Image of a tractor pulling a farm trailer.

Precautions and Tips for Farm Trailers

Updated January 1, 1 . AmFam Team

There’s a lot to keep in mind when it comes to towing a farm trailer safely. Review these tips to be sure your rig is ready for safely towing crops, livestock and equipment.

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 (Opens in a new tab) 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 (Opens in a new tab). You’ll have the specialized coverage your farm needs, and you’ll feel great knowing you’ve protected your investments.

Related Articles

  • American Family Insurance Hobby Farm Insurance
    American Family Insurance Hobby Farm Insurance
    Hobby Farm Insurance

    A hobby farm is an exciting lifestyle choice, not a business. But that doesn’t mean that protecting it is any less important. You’ve put a lot into your livestock and crops, and probably made some equipment investments too. Now it’s time to give your farm the protection it deserves with hobby or small farm insurance.

    Even people who live in the city or suburbs are discovering hobby farming in varying degrees and may benefit from some added coverage. In addition to protecting your property and farm, you have to be cognizant of your neighbors and their safety, which can be even more important in an urban setting.

    While some hobby pursuits may fall under your homeowners insurance policy, as your little farm grows and if it earns money, hobby farm insurance or even small farm insurance will give you extra protection. If you begin selling produce or products made from your farm, product liability insurance should be a consideration. And don’t forget to look into coverage for any equipment you purchase.

    For anyone just starting a hobby farm, making a list of short and long-term goals helps create a foundation of success. Do you want to focus on animals, crops or both? Starting small and building toward that long-term dream gives you room to grow and space to adjust your plan as you learn along the way. Sharing that list with your insurance agent will help you determine how much and what type of hobby farm insurance you need and what milestones may signal that it’s time for a policy update.

    A routine insurance check-up is a great way to stay on top of your coverage and make sure you and those who may be effected by your farm are protected. Contact your American Family Insurance agent today to re-examine your coverage.

  • a barn in a farm
    a barn in a field
    Create a Farm Equipment Inventory

    Carefully sourcing items for purchase, reviewing bids, getting financing and insuring your farm’s belongings is a critical part of managing your farm or ranch. And since it’s taken so much to get your operation where it is today, it makes good business sense to build an inventory of your farm’s equipment, implements and assets.

    Take a look at these tips and best practices for creating an accurate inventory for continued success on your farm or ranch.

    The Price of Your Farm Equipment List

    Gathering your equipment information into one place can be a process — but the payoff is worth it. Not only will you have access to important details about each piece of equipment, you’ll also have a running list of makes and model numbers in the event that parts or service is required. And you’ll have everything you need when it’s time to get a fair market value price for your equipment.

    And having an updated inventory on file can really pay off if you need to file an insurance claim, because you’ll have all the information right there to get the claim started. Take a look at the details on our farm and ranch coverage to be sure you’ve got the right insurance that fits your farm’s business needs.

    Catalog Your Farm Implements and Farm Tools First

    It’s time to get down to business and start pulling files. Begin by building a list of implements and equipment that are essential to your farm’s day to day operations. Here are some of the documents you’ll need.

    Start with the high-value items and assets on your farm like the ones listed below:

    • Tractors
    • Combines
    • Farm irrigation systems
    • Hay balers, backhoes, and wagons
    • Planters
    • Cultivators and disks
    • Herbicide and crop sprayers, as well as fertilizer and manure spreaders
    • Milking machines
    • Irrigation equipment
    • Internal combustion and electric motors
    • Water pumps and air compressors
    • Motorized post-hole diggers
    • Snow throwers and lawn mowers
    • Generators and emergency backup equipment

    Once you have the records out for the above items, dig in and locate the following:

    • Original purchase orders
    • Purchase receipts
    • Tax receipts
    • Liens or collateral documents that used the above items in order to get financing
    • State and county registration records
    • Insurance documents
    • Financing documents
    • Maintenance records

    Leverage Farm Management Software

    Powerful farm management software is available to quickly turn your farm equipment inventory and implement details into a web-enabled, mobile-friendly database that you can access and update from anywhere. All you'll need is a cell signal and the app downloaded to your mobile device.

    More importantly, farm management software can make your farm easier to run and more profitable too. Many systems are able to manage your farm’s entire business, from employee payroll to tracking crop and livestock details, to accounts payable and receivable. They’re worth considering.

    The Financial Benefits of a Farm Equipment Checklist

    With your inventory complete, you’ll be able to rapidly gain insights into which equipment is approaching the end of its usable life, and which items are in need of replacement. With non-cash expenses like inventory depreciation tracked closely, you can make informed decisions on when to sell or purchase large implements and equipment.

    Take Inventory of Your Farm Insurance

    An accurate picture of your farm’s inventory can offer key insights from your farm's financial health to the fair market value of your assets like livestock and equipment. Another benefit of creating a farm inventory is that it also helps assess the value of the farm as a whole, when the time comes to evaluate your estate. Understanding the importance of a farm succession plan will help you to carry your family’s vision and future business intents to the next generation.

    After you’ve completed your farm equipment inventory, get a copy of it to your American Family Insurance agent. With this information, you’ll be able to tune your insurance to best reflect today’s needs so that — no matter what tomorrow brings — you and your family’s investments will be protected.

  • Image of an outbuilding surrounded by snow covered pine trees.
    Image of an outbuilding surrounded by snow covered pine trees.
    Does Farm Insurance Cover Snow Load Building Collapse?

    After you’ve brought in the harvest and prepared your operation for its annual winter hibernation, you might think that the risks to your farm are taking the winter off. But in truth, mother nature can do a lot of damage to your property in winter. Wind and snow loads can wreak havoc on weak or dated structures. And without the right farm insurance and additional coverages, your farm’s finances may be out in the cold if the unexpected should happen.

    Special farm endorsements — otherwise known as additional coverages — can help cover building collapse costs that are the result from winter precipitation on your outbuilding’s roofs. Today, we’ll explore the nuances of our weight of ice, snow or sleet and winter perils coverage to help you protect everything you work so hard for all year long.

  • Young man and woman working  in their farm field.
    Young man and woman working  in their farm field.
    Enhance Your Farm's Digital Presence

    As a farmer, you know the goals of your farming business better than anyone. After all, it’s what you do day in and day out. What’s equally important as a business owner is understanding the audience you’re marketing to and how to reach them. That’s why creating an online presence for your farm is so important — it’ll help you connect with your customers and build an authentic brand that people are attracted to.

    An active online presence, when used correctly, is an effective tool that offers the opportunity to reach a broad range of customers and implement your business strategy. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can begin building your farm’s presence on the web and, ultimately, help you meet your business goals.

    The Importance of Understanding the Platform and Your Audience

    Before introducing your farm to the World Wide Web, you’ll want to keep these two things front of mind:

    What content are you putting on each platform?

    From your website to your e-newsletter, your customers consume and engage with every platform in different ways. So, when you start building your online presence, you’ll want to have an understanding of each platform’s purpose. That way, when your customer interacts with your business, they’re getting the information they expect.

    For instance, someone visiting your farm’s website is going to be looking for much different information than if they were on your Twitter feed. Or if a customer follows your Instagram account, they aren’t expecting the same stories as they read in your farm’s e-newsletter.

    You can build a better experience for your customers by asking yourself what mindset your reader is in when they head to each platform you create.

    Who is your audience?

    Understanding your customer is essential to the success of your digital presence. Before delivering a message effectively, you need to know who the message is going to and why. For starters, consider the kind of farm you run. Are you a commercial farm that sells your product to big businesses for distribution, or is your customer local businesses and families? The content and its tone depends on who you’re trying to reach. Who are they, what are they looking for and what’s the most authentic way you can relate to them to get them what they want? Understand their motivation by putting yourself in their shoes.

    Building a Website for Your Farm

    Now that you have a better idea of some digital basics, let’s put that knowledge into practice — starting with your website. The internet is a powerful tool to market the product(s) your farm produces, and creating a website is a key way to harness its potential. Follow these guidelines for website best practices:

    Set goals. Spontaneity has its time and place, but building a website to market your brand isn’t the situation to jump in without a plan. It’s important to set realistic, achievable goals for round one of your website. Keep in mind, your site is a work in progress and can be improved upon in many iterations. Consider what you want your website to achieve. Are you selling products? Do you offer a CSA? Do you want to educate people on agriculture? Maybe you’ll create a gallery to show images of the fun you have on your farm. Take the time to sit down and list out a few goals for round one. With your plan in place, it’ll make the next steps that much easier.

    Creating the website. You’ll need to decide if you want to hire someone to create your website or if you plan on crafting one yourself. Many sites exist that make it super easy to create and maintain your own website — and most of them are even free to use! If you choose to have someone develop a website for you, make sure it implements a content management system so you can update the site yourself. This way, you can easily keep things relevant without always having to go back to the designer (and pay them) to make changes.

    Provide a clear description of who you are. If someone stumbled upon your website, would they be able to identify who you are and the purpose of your farming business within a matter of seconds? That’s your goal — create a homepage that’ll attract and retain your customer’s attention so they’ll stay on your page. Make sure the name of your business stands out and a summary of your products and services is included.

    Clear navigation. In order to guide your customers to discover all the great things about your business, you’ll want a navigation menu with clear links that lead to your pages. A dropdown menu offers an easy way for your visitor to see all that you have to offer, no matter which page they’re on. You’ll ultimately decide which pages you want on your page, but home, about us, newsletter, calendar, contact us, links to your social media pages and other important services you offer are common pages to include on your website. Remember, your pages will align with the goals you set at the beginning.

    How to Create a Farm E-Newsletter

    No matter what type of farming you do, an e-newsletter is a simple and effective way to promote your farm. An e-newsletter is a periodic “report” with information and news about your farm and, in this case, is distributed to your subscribers via email. This form of marketing can be very effective because it’s targeted to people who have already taken interest in what you’re doing.

    So what should you know about creating an e-newsletter? Start with these three tips:

    Newsletter content. A good rule of thumb to follow is to include content that’s 90% educational and 10% promotional. Chances are the person who subscribed to your e-newsletter wants to get to know your business better and continue to stay informed — not be pushed to buy something. Providing educational, relevant information builds trust between your reader and your business. Here are some ideas for content you might include:

    • Whether you sell meat or vegetables, recipes are a fun way to mix your product with something useful to the consumer. It may even encourage a customer to buy your product.
    • Life on the farm isn’t something everyone gets to experience. Include a fun story about how your farm runs or an anecdote about your animals. This way your reader can vicariously experience farm life.
    • Is your farm open to the public? Include visiting hours, what they can expect to experience and any upcoming special events.
    • If you offer volunteer opportunities, include how to volunteer and/or a testimony from a previous volunteer.
    • Will you be at a farmer’s market or farming expo? Be sure to list anywhere you plan on appearing as vendors.
    • Reward your subscribers with a discount or coupon every now and then to show you appreciate their business.
    • Is there something unique about your farm? Let it be known!

    There’s no end to the content you can include in your newsletter, but most importantly, make sure it’s relevant and have an understanding what your reader is looking for.

    Newsletter design. A newsletter can be sent by mail, email or included on your website. Our suggestion is to send your subscribers an email as well as include a web page for your newsletters on your website. That way non-subscribers can view the newsletter and hopefully become subscribers! Here are a few things to keep in mind for the layout of your newsletter:

    • Create a header at the top of the page that includes the title of your newsletter, your company name and logo.
    • Use subheadings to organize and break up the pieces of content. A subhead should be smaller than your main heading and bigger than the text you use for your content blocks.
    • Choose a color scheme. If you have a brand logo, defer to those colors.
    • The legibility of your newsletter is very important, so stick to one or two fonts, since too many fonts can give a disorganized look.
    • Have a balance of images and text. An image grabs a reader’s attention and offers a visually appealing element to your newsletter. It can be used to break up the page so as to not overwhelm the reader with too much content.
    • Don’t create a five-page newsletter. Keep it to a page or two. The newsletter is designed to provide quick, digestible information that grabs your reader’s attention.

    Newsletter frequency. How often should you send your newsletter? Most people choose to send a weekly, monthly or quarterly newsletter. It all comes down to your own personal goals and what your business offers. If you have a lot of events happening on your farm or are very customer-focused, sending a weekly newsletter is a good idea. If you don’t think you’ll have much time to put into a weekly newsletter, go for the quarterly and make sure to spend time filling it with all the great things that have gone over the last three months. A monthly newsletter is a good, doable balance for busy farmers who need to keep their customers updated but don’t have a lot of time.

    Just remember — your newsletter is meant to attract your target audience and give them a reason to stick with you. Do what’s realistic for your business and have fun with it!

    Social Media and Your Farm

    Facebook, Twitter, YouTube — just a few social media platforms you can use to easily promote your farm. And they are pretty simple to set up and maintain! Our advice is to focus on building out your presence on one platform and slowly work your way into creating more accounts once you get the hang of marketing through social media. Here’s a closer look at some great ways you can use social media on your farm

    A thought-out, well-run digital presence can benefit your farm in many ways. With the right goals and strategy in place, you can give your farm a digital edge. Your next steps? Go dig around the Internet and do some research. What kinds of farming websites exist? What kind of information do other farms include in their e-newsletters? Start following some successful farm’s on social media. Take a look at what already exists on the web to gain ideas on what might work or not work for your own strategy.

    Remember — it’s all about knowing your audience and what they’re looking for. At the end of the day, it’s about making your customer happy.