Ever wondered what you would do if you had an accident while towing a trailer? A trailer emergency can occur for a variety of reasons, such as mechanical failure, traffic, environmental or road conditions.
Trailer Safety: What to do When
- A wheel comes off, a tyre blows or the wheel bearings overheat. Without braking (if possible), pull off to the side of the road.
- The load shifts or comes off the trailer. Pull over to a safe place with good visibility. Retrieve your belongings from the road only when it’s safe.
- The trailer begins to sway in a manner that could cause you to potentially jackknife. Gently apply the manual override on your electric brake controller (if fitted) and cautiously accelerate out of the sway. If you have an electronic stability controller fitted such as AL-KO ESC, you may feel the brakes apply automatically as the device activates.
- A passing truck causes wind buffeting. Hold a constant speed until the swaying stops and the trailer straightens out again. Avoid braking and trying to steer out of it.
Assess the Damage
- Unless the car and/or trailer are immobile, move off the road out of the way of passing traffic. Turn off the engine and engage your hazard lights.
- Make sure everyone in your vehicle is okay.
- Get out and check the damage. Approach the trailer with caution – depending on the load, there might be loose objects. Be wary of gas or petrol escaping from broken cylinders or containers.
- See if you can unhitch from the tow vehicle so it can be moved.
- If sparks or flames are visible, quickly move as far away as possible. If flammable liquids are escaping, do not use a mobile phone within the vicinity.
- Phone emergency services if required.
- Clear away debris to reduce any risk to other road users.
Record and Report
When an accident occurs that causes significant personal injury or property damage, an accident report must be filed. This is particularly important if you’re going to be making an insurance claim.
If another car caused the accident, make sure you take down its registration number, the name and licence details of the driver, and check if that person is the owner of the vehicle. Take photos of the damage to both vehicles, your trailer, and the location.
If either the trailer or vehicle needs to be towed away from the scene of the accident, make sure you sign a towing authority approving it. This is a written agreement between the vehicle operator and tow truck driver outlining the terms of the tow, such as delivery destination and scheduled fees.
Even if there doesn’t appear to be much damage to either the tow vehicle or trailer, it’s important to take them both to a repairer for a thorough inspection, as any impact can affect the axles, wheel alignment and braking system resulting in costly repair bills or failures later on.
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