Towing Trailers is Dangerous

Discussion in 'Tow Vehicles, Hitch & Towing' started by Dan from Troup, Aug 5, 2018.

  1. Dan from Troup

    Dan from Troup Well-Known Member

    Apr 25, 2018
    Troup, Texas
    This topic; towing trailers is dangerous, is intended to be a sobering reminder of the risks and responsibilities towing our campers.

    Have you ever lost your trailer while towing? Well I have and its happened to me twice. I'm telling these stories on myself to help raise awareness of the dangers of pulling a trailer.

    Some years back I pulled into our local lumber yard with my 16ft. flat bed trailer and loaded up lumber and concrete block for one of my construction jobs. As I pulled out of the yard onto a short dirt driveway that led to a 4 lane highway, my trailer passed me. I looked out the drivers window of my PU with total horror. I was freaking out and felt totally helpless as it was unfolding so fast and I couldn't stop it. The trailer crossed the highway which is also in town and normally has allot of traffic. Fortunately it was just after school started as 15 min. earlier, this may have been fatal. With over #5000 pounds of construction materials it zero'd in on the front door of a restaurant across the street. A brand new red dually PU was parked out front and took the hit and shielded the front door of the cafe from impact. This runaway monster hit the backend and wrapped the bumper under the truck. A couple of burly dudes run out as it was their truck that got hit. The first thing they did was look at the bull dog hitch and asked me if I put the pin in. I sheepishly said, "I think so", but in truth I hadn't. Fortunately for all, no one was hurt. A lesson learned in checking the hitch before driving off.

    A few years back we drove to Maine on a family vacation towing a HF trailer that I had built a cargo box on to haul our camping gear. Our station wagon was a gutless beast that labored going up hills so I usually went faster going down the hills to get over the next. I felt that familiar trailer wag as I looked in the mirror and watched my little camping trailer sway back and forth. I reduced speed but it was too late as the trailer broke away from our car and hit the V ditch in the middle of the freeway and exploded as I watched lawn chairs, tent, sleeping bags and all our clothes were catapulated into the air. I quickly pulled over and instantly went to the rear of the car and the tongue of the trailer was still attached to the ball. The tongue had sheared the bolts that attached it to the frame. The trailer was totaled as we left it in the ditch in Hot Springs Arkansas.

    So, for one who makes his living as a general contractor and frequently tows, I can say from experience that towing a trailer is dangerous and a sobering reminder of the risks involved. Hopefully my story may help you too to take this very seriously.
  2. brokenotbroken

    brokenotbroken Member

    Mar 29, 2016
    Northwest Florida
    Good reminders, thanks! On my last trip I realized, once I got home, that I left my crank handle in the receptacle for the whole drive back. 7 hour drive at highway speeds with that thing sticking out the back bumper. Had that crank handle popped out, it could have ruined someone's day.
    Dan from Troup likes this.
  3. terry1419

    terry1419 Active Member

    Mar 6, 2016
    Streator, IL
    Anyone who tows, whether for commercial or personal reasons, should be in the habit of double checking everything at every opportunity. SOP in my book.
  4. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Well-Known Member

    May 28, 2018
    Good reminder!

    When I had my first trailer, I forgot to lock the coupler down. I pulled out of the driveway and immediately felt the pop as the coupler let go of the ball. Thank heavens I was just pulling out of the driveway and not heading down the freeway when it happened.

    Now I have a coupler lock and it's the last piece I put on - making sure the coupler is seated correctly.

    I also just replaced the caribiners on the tow chains for good solid tow hooks. Had one caribiner break on the last trip and want to ensure the best quality parts. Picked up extra cotter pins also - never know when you might need a replacement one.
    Dan from Troup likes this.
  5. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

    Oct 10, 2013
    Northern Virginia
    Before every trip I circle around the whole setup double checking to see if everything is plugged in, lights on, chains connected etc. I also check my tow vehicle and make sure everything looks good with that as well just before a trip. Towing is a very serious event, but so is driving. After a long trip it is easy enough to zone out. I will tell you the first time I felt the camper sway, it was a wake up call. Thankfully it wasn't swaying too bad but on a mountain pass with not much than a guard rail preventing you from tumbling over. It made the rest of the trip white knuckle until I was off that mountain.
  6. sleach

    sleach A short run will get you within walking distance.

    May 17, 2014
    Boulder, Colorado
    I emulate my General Aviation friends. These light plane pilots do a safety walk around before every takeoff. Have never found a problem in hitch, lights, etc, but the practice has saved me from replacing a vent cover a couple times. Time well invested!
    jmkay1 likes this.
  7. emoney

    emoney Well-Known Member

    Jul 7, 2018
    I’m so OCD that when I forget something the DW calls in the entire family and they do a “Are you all right” intervention. I walk the camper 3 times and even then I want to stop the truck and quadruple make sure. When I’m pulling a trailer i constantly check the mirrors. With this new truck, it’s got a rear window defroster so those lines come in handy making sure the trailer is level too.
    jmkay1 and Sjm9911 like this.
  8. Fuzzy Bear

    Fuzzy Bear Active Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Norwalk CT
    I'm always very cautious when I'm getting ready to tow. I usually do the hook up while the DW does the last minute packing. I'll circle the camper half a dozen times checking all the latches, electrical connections, chains and hitch connections. Once hitched up I will crank down the front wheel until it slightly lifts the truck a bit to ensure it's locked down tight. Then after checking the lights for the third or fourth time I'll lift up on the a-frame to ensure it hasn't somehow become disengaged. We usually take the same route to get out of our area so I have a place (large parking lot of an office building I do a lot of work at) about 15 miles from home, that I always pull into to do my double check and make sure everything is still looking good. Then whenever we stop for any reason I do the complete check again just to be sure.

    On our last trip we were driving along and I was checking the mirrors and it must have been just the right angle of the road, when I looked into the rear view mirror I didn't see the trailer. As I was beginning to freak out I checked the side mirrors and there it was. The road leveled out and it was back in the rear view mirror and my heart began to beat once again.
    hayyward and emoney like this.
  9. J Starsky

    J Starsky Well-Known Member

    Aug 3, 2017
    East Central MN
    Lost an empty tow dolley once, just unloaded a car from it. Sherriff across the intersection from us as well. Shoved itself under my Tahoe... Don't trust other to do for yourself what needs to be done!
    hayyward likes this.
  10. Dan from Troup

    Dan from Troup Well-Known Member

    Apr 25, 2018
    Troup, Texas
    Excellent advice as I remember now what else I did wrong; I didn't connect the safety chains either on the runaway trailer. I can also recall some of my employees hooking up the trailer for me as I backed up the truck. Got it back home and found they too didn't insert the pin in the bull dog hitch either. My fault for not re-checking them. When I'm driving I give those towing a wide berth and will not drive side by side or follow behind if I can help it. I even had a wheel come off my trailer once and bounced down the road and passed me too. Smashed into a Suburban at at an intersection and crushed the driver's door. The lady was fuming and thought she was going to clobber me, fortunately I knew here. Watched a runaway boat/trailer going down the freeway in Houston once. So many stories to tell about trailers and many of you have yours to tell too.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2018
  11. WrkrBee

    WrkrBee Well-Known Member

    May 23, 2018
    South Carolina
    I've never lost one, but my son lost our old 18" runabout once. Ended up in a cornfield and was able to drag it out with ropes and chains. I found out about it a couple of years later. He's never lost another trailer.
  12. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

    Oct 10, 2013
    Northern Virginia
    I was behind a truck pulling a boat over the mountains with zero places to pull over. Very tight mountain roads with guard rails all the way. The boat trailer lost a tire, just the tire the rim was still on. No idea how that was possible. Well with absolutely zero places to pull over they continued driving slowly. Sparks flying every which direction. I slowed way way down used my blinkers to caution everyone behind me. Its amazing it was still tracking fairly well considering there was nothing there. Just as an open section in the road for him to pull over the remaining rim sheered off and it went flying down the mountain cliff. His boat trailer sitting on the spindle with nothing left. Sadly I had no way of assisting him myself. I'm pretty sure in order to get that boat/trailer off they would need a tow truck. That's assuming trucks are allowed down that particular pass.
  13. Toedtoes

    Toedtoes Well-Known Member

    May 28, 2018
    There are many accidents waiting to happen out there. My dad had a heart attack while driving a freeway in major city traffic. Fortunately, he was NOT towing the 30+ft 5er at the time, and had a friend with him who could get him off the roadway safely.

    Whether it's forgetting to hook something (amazing how many parts there are to a hitch), something breaking, medical emergency, your own actions, or someone else's actions, a trailer accident can be just moments away.

    I keep to a slower speed when towing. I hear many (including my dad) who tow at high speeds and I just don't get that. I'm not in that big a hurry. Maybe it helps having the clipper - I got used to slow speeds and being passed often. Now it's no big deal.

    I will mention that I notice fewer other drivers trying to cut in between the FnR and the SUV than I did with the TT. I started looking around and I can see how that happens. There are many motorhomes on the roads these days and from the rear, they look very much like TTs and 5ers. Popups and the FnR and teardrops are very easy to identify as trailers. So folks know there is an attached vehicle in front of them, whereas the others aren't so obvious and lead to folks assuming a motorhome and trying to cut in front. Another potential accident.
  14. Lanternman

    Lanternman Active Member

    Aug 17, 2017
    Mooresville NC
    Never lost a trailer while in motion, but forgot to latch an enclosed trailer down once, was loading an engine in the trailer, and as soon as that thing hit the loading ramp, up went the nose of the trailer......right up the tailgate of the truck Id just bought, bottom to top, down to bare metal, and of course right back down the opposite direction when I quickly pulled the engine back down the ramp. I left the gate like that til the day I sold the truck as a reminder to check everything twice!
  15. landon6062

    landon6062 Active Member

    Jun 15, 2018
    South Carolina
    wow thanks for sharing your story Dan.. very good reminder.
  16. toyotaspeed90

    toyotaspeed90 Member

    Aug 7, 2018
    If you start to get trailer wag - what I've always done is speed up.

    With trailer wag, your trailer is tranferring its weight left to right as you try to move forward with the vehicle. Slowing down or hitting the breaks at any sway moment could cause/allow the trailer to continue in its efforts to sway left or right, exaggerating the weight transfer that direction as you slow. Although the trailer is attached, it has a pivot point.

    Example- trailer starts to wag badly - you press the brakes trying to slow down. Trailer had just swayed to the left. With your vehicle braking, the pivot point is slowing down,but the trailer and transferred weight (to the left) can actually do just the opposite - speed up.

    Think about when you're in a boat, towing someone in a tube. The physics of it are exaggerated due to a long line, but same principle. Boat is going straight, tube goes straight. Boat turns right, tuber accelerates to the left FASTER than the boat. The tuber doesn't affect direction of the boat as the weight variance/transfer isnt enough to affect the boat.

    That's why I speed up, to control the direction of the trailer.

    Once you've sped up and wag stopped, then slow down by getting off the accelerator.

    If you get a ton of wag, good chance the trailer is loaded rear heavy.
  17. jnc

    jnc Welcome from New Hampshire

    I just want to let you know that the safest way to stop the wiggle is to apply the TRAILER BRAKES specially when the trailer is about to pass you.
    durhamcamper and BelchFire like this.
  18. toyotaspeed90

    toyotaspeed90 Member

    Aug 7, 2018
    I was going to include a variance between trailer types (as not all have brakes). I have never had major wag as I watch any trailer I tow like a hawk.

    I have some racing experience and I can feel it through the car before it starts.

    Had a trip with a family member... we were helping move him across states. When he drove, it was the thing of nightmares feeling the continual response of the vehicle/trailer on the verge of losing it. I think the drive was 10 hours, of which I drove 6.5, and he drove primarily in the flat. At one point I could read the side of the trailer in my passenger mirror...
    jnc likes this.
  19. rabird

    rabird Howdy!

    Mar 3, 2006
    Crossing the street is dangerous.


    After some state highway traffic death research brought on by highway signs displaying total death count thus far in 2018 (1875 TX deaths displayed on last trip on the 'interstates'), I was amazed at the number of pedestrians deaths due to vehicle accidents. I don't have a source of PU trailer deaths but it seemed being a pedestrian near traffic is dangerous!
  20. hayyward

    hayyward Active Member

    Sep 16, 2006
    Towing is serious business indeed. I call it "piloting". I tow our PUP by myself half the time, but even with DH, when he hooks up, I go right behind him to verify everything is status quo. When leaving a campsite, I pull to the end of the site, get out to see if everything has 'settled' properly. I do a walk around the camper double-checking, and a walk around the site too, to look for bits of trash or forgotten items. I also do a camper/TV walk around at every stop.

    And I absolutely HATE the RV commercials where everyone on board is having a party while driving down the road! It's just wrong to portray pulling an RV that way! I don't want to ever share a road with those people!! Just because someone can get a loan to buy the rig doesn't mean they have the ability to tow it.

    That is one reason this forum is so important. Everyone's experiences makes us all the wiser. I thank you all for sharing. [CC]

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