Many landscape and horticultural businesses use trucks and trailers to transport equipment and plants to work sites. Types of equipment can include lawn mowers—both push-type and riding-type—small backhoes, tractors, etc. You should know safe procedures to secure equipment on a truck bed or trailer, perform a safety check before driving, drive while towing a trailer and secure plants or small trees to a work site in a truck bed or trailer.

Securing equipment for safe transport

While loading or unloading a truck or trailer, be sure that the parking brake is set and that the wheels are chocked. This will keep the truck or trailer from accidentally moving while it is being loaded or unloaded. Always make sure the load is properly balanced. An unbalanced load can cause a trailer to sway and be hard to control. An unbalanced load could cause a traffic accident. Only use a truck or trailer that has side rails. Use chains or straps with ratchet load binders to secure the equipment to the bed. A chain or strap with a ratchet-type binder will ensure that the equipment is securely anchored to the bed. Always make sure that gasoline cans are secure and not loose in the bed. Secure tools such as rakes, shovels, hoes, picks, ladders, etc., with tie-down straps or bungee cords. Never leave these tools unsecure in the bed or trailer.

Securing plants for safe transport

While loading or unloading a truck or trailer, be sure that the parking brake is set and that the wheels are chocked. This will keep the truck or trailer from accidentally moving while it is being loaded or unloaded. Always make sure that the load is properly balanced. An unbalanced load can cause a trailer to sway and be hard to control. That could cause a traffic accident. Plants can be heavy, so use proper lifting techniques. Only use a truck or trailer that has side lifts. Use tie-down straps or bungee cords to secure plant pallets or flats to the bed of the truck or trailer. This will reduce the chance of the load shifting. If necessary, attach a cargo net over the load. If small trees or tree saplings are being transported, secure them in an upright position using tie-down straps or bungee cords.

Trailer towing safety tips: before you start

Make sure that the weight of the equipment being loaded does not exceed the gross combination weight rating. This information should be stated on the trailer itself or in the operator manual. If you are not sure, ask your employer. Use the proper hitch. Check the hitch and ball to make sure they are properly secured. Make sure the safety chains are in place. Lock the hitch with a padlock and bar. Check taillights, running lights, direction signals and brake lights. Replace any burned out bulbs before towing the trailer. If the trailer has its own braking system, check the braking system before towing. Check the truck mirrors so that you have good side and rear visibility. Check the tire pressure and tread wear on the truck and trailer tires. Make sure the load is properly secured and balanced. After the safety check, report any problems to your employer.

Trailer towing safety tips: on the road

Avoid jerky starts or fast acceleration. This can cause the load to shift. While driving, avoid sharp turns. Normal turns should be wider to prevent jackknifing or curb jumping. Never exceed the speed limit when towing a trailer. Always use turn signals when changing lanes and allow plenty of distance when changing lanes. Always come to a stop gradually. Avoid sudden stops. Be aware of crosswinds. Crosswinds can cause the trailer to drift into another lane. Be alert when you are passed by large trucks or semi trucks. The wind they produce can cause the trailer to sway. As they pass, reduce your speed gradually. Do not speed up. Steer straight ahead. Occasionally check the position of the trailer using the truck mirrors. Remember that a loaded trailer handles differently than an empty trailer. Always have proper identification while operating a company vehicle.

One you have reached the work site and have stopped, set the parking brake and chock the trailer wheels before unloading. If you need to back the trailer, use opposite steering procedures. It is a good idea to practice backing a trailer. Always back slowly. Sharp turns can result in a trailer jackknifing. If necessary, have another worker outside the truck help you back the trailer by using hand signals.

National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health.