"If you’ve got a backhoe or something with a boom arm, you should have two more chain sets on to keep the boom or backhoe arm from moving," he adds. "Once you get all your equipment loaded on the trailer, you need to lower buckets and booms to the deck. If the boom has the ability to pivot left to right, it should have another set of chains."
If tools are transported on the trailer, they need to be secured, too. There shouldn’t be any loose items set in a bucket or placed in the front of the trailer, Knudsen says.
More common than perhaps anyone might think is forgetting to latch the ball coupler or lock the pintal, Knudsen says.
A contractor, for example, might have a pickup truck and not latch the trailer to the back of the truck. "All of a sudden, he goes to load the trailer and it pops the hitch apart and pokes the trailer into the back of the tow unit," he says.
When you drive a piece of equipment up on a trailer, DeGeorge says to make sure there are no electrical wires or obstructions above. You don’t want to hit a wire or something overhead.
You can never be too careful. Other checks you might want to include on a checklist are:
Brakes - Whether a trailer has air brakes or electric brakes, it doesn’t matter, you shouldn’t depend on them, the tow vehicle also must have good brakes.
If you have an electric brake trailer, before you tow your load down the road, manually pull the break-away pin out and try to drive away, DeGeorge says. The brakes should be on, you shouldn’t be able to drive down the road, he says.
Air pressure - Make sure the tires have enough air in them; they’re not soft.
Trailer bed and ramps - The trailer bed and ramps should be free of mud, snow and ice.
Boards - Visually inspect the trailer to make sure there are no loose or broken boards, rotten wood or stones on the deck.
"Sometimes stones can get tracked up in the tire," DeGeorge says. "You go down the road and a stone comes off and it goes through somebody’s windshield. That’s not good. When things like that happen, it gives everybody in the industry a bad name."
Oil - Most trailers have sight glasses in the axel so you can make sure you have plenty of oil and you’re not burning up the bearings.
"A lot of times these things will get damaged on the road and oil starts dripping out," DeGeorge says. "Nobody checks them. They just run them and run them until they burn up their bearings. At that point, you risk the trailer catching on fire."
Lights - Lights, too, should be checked to make sure they’re in good condition.
Once you have completed a thorough inspection, you’re ready to line up.
When driving on and off of a trailer, wheeled vehicles just need to go slow and steady. "Try not to go fast or jerk side to side, "Knudsen says. "Line up straight and go slow and steady."
On tracked machines, like an excavator, DeGeorge says, "you’re going to be offset to one side. As you’re pulling up, you need to look ahead on the trailer, find a board that you want to line up with and just stay right on it. It’s even better if you have a safety person to watch and help. A tracked machine is going to want to teeter at the beaver tail, where you start transitioning to the flat deck. At that point, a driver should be going very slowly to make sure one track of the machine doesn’t grab quicker than the other."Slow and steady
With equipment in place and a trailer in tow, you’re now driving a much longer vehicle, which requires more space when entering traffic and more time to accelerate and decelerate. You won’t be able to speed up as fast as you are used to. In fact, the deceleration, or stopping distance, can almost double if you have a heavy load behind a truck or pickup or an SUV, Knudsen points out.
When driving, keep the wheel steady, he says. "Don’t jerk the wheel back and forth," he says. "It’s just like a dog’s tail, it wags. If you are not steady, you can lose control."
If you’re renting out a trailer, it’s no different than any other piece of equipment - make sure the person driving it away can operate it safely. Make sure they know how to safely load and unload it. DeGeorge at Eager Beaver concludes, "You can’t let the need to get the rental override safety."