Risk Management Magazine

Search for Articles

Trailer Trouble

Trailer Trouble


I purchased a Boss Hoss motorcycle several years ago. In case you don’t know, this motorcycle has a small-block Chevrolet V8 engine. The bike had 400 horsepower and, when gassed up, weighed 1,200 pounds. After owning it for just under a year (still under warranty), I noticed a slight tick coming from the left rocker cover. I called the dealer, and he told me to bring in the bike. It would be a two-hour drive and I had to leave the bike with him. But that wasn't going to be a problem because I had a truck and utility trailer that could handle the job.

I loaded the bike onto the trailer and drove to the dealer without incident. I then left the bike and trailer with him and returned home. A week later, he called and said he couldn’t find anything wrong with the bike and I could come pick it up. I drove back to the dealer, loaded the bike onto the trailer and started for home.

It was a hot day, so I rolled up the windows and turned on the air conditioner. I had a country station playing nice and loud over the radio. Life was good until I noticed the guy behind me flashing his lights. With my big turbo diesel truck, I hadn't noticed the left tire on my trailer had blown out and I was dragging it on the rim. I was on a two-lane county road with very little room to pull off, so I ended up half on and half off the blacktop. I carried two spares since I’d had previous blowouts with this trailer before — probably because my motorcycle was only a couple hundred pounds under the trailer’s maximum load capacity. Both blowouts were due to the rubber valve stems letting go on the 90-psi tires.

This time, the blowout caused some damage because I had driven for a while before noticing it. Apparently, when the tire blew, it curled the trailer fender back and under a little. I grabbed the jack and the spare tire and got to work, constantly looking over my shoulder for traffic since I was still halfway in the road. I was out in the country, so there wasn't much traffic — just the occasional driver that would slow down, gawk and keep going. In the middle of the tire changing, a fire truck rolled by. Initially, I thought they were going to help me, but I found out later that one of my gawkers had crashed just around the bend.

Anyway, I got the trailer jacked up, the old tire removed, the new tire on and the lug nuts tightened. That was when things started to go wrong. I had the bright idea to straighten out the fender, so I grabbed it and gave it a pull while resting my left hand on top of the tire. When I pulled, the jack popped out. Then gravity kicked in and dropped the fender onto my hand, trapping it against the top of the tire and squashing the crap out of it. Did I mention my bike weighed 1,200 pounds?

I tried to pull my hand out, but it wouldn't budge. So, there I was, halfway in the road with my hand caught and bleeding and nobody around. The main thought going through my head at that point was how stupid this whole situation was. I've always said if you're going to be stupid, you’ve got to be tough, and I’d been fairly tough my whole life. That's when it hit me — I could grab the jack with my free hand, put it back into position and lift the trailer off my trapped hand. It worked like a champ. I had the trailer off my hand in maybe 30 seconds and applied a rag to my injury.

I finished getting the tire and fender situated and drove home without further problems. My hand was sore for a couple weeks but wasn’t permanently damaged. I was definitely lucky, as things could have been a lot worse. Halfway out in the road like I was, I could’ve been hit by a passing vehicle. Or I could’ve been like the driver who passed by me and crashed while going around the bend. He ran off the road, went down a 10-foot embankment and rolled upside down. That's where the fire truck that passed me by was headed. I'm not sure what that driver suffered, but I'm sure his injuries were a lot worse than mine.

The lesson I learned from this situation is just because a trailer tire is rated for a given weight doesn’t mean it’s rated for high speeds. My tires were fine for short trips around town, but on the highway, they overheated and eventually failed. Do you understand your trailer tires’ load and speed ratings? If not, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a comprehensive guide to towing campers, boats and trailers at https://icsw.nhtsa.gov/cars/problems/equipment/towing. Check it out today to avoid repeating my mistake.


Do you understand the information printed your tires’ sidewalls? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration breaks it down at https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/tires.

Did You Know?

June 4-10, 2023, is designated Trailer Safety Week. According to trailersafetyweek.com, “End-users are vastly undereducated on the proper use of trailers, and it is crucial to utilize the connections that dealers and manufacturers have with consumers in order to raise awareness of proper towing techniques and maintenance.” To learn more, including proper hitching techniques, loading and maintenance, visit https://www.trailersafetyweek.com. It can save your life. Through engaged leadership and proper training, we can prevent mishaps like this from occurring again.

  • 4 June 2023
  • Author: USACRC Editor
  • Number of views: 149
  • Comments: 0