Trailer Towing Safety

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Trailer Towing Safety

Postby madjack » Tue Dec 18, 2007 1:59 pm

I am sorry folks...I was cleaning up a double post and inadvertantly deleted this entire thread. :oops: :oops: :oops: ....my VERY bad...so instead of throwing rocks at em...can't we just start over...please...........
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I wondered what happened to the string on towing safety!

Postby eamarquardt » Tue Dec 18, 2007 2:14 pm

Where should I throw my rocks now?

I've called several CHP offices and not been able to get a "straight" answer. I called the DOT in Washington, spoke to an attorney (R.A.Scott, a pleasant gentleman who in his own words "knows nothing about nothing"). Alan (the apparent "Pro from Dover") at the CHP station at the top of the Grapevine (the huge hill on I-5 north of L.A.) was busy with the rain we're getting today. What he's doing with it, I'm not sure. So, I'll call him tomorrow when, hopefully, he won't be quite as busy with the rain.

Below is what I've found to date as far as brake requirments here in Ca. are. It appears that my setup meets the letter of the law and is redundant to boot.

Cheers,

Gus

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d12/vc26302.htm
Trailers
26302. (a) Every trailer or semitrailer, manufactured and first registered after January 1, 1940, and having a gross weight of 6,000 pounds or more and which is operated at a speed of 20 miles per hour or over shall be equipped with brakes.
(b) Every trailer or semitrailer manufactured and first registered after January 1, 1966, and having a gross weight of 3,000 pounds or more shall be equipped with brakes on at least two wheels.
(c) Every trailer or semitrailer manufactured after January 1, 1982, and equipped with air brakes shall be equipped with brakes on all wheels.
(d) Brakes required on trailers or semitrailers shall be adequate, supplemental to the brakes on the towing vehicle, to enable the combination of vehicles to comply with the stopping distance requirements of Section 26454.
(e) The provisions of this section shall not apply to any vehicle being used to support the boom or mast attached to a mobile crane or shovel.
Amended Ch. 774, Stats. 1981. Effective January 1, 1982.

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d12/vc26304.htm
Breakaway Brakes
26304. (a) Power brakes on any trailer or semitrailer manufactured after December 31, 1955, operated over public highways and required to be equipped with brakes shall be designed to be automatically applied upon breakaway from the towing vehicle and shall be capable of stopping and holding such vehicle stationary for not less than 15 minutes.
(b) Every new truck or truck tractor manufactured after December 31, 1955, operated over public highways and used in towing a vehicle shall be equipped with service brakes capable of stopping the truck or truck tractor in the event of breakaway of the towed vehicle.
Amended Ch. 733, Stats. 1972. Effective March 7, 1973.

http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/dl648/dl648pt12.htm
Trailer Brakes
In California, brakes are required on any trailer coach or camp trailer having a gross weight of 1500 lbs. or more. Usually the braking capacity on tow vehicles is good, however, it may not be good enough to safely stop the several hundred to several thousand additional pounds that your trailer weighs. Most conventional and fifth-wheel trailers have electric brakes, activated by a controller in the tow vehicle. The controller automatically coordinates the tow vehicle and trailer braking so the two systems work together when the brake pedal is applied.
The controller can also be helpful in stabilizing a trailer that sways because of bad road conditions. Manually applying the trailer brakes by using the hand lever on the controller will restabilize a trailer that is likely to sway.
Folding camping trailers and boat trailers are usually fitted with surge brake systems which operate separately from the tow vehicle's brakes. Surge brakes are applied by a mechanism attached to the receiver/ball connection. As the tow vehicle slows, the forward motion of the trailer compresses the mechanism which in turn applies the trailer brakes.
Motorcycle trailers do not need brakes unless the weight exceeds 1500 lbs. gross.

The rest of the post didn't make it due to lenght. See link for full text.
Last edited by eamarquardt on Tue Dec 18, 2007 6:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby halfdome, Danny » Tue Dec 18, 2007 2:31 pm

This web site is from the US Department of Transportation and is full of useful towing information. Full Document in pdf.:D Danny
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Postby caseydog » Tue Dec 18, 2007 3:27 pm

You West-coast guys have a lot of rules about towing, it seems. Here in Texas, most cops expect your trailer to have lights. The picky ones want the lights to work.

Beyond that, you would be amazed at what gets by as a trailer on Texas roadways. :o

And, I'm not really saying this as a joke. I see trailers on the road daily that look like an accident on wheels.

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Federal Regulations

Postby eamarquardt » Tue Dec 18, 2007 6:40 pm

I got a return call from Washington, D.C. and the fellow said there are no federal regulations on small trailers, only those involved in interstate commerce. So, we're down to state by state regulations.

More when I speak with "Alan" at the CHP.

Cheers,

Gus
The opinions in this post are my own. My comments are directed to those that might like an alternative approach to those already espoused.There is the right way,the wrong way,the USMC way, your way, my way, and the highway.
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"You can't handle the truth!"-Jack Nicholson "A Few Good Men"
"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. The Marines don't have that problem"-Ronald Reagan
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Postby angib » Tue Dec 18, 2007 7:11 pm

caseydog wrote:Here in Texas, most cops expect your trailer to have lights. The picky ones want the lights to work.

And the really, really picky ones want the trailer lights to show the same as the tow vehicle lights?

You should come to Yurp - with separate turn, brake and tail lights on trailers, the possible combinations of wrong lights is nearly limitless....

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Postby jplock » Tue Dec 18, 2007 7:26 pm

A good practice after 30 years with the phone company is doing a circle of saftey check to pick up the saftey cone before drivng off. This circle of saftey check can be adapted to teardrop towing even though there are no cones. While making your circle check the hitch, saftey chains, trailer plug,tires and etc. Check for objects that might have gotten under the trailer. Always use planned parking, and do drive through parking if possible. Don't back the trailer if you don't have to. Think Saftey!
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30 years

Postby eamarquardt » Tue Dec 18, 2007 9:16 pm

I got only 20 years with Ma Bell.

Cheers,

Gus
The opinions in this post are my own. My comments are directed to those that might like an alternative approach to those already espoused.There is the right way,the wrong way,the USMC way, your way, my way, and the highway.
"I'm impatient with stupidity. My people have learned to live without it." Klaatu-"The Day the Earth Stood Still"
"You can't handle the truth!"-Jack Nicholson "A Few Good Men"
"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. The Marines don't have that problem"-Ronald Reagan
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Electric and hydraulic brakes

Postby eamarquardt » Wed Dec 19, 2007 12:04 pm

Finally was able to find someone who knew what they were talking about!

What did I discover: CATCH 22

If the gross weight of the trailer is over 1500 pounds it's required to have brakes on one axle. Either electric or hydraulic will meet this requirement.
If there are brakes present, they must be operational. So, if I loan the trailer to someone without a brake controller, they are using the trailer with a set of non operational brakes, so "technically" they are not following the letter of the law and it is not "legal" even though if the electric brakes were not present, it would be legal.

I'm sure this is to discourage people from second guessing the builder of the trailer and not maintaining it properly and ensuring that all brakes that were installed by the manufacturer are maintained. Since this is a home built trailer (I built it) I am definately not trying to second guess the builder as I am the builder.

He did think it had it's advantages with two redundant systems impossible with hydraulic brakes.

So, the chances of ever getting a ticket are slim and none. If there was a problem, I'm sure even a dumb attorney could convince a judge or jury that the intent of the law was being followed.

I still think the setup has its merits and plan to leave it alone.

Cheers,

Gus
The opinions in this post are my own. My comments are directed to those that might like an alternative approach to those already espoused.There is the right way,the wrong way,the USMC way, your way, my way, and the highway.
"I'm impatient with stupidity. My people have learned to live without it." Klaatu-"The Day the Earth Stood Still"
"You can't handle the truth!"-Jack Nicholson "A Few Good Men"
"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. The Marines don't have that problem"-Ronald Reagan
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Catch 22 work around

Postby eamarquardt » Wed Dec 19, 2007 2:04 pm

Just spoke to a friend of mine (interesting guy as he has a "steam shovel" collection and lots of other steam powered stuff, all full size and the real McCoys, ha).

By installing a battery on the trailer (required for the electric break away anyway) and creating a setup that allows the installation of the electric controller on the trailer or the vehicle, one could have electric self contained brakes on the trailer. For short trips no charging of the battery would be required. For anyone borrowing the trailer for longer trips a 12 volt feed line could be rigged quickly. Thus, full compliance with the law, and 2 separate and redundant systems.

I'm offically done with this topic. Unless, of course, some prods me on a topic I just can't resist responding to.

Cheers,

Gus
The opinions in this post are my own. My comments are directed to those that might like an alternative approach to those already espoused.There is the right way,the wrong way,the USMC way, your way, my way, and the highway.
"I'm impatient with stupidity. My people have learned to live without it." Klaatu-"The Day the Earth Stood Still"
"You can't handle the truth!"-Jack Nicholson "A Few Good Men"
"Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. The Marines don't have that problem"-Ronald Reagan
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Postby S. Heisley » Thu Jan 17, 2008 3:03 pm

I'm sorry to have to be the one to throw a little dirt on the fire but there is something else to consider and I found it just in time before I started building my 5X8' Taj Mahal! :o

No matter what the Dept. of Motor Vehicles says, there may be more stringent rules that need to be followed. Those rules are usually found in the owner's manual of your towing vehicle. For instance, I drive a Toyota Tacoma and in the towing section of my owner's manual, it says I can tow up to 2000 lb. without a sway bar and more, with one. My mechanic says I can, too. However, I happened to look under the brakes and safety chains section, yesterday. There, it stated that if the total trailer weight exceeds 1000 lb. trailer brakes are required.

While people's welfare is most important, many think in terms of money first. So, please consider this: Insurance companies are constantly looking for loopholes to keep from paying off on claims. If someone is in an accident and it is found to have been caused by weight negligence, the insurance company probably would not pay off. Please check your towing vehicle's owner's manual; or, if you don't have it, try calling the manufacturer to get this important information. It might just save your life and keep your wallet fatter!

Meanwhile, I've gone back to the drawing board to try to figure out how to make my TTT more lightweight. :thinking:
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Postby jeep_bluetj » Thu Jan 17, 2008 4:50 pm

I have big brakes on the tent thing. My trailer is SIX feet by FIVE feet, weighs less than 500lbs unloaded and I STILL put brakes on it.

Why?

#1. Because I tow with a Jeep TJ, which is so short it gets pushed around by the traler alot.

#2. Because it's just plain safer.

#3. I worry less because I know when I mash the pedal I'll stop.

Safety isn't only about meeting the requirements. Safety is looking at your particular requirements and how to tow as safely as possible. If I tow the tent thing behind my expedition, I don't hook up the brakes. Wouldn't even know it if I did. But behind the jeep, they get hooked up and tested by the end of the block...

The state, federal, (Finnish or Canadian or whateever... ) requirements are a miniumim. We can all choose when and where exceeding these minimuims is a good idea.
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Re: Catch 22 work around

Postby Leon » Fri Jan 18, 2008 3:42 am

eamarquardt wrote:By installing a battery on the trailer (required for the electric break away anyway) and creating a setup that allows the installation of the electric controller on the trailer or the vehicle, one could have electric self contained brakes on the trailer. For short trips no charging of the battery would be required. For anyone borrowing the trailer for longer trips a 12 volt feed line could be rigged quickly. Thus, full compliance with the law, and 2 separate and redundant systems.

I don't see how this system would be compliant since "installation of the electric controller on the trailer" wouldn't allow for the required braking function to be manually controlled or monitored from the towing vehicle. That's why brake controllers are mounted under the dash and Never have I seen an "optional" mounting of one on the trailer. In case of an accident, that would probably be picked apart just as fast if not faster than not having brakes at all.

I don't worry about what would happen if I loaned any of my trailers out because that would never happen. Once I loaned out my car hauler and because the 7 pin plug would not fit his vehicle, he cut the plug off to rewire it. That was the first and last time I loaned out a trailer. I've hauled several cars for friends, but it was behind my tow vehicle because the wiring works that way, and I know how it tows with my vehicles. Plus, I always get my trailer home when done in working order.
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Postby Frog » Tue Feb 17, 2009 3:06 pm

I also live in California and purchased a new heavy duty 6 X 10 utility trailer in 2004 in California. This trailer weighs over 900 lbs empty and has a single 3,500 lb axle and a GVW of 2,995 lbs. IT DOES NOT HAVE BRAKES and I did not have any problem getting it registered. Also U-HAUL trailers in California that weigh less than 1,500 lbs empty do not have brakes either. Their GVW is well over 1,500 lbs. Heavier U-HAULs come with surge brakes. I believe that the GVW rating is under 3,000 on my trailer even tough it could handle over 3,000 lbs in cargo because this or other states may require brakes, regardless of the empty weight at 3,000 or more.

I believe the vehicle code stating a 1,500 lb gross weight is referring to the unladen (read empty) weight of the trailer and not the GVWR. I am well aware of the difference, but I believe the state isn't

I know it's shocking, but it appears that our legislature may have used a misleading or incorrect term when writing this legislation. A lot of the vehicle code is sometimes out of date and lags technology. The vehicle code regarding emergency vehicles lights, for example, hasn't been rewritten since the 1940's. The California vehicle code REQUIRES at least one forward facing fixed (not flashing) red light, and nothing else. That's why you always see a solid red light burning on a police car when using their emergency lighting not withstanding the gumball effect or the rest of the flashing red and blue in California.

Having said this, brakes are always better than no brakes.
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Postby brian_bp » Tue Feb 17, 2009 7:34 pm

Frog wrote:I also live in California and purchased a new heavy duty 6 X 10 utility trailer in 2004 in California. This trailer weighs over 900 lbs empty and has a single 3,500 lb axle and a GVW of 2,995 lbs. IT DOES NOT HAVE BRAKES and I did not have any problem getting it registered.

It appears to me that the 1500 lb limit does not apply to a utility trailer. The limit for other trailers in California (from the California Vehicle Code and quoted by Gus above) is given in section 26302; it is 3000 lb GVWR, which is very common among state limits. It is logical that this is a gross weight limit.

Frog wrote:Also U-HAUL trailers in California that weigh less than 1,500 lbs empty do not have brakes either. Their GVW is well over 1,500 lbs. Heavier U-HAULs come with surge brakes.

It appears to me that U-Haul equips trailers with brakes if the GVWR (not the empty weight) exceeds 3000 lb, matching typical state requirements including those of California. Their heaviest (by GVWR) trailer without brakes is 2900 lb; their lightest GVWR with brakes is 4400 lb.

All U-Haul brake systems which I've seen are of the surge type; this is typical of rental operations and is done to minimize tow vehicle compatibilty and setup issues.

Frog wrote:I believe that the GVW rating is under 3,000 on my trailer even tough it could handle over 3,000 lbs in cargo because this or other states may require brakes, regardless of the empty weight at 3,000 or more.

I agree - trailers often carry GVW ratings just under a legal requirement level, which is 3000 lb for a utility trailer in California. The empty (tare) weight is irrelevant.

Frog wrote:I believe the vehicle code stating a 1,500 lb gross weight is referring to the unladen (read empty) weight of the trailer and not the GVWR. I am well aware of the difference, but I believe the state isn't...

From the California Vehicle Code:
26303. Every trailer coach and every camp trailer having a gross
weight of 1,500 pounds or more, but exclusive of passengers, shall be
equipped with brakes on at least two wheels which are adequate,
supplemental to the brakes on the towing vehicle, to enable the
combination of vehicles to comply with the stopping distance
requirements of Section 26454.

This is the more formal version of what was already quoted earlier by Gus.

This definition from the California Vehicle Code
350. (a) "Gross vehicle weight rating" (GVWR) means the weight
specified by the manufacturer as the loaded weight of a single
vehicle.

and many other references to "gross" weight in the code show that the authors of the code do clearly understand that "gross" includes the payload; they generally use the term "unladen" where appropriate.

The reference to passengers is strange, especially since passengers generally are not allowed to ride in trailers, but perhaps this was intended to indicate that it is the weight as towed - not as camped with people inside - which is relevant.

California's 1500 lb gross weight limit for unbraked trailers of this specific type is abnormally low. Since this applies specifically to trailer coaches and camp trailers, which typically have gross weight ratings of less than 50% above the unladen weight, I agree that it would be a reasonable unladen weight limit, and perhaps that was the intent. The state regulators understand what "gross weight" means, but someone may have mucked up this section.
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