March 1, 2006
The rules that apply to trailer towing are similar to those for RV towing. Basically, the towing vehicle and its trailer form a single united vehicle, though a hitch is involved. This reduces the margin for error, since what happens to the towing vehicle happens to the trailer, and vice versa – instantaneously.
Most trailer-towing vehicles employ a ball-and-coupler hitch. Though there may be variations, this type of hitch is basically a ball at the rear of the tow vehicle that latches into an A-shaped socket at on the front of the trailer. In certain cases, like boat and travel trailers, a load-distributing hitch is commonly used. These, as the name implies, spread the load as equally as possible over both the tow vehicle and the trailer.
Other variations are the fifth-wheel trailer and the motorcycle trailer, which are designed on different lines. However, whatever tow vehicle-trailer combination is used, special driving skills and parameters are necessary. While driving a trailer-towing vehicle, it is advisable to stick as much to the center of the road as possible. Uneven roads present a greater-than-usual hazard and must be maneuvered with skill and care.
The tow vehicle, no matter whether it is handling humans or goods, should never be loaded to exceed the GVWR or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. The GVWR includes the payload, the weight of the hitch, and the vehicle’s curb weight. The GAWR or Gross Axle Weight Rating, which determines the distribution over all involved axles, must also be observed.
Loading the trailer is a matter of precision, since approximately ten to fifteen percent of the load should fall over the hitching mechanism to avoid road shimmy during transit. In addition, the coupler between the tow vehicle and the trailer should be of a design that reduces such shimmying. Finally, correct inflation of all tires in the combination must be ensured en route at all times.
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