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Keep These Beneficial Trailer Maintenance Tips in Mind

Wed November 17, 2021 - National Edition #24
Tri-State Trailer


Shown here is a new brake drum.
Shown here is a new brake drum.
Shown here is a new brake drum. Shown here is a new air bag. Seen here is the bottom of the coupler plate on a trailer with a relatively new FHWA inspection. It was most likely not unhooked from the tractor during the inspection. A cracked brake drum (seen here) is a good example of a problem a driver can catch on a pre-trip inspection.

Trailers play a key role in the construction industry — whether they're moving equipment or materials, no work gets accomplished on the job site until trailers are called into service.

As with all construction equipment, a trailer must properly perform to help keep work on schedule … and maintenance is the key to accomplish this.

However, there are two factors that can contribute to trailer maintenance being overlooked or neglected. First, compared with other types of construction equipment, trailers are relatively simple in design and as such, can often be an afterthought when keeping up with inspections. And second, machine operators in the cab of equipment, such as a dozer or excavator, receive constant feedback on the condition of the equipment. Instrument panel alerts or an odd noise coming from the engine will be noticed immediately and acted upon. In the case of trailers, however, the truck driver is isolated from the trailers, so issues such as a bad bearing can go unnoticed.

According to Tri-State Trailer Sales Director of Service Greg Brown, prevention is the solution to keeping trailers operating safely and profitably.

It sounds pretty obvious, but the key to maintenance is proper inspections," he said.

Brown urged that inspections should be a regular part of the routine every time prior to a trailer leaving the equipment yard.

A complete inspection form is available from the U.S. Department of Transportation; however, the primary areas of concern for daily inspections include a look at every functional point of the trailer. A review should be done to ensure there are no issues with the running gears and tires should be checked for wear. Hub oil levels, lights and brakes also should be checked. A walk-around of the trailer to look for signs of structural damage also is important. Brown also recommends that spot checks by qualified service personnel be conducted regularly to confirm that the driver is performing thorough inspections.

Brown advises that maintaining a regular, professionally conducted preventive maintenance schedule at three-month intervals or a set number of miles based on usage should also be implemented.

"Staying on top of maintenance and keeping the trailer in good condition is much less expensive than paying for safety violations or having an accident," Brown said.

These inspections can save a lot of money on repair service, as well, Brown added. "Catching the fact that a hub is low on oil allows the owner to address the issue before it leads to bigger problems."

The preventive maintenance schedule should review the following primary components of a trailer that may not be immediately apparent during daily inspections:

  • braking system, including the anti-lock braking system;
  • bearings;
  • suspension (axle, shocks, airbags);
  • main frame, including cross members;
  • electrical system; and
  • tires

An annual Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) inspection, conducted by a qualified inspector is required for all commercial vehicle fleets. Brown cautioned that it is crucial to use a reputable technician for these inspections.

"Unfortunately, we see a lot of FHWA stickers on trailers that should not have passed inspection," he said. "At Tri-State Trailers Sales, we approach every inspection and service we perform as though that trailer will be traveling on the road next to our family car." CEG

This story also appears on Truck and Trailer Guide.




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