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Trailer Towing Etiquette

Last week, I accompanied a close friend to an antique car show. He is the proud owner of a 1969 Ford Mustang 428 Cobra Jet, and frequents such shows regularly.

Red and Black Ford Mustang Mach 1 parked in a driveway.
1969 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet

Recently, he bought a Diamond Cargo car hauler to prevent adding extra miles on the Cobra. As made apparent by his driving mistakes, this trip was his first time towing an 8.5x20, or maybe one of any size. Along with the beginner mistakes my friend made, I witnessed several cringe-worthy towing infractions on our trip. Subsequently, leading me to share the correct etiquette when towing a trailer.

Looking back at the blog entry, https://www.diamond-cargo.com/post/wheel-talk, we understand towing safety begins well before our wheels touch the pavement. From checking to confirm your tires are properly inflated and that your lights are functioning as intended, to efficiently and effectively loading and securing your cargo, it’s vital to adhere to the following tips to ensure a safe haul.

Speed and Passing

Maintaining legal speeds without pulling a trailer is lawful and in common sense, but even more caution should be taken when hitched to a trailer. To avoid sway and combination disturbance, driving at speeds no greater than 55mph is ideal. Don’t feel pressured into speeding by other drivers who are impatiently eager to get to their destination. This was a problem throughout our trip as the Cobra owner gave in to pressing motorists and increased to near dangerous speeds on several instances. The best practice is to simply slow down and allow those vehicles to pass. Also, if you absolutely must pass another vehicle, only do so if you can maintain the recommended maximum speed limit. When passing, be completely aware of the other vehicles around you and remember to:

  • Pass only with correct clearance and on flat terrain.

  • Use corresponding signals well in advance.

  • Remember to acknowledge added distance before switching back lanes.

  • Always use your turn signal when you are planning to turn.

Mind the Space

Towing a vehicle requires keeping an increased distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Never ride another vehicle’s bumper. Aside from the potential dangers, aggression from tailing another motorist can often lead to ‘road rage’. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (FMCSA), the average stopping distance for a loaded tractor-trailer traveling at 55 mph is 196 feet. The FMCSA also states if you are driving below 40 mph, you should leave at least one second for every 10 feet of vehicle length. For a typical tractor-trailer, that equates to 4 seconds between you and the vehicle ahead. For speeds over 40 mph, you should leave an extra second. Furthermore, refrain from sudden stops. Obviously, doing so reduces the possibility of being rear-ended.

Allow Room When Parked Roadside

Occasionally, it will be necessary to pull over when towing. For example, addressing a mechanical issue or flat tire, or for the purpose of a phone call. As to not get side-swiped, be sure to pull a safe distance away from the road so that you can move around your vehicle and trailer as needed. A failure to do so may cause an obstruction in the flow of traffic.

To sum it up, utilize the before mentioned tips and guides for proper towing etiquette. Always be mindful and respectful of the regard of other motorists. Being on the receiving end of the middle finger gesture is unpleasant. Take it from me, the bird finger was a common theme on our trip to the car show. More importantly, smart towing practices will reduce the chance of an accident.

For even more towing etiquette lessons and expert opinions, give us a call at (877) 707-4264