Hotshot and independent truckers likely know a thing or two about moving freight. In fact, connecting a trailer is probably second nature to a truck driver, especially if they’re running their own operation.
Yet, despite the perceived ease of proper hauling practices, even the most experienced of drivers may need a quick reminder on some of these techniques. A simple or seemingly minor mishap can have extensive consequences, from both a financial and physical standpoint.
Here are four tips haulers should keep in mind each time they pick up new cargo:
1. Get familiar with your hitch: The hitch is the small piece of metal between your truck and the freight it’s pulling, so drivers need to know the ins and outs of their hitches. There are four different classes of trailer hitches, with each level having a different rating and weight threshold. Different hitches will likely vary in size as well, meaning the tow ball mounts will either increase or decrease with each class. While this isn’t new information, truckers must still resist the temptation to use a trailer that’s a different size than their hitch – even if it’s close. Remember, losing a customer’s cargo can not only impact a driver’s pockets, but others on the road as well.
2. Don’t push the weight: A truck, a hitch and a trailer are all designed to withstand a certain amount of weight, give or take a few pounds. Though there may be a little leeway for hauling a heavy load, it’s dangerous and ill-advised to try and tow too much. Not only are you endangering others on the road, your truck and equipment may suffer as a result, which could impact business in the near future. Heavier loads take more fuel to pull, and putting extra stress on a truck’s frame will only hurt its performance in the long run. As tempting as it is to try and fit a load in one haul, if there’s just too much cargo, make time for an extra trip.
3. Brakes are incredibly important: Most modern-day trailers have the necessary wiring and technology to hook up to a truck’s brake light system. However, if your truck is older and you need to buy a controller, it’s best to make a high-end investment, according to service magazine Popular Mechanics. Cheaper controllers are typically timer-based, which can cause a delay between the actual braking action and the light flashing on the attached trailer. Proportional brake controllers match the trailer brake output to the towed vehicle’s deceleration. At the end of the day, taking the safest measures possible is the best way to go. What’s more, Popular Mechanics recommends drivers adjust the gain on a trailer-brake controller. The trailer shouldn’t feel as if it’s dragging the truck’s performance down. On the other hand, the truck shouldn’t be doing all the braking work either. Striking the right balance will drastically help towing performance.
4. Don’t be a jerk on the road: Hotshot deliveries are typically needed in an expedited manner, so it’s easy for drivers to try and rush to meet a specific deadline. However, regardless of what you’re towing, it’s important to not be overly aggressive. In fact, it’s best practice to give traffic a little extra cushion and brake well in advance so the cargo isn’t jarred loose. The inertia of the trailer may make it more challenging to stop suddenly, which is another thing to keep in mind. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also suggests drivers avoid passing on narrow roads or going onto a soft shoulder, the latter of which could lead to control issues.