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Ensuring Safety When Hauling Portable Plants and Other Heavy Equipment.
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For the most capacity and smallest impact on the trailer weight, some manufacturers use a T1 material with 100,000-psi minimum yield. T1 not only has maximum strength versus ductility, but also equates to a lighter, stronger trailer frame over other materials.

We know to wear hardhats when working under overhead hazards or around conveyor belts, and harnesses and lanyards should be worn when working at elevated heights, but preparing for hazards that are not always easy to spot can be more challenging. Such is the case when hauling heavy equipment.

Choose the Right Trailer

When it comes to heavy-haul trailers, optimizing the safety of drivers and others doesn’t begin once you’ve starting rolling down the road; it should happen during the planning process.

One of the most important steps in trailer safety is to ensure the trailer you’re using to haul equipment, whether it’s a crusher, conveyor or excavator, is built to handle the load. Because then, and only then, will the risk of structural failure as well as associated accidents and injuries, be eliminated.

Capacity: The first thing to consider is capacity. This isn’t just how much a trailer can hold, but rather the rated weight, or load concentration, within its deck length. A 30-ft., 60-ton lowbed can haul 60 tons, but how much of the deck those 60 tons occupy is just as important as the weight itself. One manufacturer might rate the entire length of the deck at 60 tons, while another might rate its trailer for 60 tons in a 16-ft. span, and another that same weight in half the deck length.

Also, be familiar with state laws and regulations, such as bridge laws and kingpin-to-axle distance guidelines, as these can limit where a driver can go with what kind of trailer.

Safety Rating: Uneven ground, chuckholes and railroad tracks all put stress on a trailer. A safety rating tells us how much of this stress it can safely handle.

Historically, magnification of payload weight on a trailer due to road dynamics is a 1.8 to 1 ratio. On average, the stress placed on a 50-ton-rated trailer by a 50-ton load when the rig hits those bumps, chucks and tracks equals 1.8 times 50 tons, or 90 tons.

The stress placed on the trailer can go above that level multiple times, so it’s important to keep in mind that the 1.8 multiplier is only an average. If no cushion is built in to the trailer to handle those spikes in stress, there will be more potential for long-term, progressive structural damage, which can lead to trailer failure off or on the road. It also will diminish the life of the trailer.

Safety ratings vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, from no margin to an industry high of 2.5 to 1, which is considered ample cushion.

A safety rating isn’t a free pass to add weight over a trailer’s capacity rating, though. In other words, a 2.5 to 1 safety rating on a 50-ton lowbed should not be used to justify loading the trailer with 125 tons of cargo.

Just like a rubber band, each time a trailer is overloaded the dynamics of its steel changes. Overload it enough times and eventually the steel, and therefore the trailer, will break. It can happen off the road or on, which risks damaging cargo and injuring people. This is why it’s important to take trailer capacity seriously.

There are a lot of considerations and numbers to factor in when choosing a trailer that’s right for the operation. Many manufacturers, however, can figure out optimal trailer capacity in their sleep and can help customers select the best trailer for their applications.

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Before each trip ensure tie-down equipment, such as chains, binders and straps are in good condition and properly tightened.
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Jobsite safety goes beyond personal protective equipment. Ensuring equipment makes it to and from the site in one piece and without accidents and injuries is just as important.
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Carriers can vary gooseneck lengths in the front to achieve the proper steer weight and drive axle weight. Carriers also can alter the distances between axles and axle groups to hit max weights and remain in compliance with various state laws.

Look Before You Leave

Once a trailer is matched to the load, optimizing safety doesn’t stop. A pre-trip inspection should always be done before taking off with each load.

Frame: Walk around the trailer and ensure there are no cracks or damage to the trailer’s frame.

Hoses: Look for visible damage, such as chafed hydraulic hoses, which could spring a leak and cause the system to fail.

Tie-Down Equipment: Tie-down equipment, such as chains, binders and straps, should be in good condition, free of broken parts and pieces. Check the equipment being hauled to ensure the tie down tools are rated appropriately. Also ensure the trailer isn’t leaning or sagging to one side.

Tires and Brakes: Test the brakes and psi of each tire. Overinflated or underinflated tires don’t provide the right load rating, so they won’t carry the weight like they should, which adds stress to the trailer. Improperly inflated tires can also cause a blowout when hauling heavy loads. Drivers can find the psi, size, ply and load rating on the manufacturer’s VIN tag.

There is a wide range of resources available that offer more information on what to look for to ensure safe travels with heavy-haul loads.

For a detailed list of inspection requirements, refer to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s part 396 webpage and the Driver-Vehicle Inspection Report. The Motor Carrier Safety Compliance also outlines pre-trip inspection guidelines as does FleetClean USA.

Know the Limits

When heading down the road, it’s not only important to keep state regulations in mind, but also speed. The slower a rig travels, the less added weight or stress is placed on the trailer. Trailer manufacturers also provide a speed rating, generally 55 or 65 mph. Keep this in mind when purchasing a trailer to ensure it’s within a fleet’s normal operating speed.

Ensuring safety when hauling heavy equipment may not be as simple as throwing on a hardhat, harness or hearing protection, but the risks associated with not doing it are just as great. Checking the load, the road and everything in between will get everyone, and everything, safely from point A to point B.


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Troy Geisler

Troy Geisler is the vice president of sales and marketing for Talbert Manufacturing. He has more than 10 years of experience in trailer sales, including four years with Talbert. Geisler earned a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.