If you ask any truck driver what one of their worst nightmares is - chances are a dropped trailer is on their list. We've all seen it and we definitely don't want our drivers to be in that position. It can happen to even the most seasoned of drivers on an off day. This is one of the reasons a pre-trip inspection should be done before EVERY trip and why we put together some quick guidelines to keep you safe out there on the open road.
Take Your Time
Not only can a dropped load be a very dangerous situation, but the recovery cost can exceed $1000.00 per incident, depending on whether the container is loaded or not, and if the landing gear is in good working order. On top of that, there is also the possible cost of cargo damage AND downtime. A pre-trip inspection of the fifth wheel coupling to ensure your trailer is properly secured can save lives and money.
Routine maintenance of the coupling mechanism is key
According to truck manufacturers, locking mechanisms should be lubricated every 30,000 miles and cleaned every six months or 60,000 miles. Be sure to grease all contact surfaces using a water-resistant lithium grease.
Is there any debris or grease build-up in the locking mechanism? It's best to clean it out before winter is here. Grease build-up can freeze and removing the build-up will make it easier to inspect for possible damage or cracks.
Pay careful attention to the yoke tips, cam profile, yoke shaft, secondary lock, release handle, kingpin locking jaws.
Inspect the bracket liners and replace anything worn or damaged. These should be replaced every 300,000 miles for standard operation and every 180,000 miles for heavy usage.
Stop, wait a minute . . . go through this securement checklist
✔️ When backing under the trailer, verify your alignment, the position of the fifth wheel, and clearance.
✔️ To prevent damage, make sure your fifth wheel is aligned with the kingpin and is not elevated.
✔️ Verify the clearance for the fifth wheel to back under the trailer.
✔️ Perform a tug-test once the fifth wheel locks around the kingpin. This will verify the trailer is connected.
✔️ Visually inspect the fifth wheel when you hook up the airlines and electrical cord to make sure the wheel release arm is in and inspect the jaws of the fifth wheel to confirm that there is no space between the upper and lower fifth wheel.
✔️ Never back into a stationary object to assist in the sliding of any adjustable fifth wheel. This can only result in damage to the fifth wheel locking components.