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Towing & hauling safety

  • SIMA
- Posted: June 1, 2014
By Michael Merrill
With hundreds of sites to walk through and dozens of client protocols to follow, postseason site closeouts at North Country Snow and Ice Management typically take until the end of May to complete. Late winters, coordination and the process itself can make postseason site closeouts overwhelming at times.

Clients hoping to erase any visual reminder of winter want your equipment off their sites as soon as possible. Pushers, plows, equipment, “mafia block,” bulk material, site trailers, site vehicles, etc. are in and behind your trucks rushing down the highway back to your yard. Snow & ice management professionals have a responsibility to the public and their employees to tow and haul safely.

Take a moment to refresh yourself on towing/hauling rules and regulations. Review Department of Transportation (DOT) towing laws and internal compliance in a toolbox talk with your drivers. Keeping a DOT training binder in the office as a valuable reference tool prevents you from having to research the information each year.

Beyond your normal vehicle “circle check” program, review the items featured here for damage, rust, cracks/breaks, or anything that could cause the component to fail. This is not a complete list but covers some major items. 
Truck side (receiver, pintle hook, ball): Inspect to ensure nuts are secure. Look for physical wear, cracks or missing nuts and bolts. If any part of the receiver mounting hardware appears fatigued or damaged, it may need to be replaced.

Trailer side: Inspect nuts and bolts on mounting plate and ball. Look for fatigue and cracks on the unit.  

Bolts 1 Bolts 2 Bolts 3
Truck/Trailer welds
Check all welds on the truck and trailer for any cracks or separation. If any welds are damaged there is a good chance that the bead can be ground off and rewelded as long as the component hasn’t fatigued.

Welds 1 Welds 2

Breakaway cables

Check that the breakaway cable is solid, is not frayed and hasn’t been repaired. Attach a climbing style D-ring to the truck side of the cable so that it can be properly attached. It is recommended that the cable not be attached to the ball or pintle hook but to the truck [preferred] or the receiver.


Binding technique (DOT compliance)
Visit the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association’s website for cargo securement guidelines ( Inspect chains, binders and straps for damage or wear on a regular basis.


Registration/Insurance documents
Contact your state’s motor vehicle department for regulations regarding documents that need to be stored on the trailer (insurance card, inspection and registration documents, etc.). We keep the originals in the office and put copies in the trailers. 


Lighting/Circle check/DOT binder

Circle check documents are available online, but I recommend developing company-specific sheets. When first building your DOT binder, regulations can seem complex and overwhelming, but some Web research and a few calls to your local DOT officer can help clarify some of the uncertainty. We have found our local DOT folks to be quite helpful. 

Circle Check

Door tags

Door tags will define truck, trailer and combination gross vehicle/axle weight, tire weight ratings and license class, where it applies. Ensure that employees have a thorough understanding of where to find gross vehicle ratings and what the numbers mean. Door tags should be legible, clean and not painted over. Understanding these tags will help employees comply with DOT regulations.

Door tags

Michael Merrill is CEO of North Country Snow and Ice Management in Glens Falls, NY.
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