The Right Trailer for the Job

Nothing is more important than getting the job done right. The trailers you choose are a big part of that; they empower your other investments and enable you to complete the task at hand. Whether you’re supplementing a fleet of trailers or need just one, there are important considerations to ensure you get the highest return on your investment.

Big Tex Trailers offers the following framework to help you feel confident as you shop for the right trailer for your needs.

Consider Your Usage

Trailers come in many configurations. Finding the right one begins with answering what and how much you will be hauling.

Heavy equipment requires a sturdy deck, while aggregates need a box with sides and hydraulics for dumping. Cars need ramps and landscapers need expanded metal sides. Whatever your load, there is a trailer type that is ideal for it. For example:

  • TANDEM AXLE GOOSENECK: Gooseneck trailers tackle heavy loads, with much of the weight of the trailer placed over the truck’s rear axle. Sway is minimized, space is maximized and turning radius is tighter.
  • AUTO HAULER: Auto haulers are designed specifically for vehicles. Rear ramps make loading and unloading vehicles hassle-free.
  • TANDEM AXLE DUMP: Dump trailers utilize hydraulics to easily and efficiently unload heavy hauls. Dumps often ride lower to the ground for stability and quick and safe load and unload.
  • UTILITY: Designed to move a variety of items and available in a wide array of sizes, utility trailers get your stuff moving, plain and simple.

Beyond what you will be towing, you must think about what you expect your maximum load to be. Be sure to consider the weight of your trailer as part of the total load.

TOUGHNESS, SIZE AND CAPACITY

Carefully consider your typical payload before selecting a trailer. Some applications simply require more robust trailers. This starts with the frame, the cross members and the beds that provide the basic structure of the trailer. I-beams add heft, and larger, closely spaced cross members add support. Thicker gauge beds or heavier wood floors can take more of a beating.

When considering which model is right, toughness is an important factor. You want to make sure that your hauler is well suited to take on any likely job. One aspect of determining the toughness of your trailer is to look at its GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating). A trailer’s GVWR is the sum of its tire rating, coupler and hitch, axle rating, brake configuration and frame.

Many people assume GVWR is the payload, but this is not correct. Trailer Payload or Cargo Payload (the maximum cargo weight to be put on a trailer) is actually GVWR minus the weight of the trailer. This is an important safety factor, because if you fail to account for the weight of the trailer itself, you may overload it and your tow vehicle.

HOOKUPS AND ATTACHMENTS

There are several ways to attach a trailer to a vehicle. The load and the vehicle type help determine the best option. When choosing a hitch, you’ll need to know how much your trailer weighs fully loaded (gross trailer weight) as well as the hitch rating (tongue weight). The hitch rating will determine how much downward force the coupler exerts on the hitch ball. The appropriate ratio of hitch to trailer weight varies and is listed in the specifications of each trailer.

Typically hitch receivers are bolted to the frame of the tow vehicle, and can be added aftermarket. Note that hitches vary by class: Class I hitches are smaller for lighter loads, increasing class by class up to large Class V hitches for heavy loads.

For larger loads, gooseneck hitches shift the trailer weight over the axle of the vehicle and accommodate larger loads. Pintle hitches feature a hook for a ring on the trailer and are typically for heavy equipment.

Where safety is concerned, your trailer should come equipped with safety chains that exceed the GVWR of the trailer, and be attached to the trailer using cold-rolled eyelets. Breakaway cables that activate your trailer’s electric brakes in the unlikely event your trailer comes separated from your tow vehicle add additional safety.

ALIGNMENT, SUSPENSION, AXLES AND BRAKES

One of the most important aspects of how a trailer pulls is the proper alignment of the frame. Without proper alignment, the trailer could suffer from a number of ailments such as improper towing, uneven tire wear, short tire life and excessive heat on the bearings. Proper alignment throughout the frame of the trailer also prevents trailer sway.

Suspension is another big factor that affects how smoothly your trailer pulls. Adjustable suspensions allow for continuous, precise axle alignment, reducing drag and increasing tire life. The design of a well-made adjustable suspension allows for reduced road shock to the cargo, as well as improving the integrity, reliability and durability of the trailer.

Axles are one of the most important contributors to the security of your load. To ensure your load will be properly supported, be sure that your trailer is equipped with the right axles. This includes understanding maximum weight capacity, as well as maintaining consistent lubrication and upkeep.

Quality brakes on the trailer are crucial to ensure the vehicle’s brakes don’t have to work alone to stop both the vehicle and the trailer with its load. Trailer brakes come in several designs, some of which eliminate the need for manual brake adjustments, while maintaining optimum performance and braking power.

RAMPS, LIGHTING AND WIRING

Properly securing your haul can depend on having the right ramp gate. This means making sure your trailer’s ramp gate not only meets weight standards but security standards as well. When deciding between the variety of gates and ramps out there, be sure to look at construction. Angled iron construction of gates and ramps may be perfectly fine for lighter loads. Tubular construction can give the ramp additional strength without adding a lot of weight.

Lighting is another key element to secure a safe haul. Smart placement that offers both visibility and protection is crucial so that your trailer will be well seen on the road for years to come. Many of today’s trailers are equipped with LED lighting, which lasts longer, shines brighter and uses less energy than traditional incandescent lighting.

Tail lights, specifically, require dependable wiring to ensure road safety. Unprotected wiring is common on inexpensive trailers, causing wiring problems as trailers get beat up. Protected wiring, either inside the framing or in protected channels, ensures durability. Access to wiring junctures is important in case replacement or repair becomes necessary.

ENGINEERING AND MATERIALS

When pulling a trailer, there are many variables to ensure you not only have a successful haul but a smooth one as well. Everything from materials to tires to axles and alignment can affect your trailer and towing experience. When considering different trailers keep these materials in mind:

  • Made with Steel: The strength of your trailer is usually synonymous with its quality. Look for trailers manufactured using heavy gauge, low carbon, high-alloyed steel. Heavier steel absorbs flex and prevents frame twist and fatigue, providing for a longer, more productive life for the trailer.
  • Flooring: Though often overlooked, flooring is an important part of your trailer buying decision. The flooring you choose should be determined by what you will be hauling. For example, if you are moving boxes, a lighter-weight floor will work well with weight evenly distributed. However, if you plan to move motorcycles or large items with fewer touch points and uneven distribution of weight, you will need stronger flooring. Heavier weight pressing down through fewer pressure points requires floors that can take the load.
  • Tires: All tires are not the same. Trailer tires can be very different from regular vehicle tires and it is important to make sure that the rubber your hauler is riding on will last.

SECURE YOUR PURCHASE

Beyond the product itself, it pays to consider the reputation of the manufacturer and the dealer network, and whether they’ll stand behind you and your trailer for the long haul:

  • Look for reliable warranties that will protect your trailer against defects in materials and construction, giving you the confidence to really put it to work. The variation you will find in length of warranty and what is covered may prove very important.
  • Be sure to choose your dealer wisely. Look for dealers with a long history of success and a broad footprint. A great dealer should be able to provide reliable and convenient service, a deep inventory for parts and accessories, and trained professionals to help with all your trailering needs.
  • The National Association of Trailer Manufacturers certifies some companies for quality manufacturing processes and materials, providing assurance that you will receive the highest quality trailers available.
  • Look into the history and reviews of the brands you are considering. If you consider carefully, you can feel confident that you are investing in a relationship with a reputable company that takes care of its customers.
  • Finally, while brand names aren’t everything, they may make a big difference at resale. A known name may convince your clients that you value the quality of your tools and will deliver good work. Consider brands that reflect well on you.