A customer wants to rent an equipment trailer? No big deal, right? Well, that depends on any number of variables, not the least of which is how much experience potential renters have towing and backing up a trailer, what they plan to haul, and where they plan to haul it.
“As a rental store, you are the expert charged with protecting renters from themselves,” says Tim Masud, owner of Golden Gait Trailers in Concord, NC. “Hence, renting a trailer is not a quick rental. Customers may show up to rent a 20-foot trailer with an SUV or have no idea what size trailer they will require for their hauling needs. In addition to helping them match the trailer to the vehicle, you may have to supply a weight distribution hitch and an electric brake controller, among other items.”
He adds, “Before the trailer goes out of the yard, you have to make sure it is properly hitched, that the lights are working, and tires are in good shape and have the correct air pressure.”
Masud, who has been renting trailers for seven years, notes some customers might not understand how much weight a trailer can haul or how that weight needs to be distributed. “If the trailer has a 4,000-pound capacity, make sure the customer understands that the weight should be spread evenly on the trailer.”
Check the label
For rental businesses, minimizing challenges and avoiding trailer headaches begin long before the customer drives out of the yard. It starts with the trailer itself. “When purchasing a trailer, whether it’s for your own application around the rental yard, or part of a larger fleet purchase, look for the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM) compliance decal,” says Clint Lancaster, NATM Technical Director.
Trailers displaying these decals, he notes, have been verified by NATM to meet federal requirements and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Tires and wheel, brake components, lighting, reflectors and conspicuity, under ride protection and means to secure cargo are among items covered by the verification.
The decal also ensures the trailer meets all industry-accepted manufacturing standards and practices covering warning labels, electrical components couplers, and safety chains.
“If a trailer doesn’t have the decal, buyers need to determine for themselves that it meets the above requirements,” Lancaster emphasizes. “For example, the trailer’s wheels and tires require the correct load rating for the trailer size. The coupler has to be rated for the trailer capacity and the trailer has to be equipped with two independent safety chains, again matched to the trailer’s capacity.”
Other items to verify, he adds, include brakes on all axles if the trailer is rated more than 3,000 pounds GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating).
Even the best-built, quality-constructed trailers need to be maintained on a regular basis. Lancaster highlights maintenance practices in an article he wrote titled, Don’t Take Your Trailer For Granted: Developing a Trailer Maintenance System.
In the article, he describes a two-level system. The initial level involves a ‘walk-around’ immediately after the customer has returned the trailer to identify any damage. He writes, “Conducting this immediate maintenance inspection and identifying problems when the unit is returned provides the opportunity to service and repair the trailer before returning it to the field.”
The next level, he notes, is scheduled maintenance that may vary depending on the level of use. Ultimately, it would involve inspecting tire tread, lights, and the undercarriage as well as repacking bearings; checking brakes, hydraulics, hoses, and wiring; and periodically inspecting all welds and steel supports for stress and cracking.
He also advises rental stores to sand blast and paint frames to prevent rust and keep the fleet looking good and, last but not least, to keep good maintenance records.