I perform audits of both utilities and contractors. When I work with them to do those audits, we include trucks and trailers. The trailers I’m talking about here are not the box vans behind tractors, but the general-duty trailers used to haul trenchers, backhoes, wire reels and padmount transformers. It’s no surprise that the trailer issues we discover are in keeping with the types and frequencies of violations that enforcement officials find on the roadways: those involving lights, load securement and brakes. Auditors also get a lot of questions about trailer safety, or more specifically, trailer rules, which are in place for trailer safety. I almost always receive those questions after an enforcement action has occurred.
Many enforcement actions have come about due to the efforts of states that have noticed trends in trailer-related incidents. The incidents didn’t involve semi-trailers pulled by tractors; they involved smaller trailers used in commercial environments where enforcement had not spent much focus. Without that focus, there was a lack of accountability, and now it’s caught up with us. States are enhancing their observations of commercial trailering, making stops and taking trailers out of service for numerous issues, most often related to brakes.
The inspiration for this article was a recent training visit I made to a central U.S. utility. On the way to the training location, I saw a utility crew on the side of the road with a state trooper. It turned out they were my training class for that day, so I got to ask them about the stop. It was about brakes. The trooper was getting ready to pull out from a doughnut shop (really, he was) when the crew passed in front of him. The trooper noticed the lack of a battery box and a battery, so he stopped them. He didn’t check to see whether the brakes were working because the lack of a battery on the electric braking system meant the breakaway emergency system wasn’t functional. The crew got a ticket, but they also caught a break. Since the yard was two blocks away, the state trooper allowed the crew to continue to the yard instead of putting them out of service. He also stopped by later that afternoon to see if the trailer brakes had been repaired. They had been.