Selecting an equipment trailer might seem straightforward, but things aren't always what they seem. There are a lot of manufacturers today producing various types of trailers, so knowing what you need from a trailer is crucial when starting the selection process.
When choosing a trailer for hauling equipment, rental businesses need to take into account their customer base and size as well as the type and weight of their equipment. Gary Knudson with Towmaster describes a couple of scenarios that might face a rental business when choosing a trailer.
"A customer base of professional contractors that drive ¾- and 1-ton pickups that might rent a mini excavator with attachments would be best served with a tilt-bed trailer with a stationary deck," says Knudson. "This type of trailer would have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of around 16,000 pounds, hauling about 8,000 to 10,000 pounds of load with electric brakes. The stationary deck could carry the attachments and the main tilt deck would carry the mini excavator, as an example.
"A customer with a less heavy-duty towing vehicle renting a small skid-steer loader with a pallet fork attachment might be best served with a ramp-style trailer with pallet fork holders," continues Knudson. "This trailer would have a GVWR of 9,990 pounds, hauling about 5,000 to 7,000 pounds, and possibly equipped with hydraulic surge brakes or remote controlled electric brakes."
Obviously it's important to know what you want from a trailer. In order to get the most value from your investment, it's best to look beyond the rated payload capacity to other factors that can impact an equipment trailer's performance.
According to Christian Baillie, Eastern Regional sales manager with JLG Industries Inc., versatility, capacity, quality and brake configurations should be at the top of your list when selecting a trailer. "You have to rent units that will meet the requirements of a variety of customers," he explains. "You have to make sure that you have units that are wide enough and long enough to rent with other equipment."
So, where should you start?
There are many factors to consider when selecting a trailer. Options can include the type of ramp, type of flooring, type of tongue jack, siderails and tailgates, tie-downs, winches, spare tires and more. Even the type of coupler will need to be decided: a 2-inch coupler is the most common, but one might need a 2 5/16-inch coupler because of the trailer load capacity.
Speaking of capacity, what will be carried on the trailer needs to be the first item considered. Be careful not to underestimate the weight of what you will be carrying. Take into account full gas tanks, accessories and added attachments that might be carried.
Size is also important. Be careful the trailer is not too small — dimension-wise it should carry your load. Take into account the configuration of the equipment or load to be carried. Because of the weight distribution of the equipment, which can vary significantly when attachments are added, you'll need a trailer large enough so that equipment can be positioned to give proper tongue loads. Insufficient tongue weight will cause dangerous swaying and unsafe towing.
Beyond the basic features, suppliers suggest comparing construction quality and design factors. Structural integrity in design, such as one-piece frames to limit the number of butt or joint welds, is important.
Other quality factors include the maximum design width between the fenders, within the constraints of 102-inch overall legal limit width, which is important to allow a broad range of equipment to be hauled. Designs that allow the movement of the rear loading ramps to move in and out to accommodate varying wheel treads as well as spring-assisted lift devices on the ramps for the operator are helpful. Axle placement on the trailer is crucial to ensure proper and safe towing.