He continues, “I remember it well because I had to unload the trailer, fix the tires, and then dispose of the shingles myself.”
The moral of the story, again, is that customers don’t know what they don’t know and that rental stores have to impress upon them what a trailer’s capacity really is. Even then, once the trailer leaves the yard, the rental businesss has no control over how the trailer will be towed or used.
Braking and more
Regulations governing the use of trailers can be confusing. Trailers rented for consumer application fall under state laws, and these regulations vary from state to state. Commercial application falls under federal statutes. The regulations apply to everything from lights, vehicle mirrors, and decals to maximum heights, widths, and trailer capacities, including when individual axle brakes are required.
Most rental stores will rent trailers that require supplemental braking, either in the form of surge or electric brakes. As NATM’s Lancaster notes, states do not agree on a GVWR for supplemental brakes. More than 30, however, set the limit at 3,000 pounds, but others are all over the board. The issue is further complicated by how the trailer is used (i.e., for consumer or commercial application).
“To be in compliance, rental stores need to be knowledgeable about federal regulations as well as their state’s laws governing the use of trailers,” he adds. “To remove some of the gray area between commercial and consumer application, it is advisable that all trailers over 3,000-pound GVWR be equipped with brakes on all axles.”
He also advocates surge over electric brakes, mentioning that not all rental businesses can accommodate installing a controller for the latter. Furthermore, since surge brakes operate independently from the tow vehicle, any vehicle hitched to a trailer equipped with surge brakes has axle braking.
Even though trailers are popular rentals for businesses, they are not your everyday rental product. Customers often need coaching on hitching and towing procedures, as well as a primer on the trailer’s capacity and what it can and cannot carry. Like any other item in your store, once it leaves the yard, only the customer knows how it will be used. Protecting your inventory and reducing your liability depends on renting a quality product, being vigilant with maintenance, and understanding both state and federal regulations that govern the use of trailers.