Hauling your own equipment is a great way to save on shipping fees, but that doesn't mean it's an effortless task. Before you hit the road with your truck and trailer, you need to plan carefully in order to keep your trip safe and inexpensive. Here are a few steps you'll need to complete before you can get your cargo on the open road.
Weigh Up as Soon as Possible
It's easy to be wrong about how much your vehicle and trailer actually weigh, especially when you're trying to guess by adding the weights of the components together. Fueling up for the trip, bringing an extra person or piece of cargo, or even just adding safety restraints to the equipment you're hauling can all increase your vehicle weight enough to get you in trouble.
Before you get on a major road, it's a good idea to have your trailer weighed professionally. You can do this at most truck stops, but you can also check online for the closes scale to your trip's starting point. You may have to pay a small fee before your truck and trailer can be weighed, but it will cost you far less than being caught out at a weigh station during your trip.
If you're caught overweight, you'll not only have to pay a fine, but you'll also have to somehow fix the problem before you can get back on the road. You might have to take fuel out of the tank, unload some of your equipment, or call for a lighter truck to come and haul your cargo for you. All of these outcomes will cost you dearly in wasted time and money.
If You're Filling Up, Be Fuel-Conscious
Depending on the towing service you use, you'll most likely have to pay for any fuel you use during the trip. Not refilling the tank could get you hit with fees from the towing service, so make sure you take photos showing the level of the gas tank before and after you've made your trip.
If you'll be equipment hauling over major roadways, you can reduce how much you have to spend on fuel by driving a little slower than the speed limit at all times. Research shows that trucks are most fuel-efficient the slower they go, so you'll burn up significantly less fuel for every notch your odometer goes down.
That being said, you mustn't go too slowly either, since trucks that go much slower than the vehicles around them are at a higher risk for accidents. The general rule is to travel 5-10 miles below the speed limit.
For longer hauling trips, driving with a partner can also help save you money. Using a smartphone, your partner can access apps that show the lowest fuel prices along your planned route. Keeping these locations in mind as you drive means you'll always get the best possible deal on diesel.
Always Do the Five-Step Checkup
If you're renting your truck and trailer, chances are that everything is in good working order already. Still, mistakes can happen, and you don't want to realize something is wrong when you're already barreling down the freeway. To avoid nasty surprises, take a few minutes to check off the items on this list before your journey begins:
- Make sure the hitch chains are crossed so they will catch the tongue in the event of a hitch failure.
- Balance and secure your cargo. Around 60% of the load should be close to the front of the trailer in order to keep the weight evenly distributed. Make sure equipment is snugly in place using restraints strong enough to contain it.
- Examine the brake battery. It should have a test light you can use to see if it's charged.
- Shine a light under the vehicles. If everything is correctly prepared, you shouldn't see any wires or parts hanging down. Tires should be uniformly inflated before and after loading.
- Test drive the truck and trailer. Practice using your trailer's brake lights and blinkers, and angle your mirrors so that you can see as far around the trailer as possible.
Hauling your own equipment can save you money, but only if you're careful to avoid an accident. If you don't tow a trailer regularly, you'll need to be extra cautious when transporting your cargo. If anything looks fishy, or if you have questions, let the rental company know right away. It might not just save you money—it could even save your life.