Driving with a trailer
Small trailers are out in force again. When it comes to garden waste, construction materials, or play equipment for the garden, you can quickly find yourself short of space in your car. Anyone who has a car with a trailer coupling can count themselves lucky as they can quickly attach a trailer to the rear. “However, for drivers who lack practice, driving with a trailer is not quite as easy as it looks,” warns Martin Kugele, expert in load securing at DEKRA.
“The typical potential hazards when driving with a trailer include overloading it, not securing the load well enough, and driving too fast,” says the expert as a reminder. “When you have a loaded trailer, the driver has to change how they drive and remember that the braking distance will be longer. This is why you need to be particularly careful and leave a sufficient distance when driving with a trailer.”
The driver is also responsible for ensuring the permissible payload is not exceeded, and for keeping to the speed limit of max. 70 or 80 km/h in non-built-up areas (as applies in the majority of European countries). To ensure the vehicle remains stable when driving, it is recommended that you carefully consider how to correctly load the trailer. Place heavy parts as low down and as close to the center of the trailer as possible so that the center of gravity is not transferred too far upward. The load must also be secured against slipping, lifting up, and falling down by using lashing straps or stretch nets, for example.
“An important point is attaching the trailer drawbar correctly to the coupling head,” explains Kugele. “If the safety lever is not closed properly, the trailer may be able to detach itself from the vehicle and cause an accident. When it comes to removable trailer couplings, also check whether the ball neck has locked into place correctly. This can often be seen from a green indicator.”
The plug for the trailer electrics must also be fitted correctly, otherwise the rear lights, turn signals, and brake lights will not work. So before you drive off, quickly check or have another person look to see if everything is working. For those without much practice, reversing is generally tricky business. In this case, it is advisable to have someone direct you.