Livestock trailer safety
We have all seen the newspaper headlines “10 head of cattle loose after crash” or the worse-case scenario of “Prize-winning cow killed in crash.” These headlines are tragic but enforce the need to have a safety checklist that is reviewed every time we hook up the truck and trailer. Proper preparation of truck and trailer, animal loading and driver attentiveness are all factors that contribute to safe and effective livestock transportation.
Preparing the truck and trailer
Using a livestock trailer to transport animals between farms and sale auctions is common and increases during the summer as exhibitors attend shows. Trailer safety is essential to decrease the chances of a costly incident happening to you and your livestock. Before you hit the road, ensure that your vehicle and trailer are in good condition for the animal and equipment to arrive safely.
- Know your vehicle. Check the Gross Combined Vehicle Weight (GCVW) to know the towing capacity of the vehicle or your vehicle weight plus the loaded trailer weight. Additional weight such as fuel, passengers and cargo (livestock) must also be included.
- Know the law. Depending on the species of animal, the need for health testing, veterinary inspection and official identification paperwork will vary based on why you are transporting and your destination. All state-federal highways laws must be followed including licensing and DOT numbering requirements.
- Check all tires including the spares for quality, proper air pressure, and tread. Lug nuts should also be checked to ensure the tires are snuggly attached to the vehicle and trailer.
- When hooking the vehicle up to the trailer, the ball should be appropriately sized and greased for the hitch. The ball should be locked into place along with the safety chains attached as an additional safety precaution.
- Make sure trailer brakes are working.
- Make sure that all lights (brake lights, turn signals, and tail lights) work properly. A secure electrical connection between the vehicle and trailer must be made and maintained throughout the entire trip.
- Check the floor of the trailer to ensure that it can support the weight of the cargo. Additional floor mats may need to be added to provide traction for livestock.
- Be prepared in case of a flat tire or accident. Have safety cones/triangle, tire iron, nut penetrating fluid and a jack that can lift a loaded trailer.
Loading the trailer
When transporting livestock, the comfort and safety of the animals is your top priority.
- Identify any broken or sharp objects that may cause injury to the animals.
- Complete repairs should be completed before loading.
- Trailers should be loaded with the heaviest animals in front of the axles. Load older and larger animals first followed by younger animals.
- Prevent unwanted cuts and scrapes with padding on trailer sides and gates.
- Latch trailer doors to prevent them from opening unexpectedly.
- Do not lock the trailer closed. In the event of an emergency, rescue workers need to be able to access the trailer quickly.
Finally, the overall attitude and mental condition of the driver is vital to a safe and successful trip.
- The driver should be well rested.
- Avoid distractions including talking or texting on a cell phone, adjusting the radio or climate controls, eating, drinking and day-dreaming.
- Allow for greater breaking distance and travel at slower speeds allowing for more time to react to other roadway driving factors.
- Travel with vehicle lights on even the in daylight.
The ultimate goal for transporting animals is to maintain the highest standard of hauling with the well-being of the animals as a top priority. Preparing the truck and trailer for travel, loading the animals properly and driver attentiveness is essential to ensure a safe ride for your livestock.
For more information about livestock trailer safety, additional tips and some helpful videos, check out the eXtension article Livestock Trailer Safety.
Livestock trailer safety. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/64391/livestock-trailer-safety
September 23, 2017