The 2015 Empire Farm Days Show marked the 25th year of our participation. Of those 25 years, this year was by far the best 3 days of weather, not too hot and not too rainy or muddy. Empire Farm Days Show at Rodman Lot Farms in Seneca Falls, NY was on August 11, 12, and 13th 2015. The interest in our products was in greater demand than the past and the event had record attendance on the final day.
Our 15,000 square foot lot (309) was filled with over 45 different trailers from our 4 main trailer companies; Featherlite, Corn Pro, Belmont and Aluma. For the first time this year, Mission Trailers were also added to the lineup. Mission offers a value combination horse trailer. Its popularity is proven due to selling 3 at this show. Speaking of sales, 75% of our total representation was sold at this year’s show. Our aesthetically pleasing lot with a diverse product line consisted of motorcycle snowmobile, open and enclosed car, horse, cattle, utility, flatbed, dump and cargo. All of these models were shown in both steel and aluminum construction. As always, our Aluma truck beds were a hit.
This year we also expanded our Holland Grill display. A representative from HG Distributing joined us for Farm Show along with a huge demo trailer filled with goodies. We offered tasty samples off of the Holland Grill including salmon, chicken legs, meatloaf, pizza, sausage and biscuits, a whole turkey and more.
It was a chilly snowy day in western NY as you never know what March will dole out. The giant snow piles of 2015 are almost gone, good thing as we needed parking space. Even though the weather was still poor thing were ramping up fast for the year. We had greater response than expected for attendees to our planned afternoon DOT forum presented by Srgt. Schramm of the NYS police. Plan was to open up space within the store to hold this but it became evident there was just not enough room to do both. The shop techs had to start extra early this day to complete their scheduled work, clean up and set up for 60 some attendees.
This worked out well as our evening session was planned like this anyhow. Coffee and other hot drinks along with popcorn, donuts and soft drinks were offered to all. This entire event and all supplies courtesy of Davis Trailer World and NYS Police.
At 1:30 in the afternoon the session began. Topics covered dealt with type of carrier (private or commerce), License requirements of operator and at what weights these change ( class A,B, C, D ) driver record keeping and hours of service(log book & Pre trip inspection) These sound simple but can become rather complex. This portion lasted about 1.5 hours and many questions were asked and answered by Sgt. Schramm. After a short break we covered equipment, ratings and required devices of both power unit (truck) and trailer. Again this varies widely by weight and class of operation. Sgt. Schramm spent a full hour on these topics, again many questions were fielded.
The last section covered load securement. We had 2 trailers with equipment loaded on them. something’s were correct and some not. This was intentional. Sgt. Schramm explained direct vs indirect tie down, working load limits of various tie down equipment. How to properly handle combustible materials hauled and proper connection (hitching) of truck to trailer.
The group was very attentive, loaded with questions and a desire to learn. Although we may not all agree with the laws and rules at least we know what they are. We all have the choice to follow them or ignore, it’s just a matter of the consequence. There are a couple of simple reasons I believe in this type of event and are willing to sacrifice my time money and efforts. The line “nobody told me that” I become tired of hearing, the question “how are we supposed to know that” well this is how. All of this information is available from state and federal web sites. Also this educates myself and my staff to help guide our customers. Getting the right product, components and knowledge are all part of our task when filling an order.
At 6:30 pm we got into our evening session and covered all the same topics. Several people waited to talk with Sgt. Schramm and myself to go over certain “gray area” topics. It was a very long day , finally locked up just after 11pm. As we have done for the last several years there are more of these to come in the future. In the meantime please feel free to call, if I don’t know I should be able to find out or direct you to someone that does.
GTW = Gross Trailer Weight – the weight of the trailer fully loaded
TW=Tongue Weight-The downward force that is exerted on the hitch ball by the coupler. The tongue weight will vary depending on where the load ia positioned in relationship to the trailer axle(s).
WC = Weight Carrying – The total weight of both the trailer and cargo inside. Never exceed the weight capacity of your trailer hitch. This applies to loads without a weight distribution system
WD = Weight Distributing – Used to balance the weight of the cargo between the front and rear wheels throughout the trailer, allowing for better steering, braking, and level riding. Not to be used on class 1 or 2 receivers, or with surge-brakes.
To select the right hitch for your vehicle:
1. Check the towing capacity of you tow vehicle.
2. Determine the gross trailer weight (GTW) of your tow item.
3. Select the class of hitch rated for you vehicle.
*NOTE: Never tow a trailer with a gross trailer weight greater than the vehicle manufacture’s rating. It could cause damage to the vehicle’s engine transmission and frame. And could void any manufacture’s warranties. A higher class of hitch DOES NOT increase the vehicle’s tow capacity.
Always be sure that the ball size & trailer coupler size are matched, and weight rating is sufficient for the trailer being towed.
Weight Distributing Hitch Systems:
“Also referred to as sway bars, leveling bars, etc.” are designed to increase the capacity of the towing system when added to a Class III, IV or V trailer hitch. The idea is to distribute the load of the trailer evenly to the entire tow vehicle and trailer wheels. To accomplish this, spring bars are used to absorb load and level the trailer. This offers a more level ride, improved steering and increased braking control, all the while enhancing towing safety.
Trunnion Style Weight Distribution Hitch is the Most Common. (as shown above)
What is included with a Weight Distribution Hitch?
Adjustable Weight Distribution Shank
Adjustable Ball Mount
Pin & Clip (not pictured)
*Note: Weight Distribution Hitches DO NOT include hitch ball Recommend 2 5/16” A-6 or 2” A-90 Trailer Ball
Check Level of the Trailer:
Always try to maintain the trailer coupler & vehicle hitch in a level position to help minimize fishtailing. Fishtailing refers to the erratic side to side movement of the trailer. It is important when towing a trailer whether it is a bumper pull or a gooseneck style to achieve a level position when loaded. The reason for this is that you want to have an even weight displacement on the axles. For example, if the trailer is to high in the front excessive stress may be applied to the rear axle and/or if the front of the trailer is to low the front axle may become stressed. In extreme cases this can lead to axle failure due to overloading. When hitching up to an unloaded trailer we recommend having the trailer set up slightly higher in the front to allow for settling once the trailer is loaded. Further adjustment of trailer front height may be required as load conditions change.
Always keep your load balanced front/back & side/side as not to have too much or too little weight on the tongue. The tongue weight should never exceed 10% of the Gross Towing Weight.
Make sure that all items are properly secured inside & on the trailer. The driver is responsible for anything that may separate from the trailer.
Torflex®axles are designed as a completely self-contained axle and suspension system. This trailing arm type torsion axle employs natural rubber cords supporting heat treated inner bars of solid, medium carbon steel. Press-fitted and welded to the ends of this independently floating bar are high strength steel torsion arm/spindle assemblies. These arms can be specified to a range of starting angles, which allow the designer to tailor the running height of the vehicle.
Leaf Spring axles utilize high strength steel spindles welded to high strength tubing to form an axle beam. The spindles are usually available in either a straight or drop design to help designers establish the desired frame height or ground clearance. Leaf springs are attached to the axle using u-bolts and can be positioned either under or over the tube. Use under mounted springs (underslung) to lower the frame height and over mounted springs (overslung) to raise the frame height.
The ball mount is placed inside the opening of the receiver hitch which is mounted to the vehicle. Make sure a hitch pin is properly securing the ball mount to the receiver hitch before you begin towing. Ball mounts are grouped into three (3) styles.
Trailer BallThe most important connection from the hitch to the trailer.
There are many factors that determine the correct hitch ball:
Most important is the hitch ball’s gross trailer weight rating
The mounting platform must be at least 3/8″ think
The hole diameter must not be more than 1/16″ larger than the threaded shank
Every time you tow, check the nut and lock washer to make sure they are fastened securely
The component that is placed over the trailer ball to connect the vehicle to the trailer. Be sure that the coupler size matches the size of the hitch ball and that the coupler handle is securely fastened. To determine what size hitch ball you need for your application you will need to know the size of the coupler that is on the trailer. Be sure your coupler is properly adjusted to the ball you are using.
Pin & Clip:
For securing all ball mounts to receiver style hitches. Hitch Locks protect against ball mount theft.
Safety Chains: Safety Chains must always be cross hooked
Safety chains are a requirement and should be crossed under the tongue of the trailer so that the tongue will not drop to the road if it becomes separated form the hitch. Always leave enough slack so you can turn. Never allow the safety chains to drag on the ground and never attach the chains to the bumper.
Trailer Classification: Safety Chain Breaking Force – Minimum
Class 1: 2,000 lbs. (8.9 kN)
Class 2: 3,500 lbs. (15.6 kN)
Class 3: 5,000 lbs. (22.2 kN)
The strength rating of each length of safety chain or its equivalent and its attachments shall be equal to or exceed in minimum breaking force the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) of the trailer.
***Every time you tow, be sure to check that all electrical components are working properly – trailer lights, electrical brakes, break-away systems.
Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW): is not a rating, it is the actual maximum weight of the tow vehicle when it is fully loaded including all options, cargo, personal belongings, food, water and LP gas.
Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR): is the maximum permissible combined weight of the tow vehicle and the trailer together when they are fully loaded for travel.
Unlaiden / Unloaded Vehicle Weight or Dry Weight (UVW) or (DW): is the actual weight of the tow vehicle or trailer as built at the factory. The UVW does not include passengers, cargo, dealer installed options, personal belongings, water, or LP gas.
Vehicle Tow Rating: Make sure your tow vehicle is capable of towing the intended trailer or accessory. The trailer or accessory and the vehicle work together in determining the maximum capacity. In no case should the GTW or TW exceed the towing capacity of your vehicle, your trailer or your accessory. Find this information in the vehicle owners manual or www.trailerlife.com, look under “tow ratings”.
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR): Is the maximum weight of the fully loaded trailer, as published on the Certification / VIN label. Actual weight determined by weighing trailer on a public scale, without being attached to the towing vehicle.
Hitch Weight: The downward force exerted on the hitch ball by the trailer coupler.
Maximum Loaded Vehicle Weight: The sum of curb weight, accessory weight, vehicle capacity weight, and production options weight.
Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR): The maximum weight that any axle can support, as published on the Certification / VIN label on the front left side of the trailer. Actual weight determined by weighing each axle on a public scale, with the trailer attached to the towing vehicle.
Both tire and VIN certification labels are permanently attached to the trailer near the left front corner or on the tongue of the trailer.
Both Tire And VIN Certification Labels are permanently attached to your tow vehicle on the drivers door panel or on the column behind drivers door. See owners manual for further details or specifications.
The following equipment, documentation and regulations again are established primarily by the federal government. In our state (New York) some of these are state specific only. State laws can only ever be more stringent than federal, never less or below.
Light trailers, DMV class code of LTR are really quite simple and basic. These require a highway approved coupling device (ball or pintle eye) Safety chains, (any flexible link rated to handle gross weight of trailer and cargo). Highway approved tires with DOT stamp, high speed wheel bearings and hubs, fender covering tire to prevent flinging of debris, front corner marker lamps amber color, stop turn and tail lamps must be red. For trailers that have a width greater than 80” wide a “triple light” must be installed at the rear center. There are specific dimensions that must be followed. Also for 80” and over, overall width marker lights must be installed amber to front and red to rear. This is usually on the fenders, again must be wide as feasible. Reflectors or reflective lenses must be used for all lights. If converting a trailer from incandescent lamps to LED use caution as many of these do not comply with the reflective requirement. The license plate must also be illuminated. This class of trailer must weigh less than 1,000 empty, max gross of 3,000#.
All highway use vehicles must be registered (all trailer registrations expire December 31 in NY State. Renewal by mail is only a courtesy of DMV not a requirement) plated and have an annual safety inspection certificate. The plate is to be installed in the manner it is designed to be read! It has to be visible to a following vehicle. All trailers should be registered for the maximum load plus trailer weight (registered weight) this is your maximum legal load the trailer should haul. This amount will be shown on the vin tag and stated as Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR).
A good guide to proper equipped compliant certified trailers is to look for the NATM seal on the trailer. This is a national watch dog group looking to make the highways safer for all. Also well established and trained dealers can be very helpful. They are supported by the NATDA another watchdog group for dealerships. Compliance never the less is up the individual operating the vehicle on the highway. When crossing state lines it’s a good idea to plan ahead. Our best resource today is the internet, but please use official State and federal sites for accuracy.
The next issue we will move to Med duty and Heavy (TRL) duty trailers and equipment required.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) Pertaining to Tow Vehicle
These rules apply to everyone and are critical to commercial carriers. Who is a commercial carrier? You, if making money (revenue is done by use of a motor vehicle on the highway directly or indirectly)
These standards are established by the Federal Government. Enforced by local and State police. All motor vehicle manufactures (including trailers) must follow and conform to these minimum standards. The trailer industry has two associations to assist them, The North American Trailer Dealers Association (NATDA) and North American Trailer Manufactures (NATM).
The standards apply to lighting, tires, frame, coupling devices, safety equipment, dimensions and weight ratings. Below is a short list of items to be mindful of.
Tow hitch rating should be equal to or greater than what you are towing.
Inspect hitches for wear and corrosion periodically, check hardware be sure it is tight
All lights must work
Mirrors must be sufficient to see behind your cargo
Vehicle Markings, DOT Number & Company Name
State Safety Inspection Certificate
Insurance ID Card
Commercial Safety Triangle Set
Commercial Fire Extinguisher
Commercial Driver License, Class D or Higher
Log Book (certain commercial only)
Spare tire, jack and tools needed (commercial)
Driver should be trained and educated for task
To gain further information on any of these short list items refer to the Federal Motor Carriers website or a firm such as JJ Keller. The local DMV office also can provide details but limited to driver qualifications. Please feel free to contact me or one of my staff or look for one of our training seminars put on by the State DOT police.
Here we’ve broken this down to daily, weekly, monthly, semiannual and yearly needs. *Variables exist with miles traveled.
Daily: (AKA pre trip inspection)
Tire pressure, set according to vin label or PSI stamped on tire side wall. Inspect tread and look for any imperfection on side walls.
Lights/lighting, be sure all are working properly. Best to test as many function simultaneously as feasible. Reflectors and reflective tape must be visible, wipe of if covered.
Breakaway system ( applies to trailer equipped with electric brakes only) be sure battery has charge and switch is operational, Cable must be connected to towing vehicle but not any part or portion of the hitch. Inspect cable for condition, replace if frayed. Do not wind this cable within safety chains
Inspect trailer cable and plug, be sure in good condition and lid of outlet engages with tab on plug to prevent it from pulling out during travel.
Kick each wheel on your walk around, this will help gauge tire inflation and check for any free-play in hubs.
Be sure all latches, pins and cargo is secure. Be sure coupler is latched closed!
Test electric brakes while moving forward and pressing panic bar on brake controller.
Load distribution and tongue weight are proper, 10% on tag 15% or greater G-N
Safety chains not worn or allowed to drag on ground, crossed and connected, coupler latched.
apply a coating of grease to trailer ball
inspect suspension components for wear or any loose hardware
inspect floor or deck of trailer for worn or weak areas
pump up bearing buddies and or EZ lube hubs ( every 3000 miles or sooner)
check all hitch components for wear or fatigue
Adjust breaks for equalization. ( Every 2,000 miles)
Check torque on lug nuts
Refer to trailer owner’s manual for specific details and specs.
Inspect frame, fenders and entire chassis for wear or fatigue.
Repack wheel bearing, this varies depending on mileage, axle size and or type ( 5-15,000 miles) refer to owner’s manual
Wash trailer exterior and interior if livestock type. ( horse cattle) pay attention to underside of floor mats.
In most cases the weekly process is completed here depending on amount of use/miles traveled.
Lubricate all moving parts, doors, latches, grease zerks
Touch up any paint that has chipped or peeled away to prevent corrosion.
Check and inspect safety chains for wear.
Service any generators or installed accessories.
Check sealant on roof of enclosed trailers.
Lube adjusts and inspects weight distribution bars and head. ( if so equipped)
Review list of daily and weekly needs also.
This is needed if more than 9,000 miles are traveled in a 6 month period and or the use is extreme and fully loaded to capacity, refer to yearly list A-L
Trailer should be placed on jack stands, remove wheels and hubs. Wash and clean bearings, lube, inspect and adjust brakes ( repair or replace worn parts) inspect bearings for wear or heat discoloration, replace if in doubt. When bearings are replaced it is common practice to replace bearing cone also.
Look over entire frame and chassis, prep and paint worn areas, repair any cracks or damaged parts.
Service all moving parts, lubricate them.
Check, repair or replace door seals.
Inspect floor and under structure.
Aluminum trailers should be acid washed if any corrosion is evident
Check all fasteners, replace if worn.
Be sure all load securement components are sound and properly anchored.
Give the trailer a good overall look, repair/replace anything needed.
Consult your owner’s manual or dealer for additional knowledge
This work should be performed by a qualified individual/ expert.
In most states an annual safety inspection certificate is required. In New York state this must be completed by an” inspection station” with a certified inspector.
As simple as it sounds there are a few items that require attention every trip (pre-trip inspection). Yes it is necessary! Most don’t spend the time to do this on the towing vehicle either, however you are able to feel and hear issues under motion and many vehicles are equipped with sensor systems to caution the driver of trouble. Your trailer does not.
What should you do? How should you prepare? These items are for any and all types of light and medium duty trailers.
Connect electric cord
Check electric cords for corrosion or cracks in cable or wires
Also look for damaged or bent pins on plug and vehicle outlet, replace if worn or damaged.
Verify proper ball size.
Apply grease on ball and place coupler on ball latch.
Install safety pin (if equipped) and retract or fold up jack.
Connect safety chains, be sure to cross them. Have ample slack for turning but yet not dragging on the ground.
For trailers with electric or hydraulic brakes connect the breakaway cable to the tow vehicle. This must be connected to something other than the hitch or safety chain area.
Many trailers are used infrequently and tires tend to lose pressure faster this way. The correct pressure will be stamped or printed on the side wall of the tire. The tire pressure should be set at that amount.
Reminder: Trailers are light weight which makes it difficult to see low tire pressure
(unlike on vehicles). Please do not rely on eye sight when it comes to the tire
pressure of your trailer!
Each time you connect your trailer to a towing vehicle, turn on as many lights as possible and check that they are working.
Some trailers are equipped with built in lubrication systems (i.e. EZ lube, Oil Bath, Sure Lube and Bearing Buddies). These systems will be discussed in further detail on another segment. The most common is known as a semi sealed or hand pack system. All need attention and constant observation.
How to test a bearing easily:
Feel for any “end play” in the hub assembly
Grab hold of the top of the tire and push in, then pull out. Movement more than 1/16” to 1/8” is not safe to operate. Attention is required BEFORE use!
Check that ALL are secure:
Load is properly tied down and safe for travel
All doors and ramps are latched and/or locked
Floor is in good condition
Load securement will be covered in greater detail in the future