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Trailer Towing Basics

Driving with a trailer, just some thoughts.

Re: Trailer Towing Basics

Postby NavyCharles24 » Sep 14 2017, 2:19pm

Great information. I just bought a New ( Used ) Chevy and it has the Tow Option and folks let me tell you this, I am downright scared of hauling something! The bucking and jerking and bouncing and the Red Lights and Jerks on the Road, the combination of it all, spooks me. I am overtly cautious by nature and profession but still. Scary folks. This topic is a good and forceful reminder. THANK YOU.
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Re: Trailer Towing Basics

Postby adriver » Oct 26 2017, 11:26am

Babies_Dadeo wrote:Trailering…

I am going to throw this out there because I have seen some things on the highways this past weekend that truth be told, scare the hell out of me. In my time in the oilfield I have hauled around some really serious loads. 120 feet long and upwards of 200,000 lbs. I know that a holiday trailer is not a trucking load, but the basic driving techniques still apply. So, you can take this information for what it is, but if it makes people think a little bit I have done what I hoped to do.
I will assume for now that we have all done the math, weighed our toys and know that what we have as a rig is within the limits of both the GVW and GCVW. We will move right forward to actually hauling it.

-Slow down. A simple rule of thumb is that if you weigh twice as much you will take 4 times as far to stop. As hard as this is for a lot of people to comprehend when you are pulling a sizeable rig down the road you need to be aware that there is no such thing as an emergency maneuver. You will not be dodging around animals or other obstacles in the road.



Trucker are taught from day one that when you encounter wildlife on a roadway, slow down as much as possible but stay on the same line. If that means you take the animal, do it. Much of the time when you see a truck laid over in the ditch, it is because the driver tried to do something with his rig that it was simply unable to do. Slower speed will allow you to have more time to react to a situation and be able to get stopped safely.



-Look 2 to 4 times further up the road then you normally do. As mentioned, your reaction time with a trailer will be nowhere near what it is empty. If you look further up the road you will be able to see situations develop with time to actually react to it. Believe it or not if you are focusing further ahead, you will actually have less problems with sway as well. Your rig will pull straighter and you will have a lot more control over your vehicle.
-Plan your moves and leave an escape route. If you have a trailer behind you, you will not be able to simply zip in and out of traffic like normal. Lane changes and turns will need to be prepared for long before you get there. This will allow you to move more smoothly through crowded roadways and not leave you stuck in a wrong lane waiting for a hole big enough to fit into. As I have mentioned, there is no such thing as a successful emergency maneuver with a big trailer behind you. Think of it like a whip, you move the tow vehicle 5 feet one direction quickly and that trailer is gonna whip with a lot more force then you realize to try and follow. Then it is gonna push back the other direction, instinct will make you jerk the wheel back in front of the trailer, but by then it has started back the other way and the whip effect multiplies. As you drive always be aware that you might need to get out of the way in a hurry, know where the traffic is around you and have a plan in the back of your mind.
-Corners. The way we teach new drivers is to” steer with the trailer”. As we all know, the trailer is going to track inside of your truck. The amount of track is going to be determined by the distance between the rear wheels of the truck and the wheels of the trailer. As you go around a corner, keep an eye of the trailer tires and allow their distance from the curb to determine the amount of steering you do with the truck. As everyone says… “Take it wide”, but always be aware of where those trailer tires are.
-Washboard, train tracks, rough road. Washboard is an offroad truckers worst nightmare. You can be hauling a huge, heavy load and washboard will still make your truck do wild things. The basic here is that the drive wheels of your pull unit is going to start hopping and go straight sideways (99% of the time to the passenger side) causing the trailer to feel like it is jack-knifing, the driver corrects and the maneuver whip process starts like mentioned above. This can happen on train tracks, cross road ruts etc. The only way to stop it from happening is to slow down. If you are looking ahead as we all should be, you will see it coming and be able to slow down enough for it. If it catches you by surprise and things go south on ya, do not panic, and do not slam on the brakes. Let up on the throttle, and altho it sounds stupidly simple, “Drive your truck” Do NOT do anything dramatic, just GENTLY work to keep the truck in front of the trailer. If you have the time to react and it will not come in line, you may be able to use the trailer brake to pull it straight. But above all, Do not panic and do your best to “drive the truck”.
-Passing. Simple answer here is just don’t do it. However… back here in the real world its gonna happen. Your truck is not going to perform like it does empty. Assuming you have a fair size trailer, you are going to need 3 to 4 times as much road to pass someone as you would with just the truck. Be aware of this and only attempt to pass when you are 100% sure you can do it. Always ensure that you are well clear of the vehicle you are trying to pass before dropping back into the lane you were in. Make your lane changes gently and predictably. As discussed that sway and whip factor is always in play. If you are passing a semi, be aware that he is pushing a huge wind wave in front of him and that wind may push your trailer around. Plan for it and “Drive the truck through it”
-Backing up. The bane of a lot of trailer towers existence. Practice practice practice. If you buy a new trailer you would be well served by spending some time in an empty parking lot learning to make it go where you want it to go. If possible always use a spotter. Spend the time with your spotter developing a set of hand signals so that you can communicate clearly with that person. Don’t over steer your truck. For most situations, you should not have to turn your wheels more than half to ¾ of a turn to get the trailer to turn for you. This will allow you to “get back under it” or “straighten out” fast enough that you do not overshoot the turn you are trying to make. So… your spotter… If they are behind you or anywhere near your truck or trailer directing you and you lose sight of them… STOP! Every year in the trucking industry, both Heavy Haul and Highway, Many people die because they were crushed while directing someone. I have heard a number of stories of this happening in campgrounds all over Canada. Don’t let it happen to you.
As I said, You can take this advice as you wish, but if I could ask anything of people out there hauling travel trailers, 5th wheels etc. (Myself included) It would be this… Understand your rig and how you need to adjust your driving behaviors to drive it safely and Use proper care and attention behind the wheel. We buy these things to enjoy with our friends and family and the hundreds of wrecks and deaths involving rvs every year need to make us think. I for one want to come home at the end of a great camping trip and go back to regular life, not have my relatives planning funerals and identifying bodies.



I wanted to share my opinion on this. It is obviously going to depend on the situation, (and this had a lot more to do with older vehicles that larger suspension travel), but I have always understood it as "Slow down if you can. If its a quick decision with little room such as a deer or elk coming off the side of the road, not only do you not want to slow down, but you want to give it gas. The purpose is to keep your inertia going so less force is transferred to your vehicle, but also to keep the front end up. Its common for deer or elk to get hit, roll up on to the hood, and get there legs stuck in to the windshield, right at your heads. They are strong resilient animals and will just keep on kicking. Lets be real about it, if you are going to hit a deer at 55-75mph, unless you can slow down to 5 or 10mph you're still going to hurt that thing bad. This is not so much a worry for semi-truck drivers as it is for anyone in a pickup or a car. I wont necessarily say someone SHOULD be doing it one way or the other, but TO ME its one of those things that I believe will become habit. So its best to learn how to do it when you don't have time to think about it.

Even here in Arizona I have gone from Phoenix to Flagstaff, 120 miles away and a 5,000ft elevation climb. There are blind mountain curves along the way, and twice I have seen cows that had NO barriers between them and the road, and were grazing less than 5 feet from me when I passed them doing 80 (75mph speed limit) and didn't see them until a car length away. Had I even tried to brake before it, I would have caused my own wreck.




Also, when you are guiding someone back;
1. Make sure the guide and the driver know if you would like to tell them when to turn the wheel or if they are just guiding the angle of the trailer. A driver is going to be able to see his vehicle better than one guide.
2. When the vehicle is going straight back to a precise spot, such as lining up a trailer hitch, and is 2-3 feet away; put your hands up as if you actually caught a fish that big. Work your hands in with the distance (get closer to your real size). Don't just keep waving someone back, but try to show them how much room they have.
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Re: Trailer Towing Basics

Postby Copperhead » Dec 24 2017, 5:38pm

Unless you put a Ali-Arc or Dakota front end protection bumper/grill guard on.
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Re: Trailer Towing Basics

Postby HD25006.0 » Jun 02 2019, 4:11am

New member here and my first post. Great advice for us all, enjoyed the read. My 5 cents... make sure that tow vehicle has proper and plenty of tread and good working brakes.
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Re: Trailer Towing Basics

Postby augiemattheiss » Dec 12 2020, 5:21pm

Great post, I'd like to add that I am amazed that RV'ers don't prioritize good tires and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Loads of stories about "China bomb" tires failing, expensive damage to trailer body, ... not to mention the fact that people may be killed.
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Re: Trailer Towing Basics

Postby roorancher » Dec 12 2020, 5:30pm

If you need a guide or even two to back up a trailer, you shouldn't be towing it.
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Trailer Towing Basics

Postby 660catman » Dec 13 2020, 1:18am

Deleted post after realizing it contributed nothing


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Re: Trailer Towing Basics

Postby adriver » Dec 13 2020, 1:30am

In a thread called Trailer Towing BASICS... Would you two prefer to be called haters or snobs?

Just trying to help people start out and learn right. You don't tell someone in drivers ed to punch it to see what its got.
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