Safety Is No Accident
Travel trailer transport can be dangerous. There's so many variables to be aware of, and conditions can change instantly. So how do we minimize our chances of an accident?
Easy. Know your limits.
Knowing your limits will keep you and others safe. Often times when we are pressing our limits, we make decisions that are influenced by emotion rather than logic. This is not an area you want to find yourself in when you're trying to drive down the road in heavy winds, with a 40' 5th wheel camper behind you. Likely, that large 5th wheel camper weighs more than your truck - sometimes twice as much. Don't you think it deserves a bit of respect?
We've all seen it... Flipped over trailers on the side of the interstate. No one wants to be in that situation, and so we must understand how to avoid it. But not everything is in our control. For instance, weather is a powerful and unpredictable force, no matter if its snow, wind, rain, or even sunlight in your eyes. While we can't control the weather, the good news is there are things you can do to drastically reduce your chances of an accident:
How obvious this one may seem, but this is where emotion can really take over logic. You want to get home, or to your destination, as quickly as possible. It's windy out, and it's been raining for the past hour. You're exhausted, and each time you slow down you feel like you're wasting time, crawling down the interstate. And hey, the speed limit is 75 mph, so you're not doing anything illegal by setting the cruise there.
But consider this... what if something happens that's completely out of your control? What if a wind gust puts your trailer into a sway condition that you can't control? What if you start hydroplaning around a curve? What if someone cuts you off? That never happens!
These all sound like pretty inconvenient scenarios. Speed reduces the amount of time you can react. It also increases instability in your trailer. Your chances of hydroplaning go up substantially the faster you go. Speed is also one of the biggest factors that contribute to trailer sway. Not usually a desirable characteristic when towing...
Keep your focus on the road. There is a reason wrecks are called accidents. Things happen.
It can be mentally draining towing for miles and hours. Add in some heavy winds, traffic, etc., and it can seriously drain your mental capacity. We are all well aware that we're not as sharp when we're tired. Have you ever looked over for a second, only to hear the beautiful notes of the rumble strips below your tires? I'd bet anything you didn't intend to do that, but it still happened. Now imagine those rumble strips as a concrete barrier in a construction zone. Ouch.
Take it seriously. When you're towing, the dynamics of your vehicle will be influenced by the large, heavy trailer attached to your bumper or 5th wheel. It's the "what if" that will get you every time. Imagine your trailer blowing a tire while you're munching down on a hamburger. Good luck! Concentrate on the task at hand, or it could mean disaster.
Know the limitations of your equipment, and keep it maintained. Bolts can back out, spring bars can eject from brackets, rust can take over, axles can lock up causing fires. Surprisingly, it's rare to see people even take the time to check tire pressures. Did you know low tires pressures are a major cause of blowouts? Cliché, but fitting: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Part of the equipment equation is your vehicle. Travel trailers are getting lighter and lighter. Manufacturers are building them this way so that folks with smaller trucks and SUVs can tow them. Regardless of how light some travel trailers are, you need to have the right vehicle to keep it safe. Things like a weight distribution hitch with anti-sway can drastically increase your stability. Sometimes, you just need a bigger truck, because running down the road towing at your vehicles maximum limit is not safe. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. With the proper equipment, the stress put on you, your vehicle, and your trailer is minimized.
This is a public service announcement brought to you by someone who sees way too many people pushing their limits when towing. Stay safe and keep truckin'