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Police: Hitch trailers up securely for a safe ride

June 7, 2011

Punxsutawney Borough Police officer Ryan Miller is shown inspecting the trailer hitch for the SERT trailer at the Central Fire Department. Police said many trailer hitches that are used to haul small or light trailers or transport light equipment are improperly attached, which could cause an accident. Any drivers who are unsure should contact the Borough Police to see if their trailers are safe to take on the road. (Larry McGuire/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — With the summer traveling season upon us, many drivers will be hauling various sized trailers on area highways. The question is, are those trailers safe?

Punxsutawney Borough Police officer Kirk Brudnock, a trained expert regarding trailer safety, said many trailers both large and small are improperly hitched up.

Brudnock said one of the most important pieces of equipment involved with the hitch is the safety chains.

The chains have to be heavy enough to support the weight of the trailer, Brudnock said, adding that the hooks on the end have to be constructed to be able to handle the load that trailer is carrying.

Brudnock said the safety catches on the hitch that are located adjacent to the ball also have locking mechanisms where the driver would put a pin through it to secure it.

Drop hitches are a good thing and help to keep the trailer running straight, he said. Motorists need to get the proper drop so the trailer is running straight and level.

"You can't have the back of the trailer riding too low," Brudnock said. "It depends on your load, because the load can cause the trailer to ride low, and it can weigh down the rear end of the pickup truck or whatever type of vehicle you are towing the trailer with."

Brudnock said not every motorist will use the same type of hitch. A heavy load could obviously weigh a vehicle or trailer down, he said.
"You've got to take into consideration (that) every time the driver hooks the trailer up, they should consider the weight of the load (the vehicle) is hauling," Brudnock said, adding that securing the load is one of the most important preparations the hauler can make.

If the trailer has a gate on it and there are side rails to contain the load, that would be fine, he said. If the load is not contained by the trailer itself, then it has to be secured with ratchet straps.

Brudnock said that most of the commercial haulers who make their living hauling items on a trailer keep them up fairly well.

Most of the infractions, however, come from someone who hooks up a utility trailer several times a year, someone who is not aware that drivers need certain types of safety equipment in place.

Shawn Houck, PennDOT District 10 safety officer, said a driver may have a highly rated trailer hitch, but the ball is rated for a lesser amount.
"It always goes by the lesser amount, the weakest link in your entire trailer towing system," Houck said, adding that it may be the hitch, the ball or the actual attachment to the pickup truck that determines how much a driver can haul safely.

Brudnock said everything will be labeled to what the capacity is.
"Once the trailer is hooked up to the ball, you have to test it and make sure there isn't any movement in there," he said.

For more information or to have a trailer inspected, contact borough police.

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