Each time I hook a trailer up to my SUV I get a flashback to an incident that occurred about a dozen years ago. At the time, I was working for an ambulance service and on one particular sunny afternoon my partner and I responded to a trailer accident. A horrific accident, at that…one that left two people dead and another person seriously injured.
If there’s a side benefit to working in the emergency medical services field it’s that you get to learn from other people’s mistakes. You share, to some extent, the grieving family’s sorrow…but you also can sometimes find compassion for the individual who caused the situation. Bottom line is whenever a terrible accident occurs everyone seeks to find an explanation as to why the terrible event just happened.
To be fair, the trailer in my “flashback” was not a boat, in fact, it was a farm implement pulled in the very same manner. The coupling was via a ball-mounted trailer hitch but the system failed. Furthermore, the attachment mechanism was so old it did not contain the necessary safety chains required by Minnesota law to prevent total trailer detachment.
As a result, what once was a trailer suddenly became an uncontrolled projectile traveling at 55 mph on a two lane highway. Combine this with the fact a car traveling in the opposite direction at a similar speed and…well, do I really have to say anything more?
The main problem with pulling a trailer whether it be for a boat, camper, snowmobile or similar unit becomes user complacency. Let’s face it, making the connection between the trailer and your truck is not nearly as exciting as the unit being towed for the outdoor fun. And sure, while most of us ensure we have the correct ball size, lighting connection, etc. we don’t spend a great deal of time beyond that thinking about it. But perhaps we should.
In fact, can you answer these important questions about your trailer:
- What is the trailer’s tongue weight (when fully loaded)?
- How much does your trailer weigh (when fully loaded)?
- What class of hitch does your tow vehicle contain? Is it sufficient for the trailer size being pulled?
- Does your trailer require brakes and have they been maintained recently?
- When was the last time you added grease to the wheel bearings?
The main point of all this is not to be a comprehensive dissertation on how to fulfill your due diligence for trailering safety when pulling one down the highway. Instead, with the fishing opener now just three weeks away and a busy summer upcoming, it’s just prudent to spend a little extra time right now checking over the components that so often get overlooked when lives are hurried.
I used to think trailer accidents were not that commonplace. Then about five years ago another incident occurred when someone driving by my house lost their construction trailer and it ended up in the ditch about 100 ft from my house.
The older a trailer becomes the more attention (and maintenance) it requires. Equipment wears out and will eventually break down. When we’re heading to the lake we don’t want to experience troubles. Quite often most trouble occurrences can be avoided long before heading out onto the highway.
Now when I connect my boat trailer to my truck I still think about those two young lives that were lost many years ago. The experience taught me that accidents do happen and can almost always be avoided by eliminating human negligence or error. It also causes me to double and triple check to make sure I have all the connections just right before any tires get rolling.
Pulling a trailer is an added responsibility and the safety element should not be taken for granted. Here’s hoping you have a fun, but safe upcoming boating hauling season.
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© 2010 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.