the reflectors and lamps. Wipe the dust and dirt off of all reflectors and lights. Verify that the brake lights work at the rear of the trailer. Check the turn signals on the side of the trailer and the rear, and verify that the back-up lights are functioning as well. Upgrade to LEDs when replacing since they’re more durable and they’re going to last longer. And be sure you’re compliant with reflectors, lights and slow-moving vehicle triangle regulations so you’re clearly visible to other drivers.
Wheel bearing maintenance. Replacing the bearings at 12,000 mile intervals — or annually, without respect to mileage — will save you time and the inconvenience of having to do so in the field, or on the side of the road, where a load or livestock may be on board.
Considerations for Transporting Livestock
Keeping the animal’s stress level low while on the road is key to getting livestock delivered in good health. Here are some of the things to keep in mind to make your trailer safe for livestock.
Clean the interior. A safe and clean space for your livestock will help to keep the animals from getting injured during transport. Proper drainage and good traction are also important factors to keep in mind.
Load animals with care. Before you begin bringing animals into the trailer, look for foreign objects like rocks or branches that may scare them, and remember to keep noise to a minimum since animals spook easily and can become unpredictable. Stay calm and don’t stress the animals as they’re loading and unloading.
Load your larger livestock first. When using a bumper mounted ball and hitch towing system, this is a best practice. The heavier load will be split between the trailer and the towing vehicle, putting less stress on the trailer’s bearings and axels.
Transport carefully. Remember that livestock will shift each time you accelerate and break. Keep a safe distance between the vehicle in front of you and allow more time for breaking. Approach curves and turns slowly, too.
Wet and cold are a bad combination. Wind chill factors increase the risk of pneumonia with exposure to cold temperatures. Reschedule travel plans if severe weather is predicted to keep livestock stress levels to a minimum.
Tips for Transporting Crops and Farming Implements
Once your payload’s onboard and you’ve completed your inspection, it’s time to hit the road. Here’s a few essentials to keep in mind:
Plan to use pilot vehicles. If you’ll be hauling wide loads, use pilot vehicles in front and behind your payload to help ensure safety on the road. Flag the right and left wide ends of your payload and use flashing lights to draw attention to the load.
Stay on the road. Simple as this advice may seem, it’s important to remember that soft shoulders on country roads account for a high percentage of farm vehicle rollovers. Be cautious of yielding too much of your lane to traffic attempting to pass you.
Light up your load. Cars approaching slow-moving vehicles on single-lane roads may not slow down sufficiently to prevent a rear-end collision. Bright, flashing rear-facing lights can assist in getting the driver’s attention earlier.
Use caution when turning. Left turns in particular can result in a collision with a vehicle that’s attempting to pass you as you’re in the process of turning. Triple check rear-view mirrors before turning.
Following these guidelines for towing trailers will help to keep you and others traveling on the road safe. And while you’re considering road safety while towing a trailer, take a few moments to review your commercial farm/ranch policy with an American Family Insurance agent. You’ll have the specialized coverage your farm needs, and you’ll feel great knowing you’ve protected your investments.