Box trailers are versatile tools, but like any other tool, there are a few things to keep in mind to be safe and make the best use of them.
Tip 1: Watch Your Weight
Before you buy a trailer or haul anything there are a few terms you need to know and a little math to do.
Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM): This is the total weight of the trailer plus the load when it’s not hitched to the vehicle. The ATM is the maximum that the trailer should weigh when in use.
Tare: The weight of the empty trailer.
Payload: This basically means what the trailer can carry. This is where the math comes in as you need to calculate the tare and subtract it from the ATM.
Towing Capacity: The towing capacity tells you how much your vehicle can tow and can be found in your vehicle handbook. If the ATM is the same or less than the towing capacity of your vehicle, you are on track.
A final consideration is your vehicle’s gross combined weight rating (GCWR). The GCWR is the total amount of weight allowed: vehicle, occupants, and cargo, plus everything in and on the trailer. If you have extra passengers or a truck bed that’s already full, the amount of trailer weight that you’ll be able to pull will be reduced.
Tip 2: Level Your Load
Once you know how much weight you can pull, the next consideration is how it should be placed on the trailer. It’s hard on your trailer to have an unbalanced load, and it makes it more difficult to tow, which in turn makes it more dangerous on the road.
The heaviest part or bulk of the load should be placed over the axles and balanced on each side. It should then be tied down, so it doesn’t shift while you are driving. Try to keep the trailer level with the vehicle towing it and avoid any droop in the front or back.
Tip 3: Driver’s Ed Class
Driving with a trailer in tow is not the same as every day driving. Braking will take longer because of the extra weight on the back of the vehicle. When you turn corners, remember to turn later and sharper to square off to prevent the trailer from hitting the sidewalk. If the trailer happens to start moving from side to side, then gently press down on the brake.
Once you get the hang of driving with a trailer, you will begin to understand that, in theory, reversing a trailer is quite simple. Doing it yourself is another story altogether. At this point in time, all you need to understand is that when you turn your vehicle left, the trailer will move right. And of course, when you turn right, the trailer will move left. Time and practice will aid your reversing skills.
One way to avoid any trouble is to try to bypass any situation where you’ll have to use reverse. When going backwards can’t be prevented, go slowly as you get used to the way the trailer moves in reverse.
Once you have been the proud owner of a box trailer for a while, issues such as loading and reversing will become second nature. But until then…well, practice makes perfect!