When you’re on the road with a trailer, safety is paramount. You need to know how fast you can drive, how to manoeuvre, and how to load everything securely. We explain some points of attention with handy tips from experienced professionals for you here.
SOS trailer: some points of attention
Check the drawbar load
Whichever type of trailer you are using on your journey, incorrect loading is always hazardous. It can create a drawbar load that is too high or too low, which could be disastrous for your vehicle balance. The drawbar load is the downward load on your tow bar. If you can easily attach the trailer to the car’s tow bar, you have the right drawbar load. If you can’t place it on the tow bar, there is too much weight at the front. And if the trailer falls backwards without any supports, the drawbar load is too low and you need to shift the load forward. You can use a special drawbar force gauge to make sure you determine the load accurately.
Secure your load Loose loads, such as green waste or stones, can easily blow away and cause a nuisance on public roads. A trailer with a rack is perfect for safely transporting all your garden and construction waste. Secure your load with straps initially and then use a cover net. Use a lashing strap with a hook at the end so you can attach it securely to a lashing eye on the side of the trailer. When putting the lashing strap through the ratchet, use a jacking motion to tighten it firmly.
Choose the right place for your load
Do not put any heavy objects in an empty trailer. That’s an accident waiting to happen. A heavy weight at the back of a trailer which is otherwise empty results in a loss of steering control. It is therefore better to place heavy weights centrally above the axles, in the middle of the trailer. An evenly balanced load will ensure you can drive around more smoothly.
Inform other drivers
The load may protrude up to one metre at the rear. If it’s longer than one metre, a safety marking is compulsory. The load may protrude a maximum of 20 centimetres on each side, but you need to use marking signs if this exceeds 10 centimetres. The maximum height is four metres.
Do not park on public roads for too long
A trailer is a non-motorised vehicle, which you are not allowed to park on public roads for more than 24 hours or you risk a fine.
Best tips from experienced professionals
Moderate your speed
Your car is heavier than normal when you hitch a trailer to it, making the braking distance longer. You also need to allow a bit more room when turning or going round bends. Your trailer may tip over or start to sway if you have to perform a manoeuvre. If that happens, take your foot off the accelerator and use your brake immediately. Distribute the weight evenly. Make sure the load is evenly balanced between the left and right sides. The load’s centre of gravity should be in the middle, above the axle.
Check the tyres
Be sure to check your tyre pressure to avoid a blowout. Don’t know what your tyre pressure needs to be? This information is usually noted on the trailer itself. To be able to carry the extra weight, it’s important that the rear tyres in particular are at maximum tyre pressure.
Choose the right weight
Respect the maximum weight you are allowed to transport with your trailer. If the load on the trailer is too heavy, you are potentially endangering road safety as well as risking a fine. One awkward speed bump or pothole could be enough to break your trailer axle.
Know where you’re driving Exterior mirrors or camera systems are extremely important because trailers can restrict your view. Depending on the field of vision provided by the towing vehicle’s wing mirrors, you may need to fit additional exterior mirrors.
Take other drivers into account
Make sure other road users are not troubled by your headlights. The weight of the trailer causes the front of almost all vehicles to tilt upwards slightly, so your headlights could blind other drivers. You should therefore adjust them a bit lower.
How to reverse
Anyone who has ever tried reversing with a trailer knows how difficult it can be, let alone parking. But like so many things: practice makes perfect!
If you want the trailer to reverse to the right, place one hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and move it to the right. Move it to the left and the trailer will turn in that direction too. It’s a simple trick, but it works.
Just a short steering movement can change the direction of the trailer, and steering too much will make it harder to correct the direction of travel again. Stay calm and keep a close eye on your mirrors. Braking is always an option, too. Practise in an open area to learn in a calm and relaxed way how the trailer moves.
Heavy trailer? Use your brakes in good time
How fast are you allowed to drive with a trailer on the motorway? We outline the basic rules here to save you any unexpected fines. If the Maximum Permissible Towing Weight is more than 3.5 tonnes, you must limit your speed to 90 kilometres per hour, even if your trailer is empty.
If it is less than 3.5 tonnes, you are allowed to drive up to 120 kilometres per hour on the motorway. You calculate the Maximum Permissible Towing Weight by adding the Maximum Permissible Weight of your vehicle to the weight of your trainer. You can find these figures on the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate for commercial vehicles and braked trailers, or the certificate of conformity (CoC) for cars.