Loading Your Trailer Safely
What could go wrong on the road if your trailer’s not loaded properly? The trailer swaying as you drive, trouble braking, bent axels from too much weight, the trailer tongue breaking, not being able to get up a hill. If your trailer is overweight or you have cargo sticking out past the trailer you may incur fines, potentially injure others using the road, or damage property.
Tips to avoid unsafe loads
- Make sure your vehicle can handle the trailer. Check the vehicle owner’s manual or with your dealer for the towing capacity. Refer to our previous blogs for more help on this topic (Trailer Maintenance and Trailer Definitions).
- Do not load up your trailer and cross your fingers. This is not a time for ‘she’ll be right’, even if it’s just a quick trip down the road! Never exceed the vehicle or trailer capacity. When you are working out if your vehicle will be able to handle the trailer’s weight, make sure you add the trailer plus the estimated cargo weights together.
- The 60 / 40 rule – when loading a trailer safely we suggest loading 60% of the cargo towards the front of the axle(s) and 40% behind the axle(s). This is a general rule and please check your owners’ manual.
- Place extremely heavy objects over the axle – the above 60/40 rule is general for most of the cargo. If you have an extremely heavy item(s) that can’t be spread across the trailer, we suggest placing these directly over the axle.
- If you think you may be getting close to overweight, go to the closest public weighbridge or use your personal vehicle scales that can be purchased from reliable auto parts retailers.
Transport regulations for each Australian state and territory set out the rules for carrying loads on vehicles. Please refer to these when you are learning about loading your trailer safely. The regulations include the maximum dimensions of loads a vehicle can carry, eg, length, height, width, front, rear, and side overhands, securing the loads, and not exceeding maximum weight.
How to secure your load
You’ve made sure you haven’t exceeded the correct weight and now it’s time for securing the load. What are your options?
Rope intended for transport use - Transport Fibre Rope complying with AS/NZS 4345 - can be used for securing your trailer loads. Rope, however, is only suitable for certain types of light loads due to the limited tension that can be applied by it. And because of this, ropes are more likely to loosen than other types of restraint. Your ability to tie stable knots is important if you are going to use ropes.
Ratchet cargo straps
There are advantages to using ratchet cargo straps over ropes. They are readily available, low cost and you don’t need to learn how to tie secure knots. We suggest you only buy and use straps that are marked with the load rating appropriate for your needs.
Cargo nets are an easy way to secure light, loose articles. These days they are quite common on tradies’ utes, as well as the home trailer.
Please remember some loads settle and move in transit, such as vegetation. We suggest you always check and, if necessary, tighten the restraints during the trip. And remember, if using ropes, due to their inability to apply high tensions, they are more likely to loosen than other types of restraint.
Rules for securing loads
A broad understanding of how to secure/restrain loads is important to safely transport goods using your trailer. The National Transport Commission’s Load Restraint Guide for Light Vehicles 2018 gives easy to read, detailed information about loading your trailer safely.