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The Essential Trailer Maintenance Checklist For Construction Professionals
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The Essential Trailer Maintenance Checklist For Construction Professionals

Last Updated on April 24, 2024 by Admin

The country’s construction sector remains vibrant and continues to grow. And where buildings are being erected, trailer trucks are present. These ubiquitous pieces of heavy equipment are indispensable in transporting construction materials and machinery to and from project sites. Estimates reveal that 340,000 truck trailers were manufactured in North America in 2021, and thousands more are regularly plying the roads. (1)

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However, this reliance on truck trailers comes with the need for regular maintenance to preserve their condition. So buckle up as we walk you through the essential maintenance checklist to keep your trailer running smoothly and reliably.

1. Lights, wiring, and electrical systems

A trailer’s lights and wiring system are essential for safe operation, especially during low-light conditions or at night. Regularly check the following lights to ensure they’re functioning correctly:

  • Brake lights
  • Turn signals
  • Reverse lights
  • Running lights

Inspect the wiring harness for signs of damage, like loose connections or frayed wires. You can also invest in moisture-resistant connectors and wiring to prevent corrosion and extend the life of the electrical system.

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As part of your trailer repair and inspection routine, consider enlisting the help of professionals for comprehensive repair, upgrade, and maintenance.

2. Wheel bearings

Wheel bearings are responsible for the smooth rotation of the trailer’s wheels. However, they can wear out or become damaged with constant use, leading to potential wheel failure. It’s crucial to check and lubricate the wheel bearings frequently. Here’s how:

  • Start by removing the hub cap and cotter pin.
  • Carefully remove the castle nut and washer.
  • Pull out the hub and check the bearings for signs of wear, corrosion, or damage.

If the bearings are in good condition, clean them thoroughly and repack them with fresh, high-quality grease. Replace the bearings immediately if you notice any damage.

3. Tires

The National Transportation Safety Board, in a 2015 paper, estimated that 33,000 tire-related vehicle accidents occur yearly, resulting in 19,000 injuries on average. Underinflated tires can cause excessive wear and tear, while overinflated tires may lead to a bumpy ride and increased risk of blowouts. (2)

Regularly check the tire pressure, ensuring it matches the manufacturer’s recommendations. Besides this, you also need to:

  • Inspect the tire treads for signs of wear, damage, or embedded objects.
  • Rotate the tires periodically to promote even wear and extend their lifespan.

Replace the tires immediately if you notice any damage or excessive wear.

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4. Brakes and suspension systems

The Essential Construction Trailer Maintenance Checklist
Image Credit: AdobeStock_351627310

A trailer’s brakes and suspension system are critical for safe stopping and a smooth ride. In Alabama, for instance, the 2016-2020 crash data revealed that 65% of vehicle crashes were attributed to brake and tire failures. (3)

As a preventive measure, the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) had recently required units with gross vehicle weight rating of over 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds) to have automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems.

However, having this mechanism doesn’t excuse you from inspecting the brake pads, shoes, and drums for signs of wear or damage. If the brake components are worn beyond the manufacturer’s specified limits, replace them immediately.

Check the brake fluid level and top it off using the recommended fluid type. Examine these suspension components for any issues:

  • Springs
  • Shock absorbers
  • Pivot bushings
  • Control valves
  • Shackles
  • Hangers and hanger pins

Any worn, damaged, loose, or leaking parts must be addressed immediately and before traveling. Remember to lubricate the moving parts to prevent premature wear and ensure smooth operation.

5. Coupler and jack

Every licensed heavy equipment operator knows that the coupler and jack are essential trailer components. The former connects the trailer to the towing vehicle, while the latter lifts and lowers the equipment, providing additional support when the machinery is stationary.

Inspect the coupler for signs of wear, damage, or corrosion. Ensure that the locking mechanism engages securely and that the coupler fits snugly onto the hitch ball.

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Lubricate the coupler and jack with high-quality grease to prevent rust and ensure smooth operation. If you notice any damage or excessive wear, replace the components immediately to prevent potential accidents or breakdowns.

6. Trailer floor and ramp

A trailer’s floor and ramp are subject to heavy wear and tear from loading and unloading equipment and materials. Inspect the floor and ramp for signs of damage, such as cracks, holes, or warping. If you notice any issues, repair or replace the damaged sections promptly to prevent further deterioration to ensure cargo and personnel safety.

To maintain the floor and ramp, periodically clean them with a pressure washer to remove dirt, debris, and any chemicals that may have spilled during transport. If your trailer has a wooden floor, check for signs of rot or water damage and replace the affected boards as necessary. For metal floors and ramps, look for signs of rust or corrosion and treat them with a rust-inhibiting paint or sealant to prevent further damage.

7. Trailer exterior

Keeping the trailer’s exterior clean and well-maintained improves its appearance and helps prevent rust and corrosion. Regularly wash your trailer with a mild detergent and soft-bristled brush to remove dirt, grime, and road debris.

Pay attention to areas where moisture can accumulate, such as corners, crevices, and under the frame. After washing, rinse the trailer thoroughly and allow it to dry. To provide additional protection against the elements, apply a coat of wax or sealant to the exterior surfaces. This will help repel water, dirt, and road salt, minimizing the risk of corrosion and other damage.

The takeaway

Maintaining your trailer is essential for ensuring safe, reliable, and efficient operation on the job site. According to the Bureau of Labor Services, the transportation and material moving jobs had the most fatalities in 2022, registering 1,620 deaths. This was followed by the construction and extraction occupations with 1,056. (4)

With this checklist, you promote worker safety, prevent downtime and costly repairs, and extend your trailer’s lifespan. Investing time and effort into its maintenance may look like additional work, but it will pay off in the long run, allowing you to focus on your construction projects with peace of mind.

References:

  1. “Projected truck trailer production in North America from 2018 to 2021(in million units), Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/743500/truck-trailer-production-in-north-america/
  2. “Selected Issues in Passenger Vehicle Tire Safety”, Source: https://www.ntsb.gov/safety/safety-studies/Documents/SIR1502.pdf
  3. “Injury-severity analysis of crashes involving defective vehicles and accounting for the underlying socioeconomic mediators”, Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10907794/#:~:text=To%20do%20this,with%20the%20crashes.
  4. “NATIONAL CENSUS OF FATAL OCCUPATIONAL INJURIES IN 2022”, Source: https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/cfoi.pdf

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