Guidelines for using trailers

Trailer Safety Guidelines Faced with moving equipment to off-site storage locations as camp season ends? Exercise proactive measures when loading and unloading trailers to reduce the chance of an accident.

Keep these ideas in mind when loading your trailer:

  1. Lighter goes lower. Put lighter weight items at the bottom of the load.
  2. Secure your load with rope, bungee cords, netting, or straps. Tie large items directly to your vehicle. Don’t rely on the weight of items to keep them in your truck. Bumps, turns, and sudden stops can dislodge even heavy items.
  3. Consider covering the load with a sturdy plastic or canvas tarp or a net.
  4. Don’t overload. Keep materials level with truck beds or trailers unless the load is tied down, netted, or tarped.
  5. Always double check your load.
Securing your load is a good loss prevention practice. It is also a federal law. Familiarizing yourself with local laws is important too. For example, some communities have ordinances that require loads to be covered, not just tied down.

Follow these guidelines while towing your trailer:

  • Use the driving gear that the manufacturer recommends.
  • Drive at moderate speeds. This will place less strain on your tow vehicle and trailer.
  • Trailer instability (sway) is more likely to occur as speeds increase.
  • Avoid sudden stops and starts that can cause skidding, sliding, or jackknifing.
  • Avoid sudden steering maneuvers that might create sway or undue side force on the trailer.
  • Slow down when traveling over bumpy roads, railroad crossings, and ditches.
  • Make wider turns at curves and corners. Because your trailer’s wheels are closer to the inside of a turn than the wheels of your tow vehicle, they are more likely to hit or ride up over curbs.
  • Control swaying caused by air pressure changes and wind buffeting when larger vehicles pass from either direction by releasing the accelerator pedal to slow down and keeping a firm grip on the steering wheel.
  • Allow considerably more distance for stopping.
  • Activate the trailer brake controller by hand if excessive sway occurs. Do not attempt to control trailer sway by applying the tow vehicle brakes which can make the sway worse.
  • Always anticipate the need to slow down. To reduce speed, shift to a lower gear and press the brakes lightly.
Learn more about trailer safety at nhtsa.gov.

Trailer Safety Guidelines
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