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Old 08 January 2008, 11:12   #1
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Fatal trailer accident - help needed

I am looking for guidance from experienced towers of braked trailers. I act for a family whose son was killed when an unfit though theoretically "braked" trailer (not a boat trailer) left the hitch and mounted the pavement at speed. A defective jockey wheel lock had allowed the post/wheel to drop to ground whilst moving. Defective lock on hitch allowed force of this to release trailer from towbar. Brakeaway cable not fitted (police evidence that as the brakes were rusted solid it wouldn't have made any difference) So obviously a catalogue of defects.

Family want to campaign for all trailers (ie including braked) to have a secondary coupling to maintain some steering as is compulsory for unbraked trailers. The alternative might be annual MOT test for trailers.

Any comments as to whether there is any practical/technical issue with such a rule? As an unbraked trailer user, I have always used a secondary chain/cable attachment, and was astonished it wasn't compulsory for all. We are likely to be making representations to Dept for Transport. Thanks
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Old 08 January 2008, 11:19   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richyrich View Post
I am looking for guidance from experienced towers of braked trailers. I act for a family whose son was killed when an unfit though theoretically "braked" trailer (not a boat trailer) left the hitch and mounted the pavement at speed. A defective jockey wheel lock had allowed the post/wheel to drop to ground whilst moving. Defective lock on hitch allowed force of this to release trailer from towbar. Brakeaway cable not fitted (police evidence that as the brakes were rusted solid it wouldn't have made any difference) So obviously a catalogue of defects.

Family want to campaign for all trailers (ie including braked) to have a secondary coupling to maintain some steering as is compulsory for unbraked trailers. The alternative might be annual MOT test for trailers.

Any comments as to whether there is any practical/technical issue with such a rule? As an unbraked trailer user, I have always used a secondary chain/cable attachment, and was astonished it wasn't compulsory for all. We are likely to be making representations to Dept for Transport. Thanks

I can see no reason why there shouldnt be a 2nd method of attchment. I always use a "safety chain" braked or unbraked!
I have had a trailer come away from the car ( after i forgot to attach it to the ball! I just rested it on while i sorted the cable, forgot about it and pulled away. Thankfully it only hit a wall!!)

Good luck with this!
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Old 08 January 2008, 11:29   #3
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Originally Posted by richyrich View Post
Family want to campaign for all trailers (ie including braked) to have a secondary coupling to maintain some steering as is compulsory for unbraked trailers. The alternative might be annual MOT test for trailers.

Any comments as to whether there is any practical/technical issue with such a rule? As an unbraked trailer user, I have always used a secondary chain/cable attachment, and was astonished it wasn't compulsory for all. We are likely to be making representations to Dept for Transport. Thanks
US DOT (Dept of Transportation) regs require safety chains. Given the number of trailers being dragged around over here, I can't see any technical reasons that would prevent the UK from doing the same.

jky
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Old 08 January 2008, 11:33   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by richyrich View Post
I am looking for guidance from experienced towers of braked trailers. I act for a family whose son was killed when an unfit though theoretically "braked" trailer (not a boat trailer) left the hitch and mounted the pavement at speed. A defective jockey wheel lock had allowed the post/wheel to drop to ground whilst moving. Defective lock on hitch allowed force of this to release trailer from towbar. Brakeaway cable not fitted (police evidence that as the brakes were rusted solid it wouldn't have made any difference) So obviously a catalogue of defects.

Family want to campaign for all trailers (ie including braked) to have a secondary coupling to maintain some steering as is compulsory for unbraked trailers. The alternative might be annual MOT test for trailers.

Any comments as to whether there is any practical/technical issue with such a rule? As an unbraked trailer user, I have always used a secondary chain/cable attachment, and was astonished it wasn't compulsory for all. We are likely to be making representations to Dept for Transport. Thanks
I thought that there were plans to bing in MOT's for trailers as with HGV trailers. This will be a nightmare for boat trailers, keeping the brakes working is a difficult enough task
Keeping them balanced and efficient on a brake tester is going to involve all but replacing the whole issue once a year.
Are you aware of the death of a 6yo boy at Mylor Nr. Falmouth 3/4 years ago? A speedboat on a trailer parted with the tow vehicle at the top of the slip, ran back down the slip and killed him as he sat on a small kerb to one side.
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Old 08 January 2008, 11:37   #5
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Likewise, anything I tow always has a secondary chain or wire strop. It's worth noting that a lot of people seem to just loop the strop / chain over the towball thinking it will stay on - chances are, of course, it won't.

I'm amazed we don't have licencing for trailers - its fairly common in Europe (e.g. Spain, but only applies to Spanish registered vehicles) and certainly in my native South Africa you have to display a registration disc on the trailer, whatever the size.

Trouble is though, you couldn't enforce it by camera alone and that's all this government are interested in, and of course they'd love the chance for extra regulation / taxation this could bring.

Public education is probably a better route - but as a large number of people in this country can't drive properly for toffee, I don't hold out much hope.

Legislation for trailer manufacturers to place large stickers on trailers and supply all trailers with means of secondary attachment perhaps?
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Old 08 January 2008, 11:49   #6
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anything I tow always has a secondary chain
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Old 08 January 2008, 11:50   #7
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I would agree with the secondary trailer attachment but TBH the MOT thing wont work. Unless you are really looking after your trailer you will get it sorted.

As in this case, neglect caused failure, the number of cars on the road unisured/not MOT'd is an accident waiting to happen. Same in this case, some wont bother but others will.
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Old 08 January 2008, 12:07   #8
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Originally Posted by richyrich View Post
I am looking for guidance from experienced towers of braked trailers. I act for a family whose son was killed when an unfit though theoretically "braked" trailer (not a boat trailer) left the hitch and mounted the pavement at speed. A defective jockey wheel lock had allowed the post/wheel to drop to ground whilst moving. Defective lock on hitch allowed force of this to release trailer from towbar. Brakeaway cable not fitted (police evidence that as the brakes were rusted solid it wouldn't have made any difference) So obviously a catalogue of defects.

Family want to campaign for all trailers (ie including braked) to have a secondary coupling to maintain some steering as is compulsory for unbraked trailers. The alternative might be annual MOT test for trailers.

Any comments as to whether there is any practical/technical issue with such a rule? As an unbraked trailer user, I have always used a secondary chain/cable attachment, and was astonished it wasn't compulsory for all. We are likely to be making representations to Dept for Transport. Thanks
While I have every sympathy with them for their loss, a permanent secondary coupling is not the answer. If a trailer is heavy enough to require brakes then having it coupled permanently rather than a breakaway cable is more dangerous than it breaking away.

Situation A):-

A car is driving down the road towing a braked trailer with a breakaway cable. The hitch comes off the towball. The trailer brakes are applied and the breakaway cable snaps as per design. The trailer may well go off on it's own-but not far as it's being slowed by the brakes.If the brakes are correctly adjusted it won't stray far off it's original heading. It may cause an accident or hit something before it stops. The tow vehicle brakes to a halt,somewhat shocked but in control.



Situation B)

A car is driving down the road towing a braked trailer with an 'unbreakable' secondary coupling. The hitch comes off the towball.
The trailer will start to weave violently as the hitch is now almost free-floating.
The trailer brakes won't work as there's nothing for the hitch to push against.
The weaving trailer will cause complete loss of control of the tow vehicle as it drags it from side to side.
If the tow vehicle applies its brakes then the hitch will hit the rear of the tow vehicle off centre and the probability of a jack-knife is extremely high-the trailer is attempting to overtake the tow vehicle at an angle at this point.

You now have a far larger object out of control and unable to apply the brakes without significantly increasing the risk to both it's occupants,other motorists and pedestrians. There is a very high possiblity of the whole rig overturning whether the brakes are applied or not.
What you won't get is any semblance of steerage for the whole rig. Almost as soon as the hitch comes off the ball all control will be lost unless at very low speed.




A trailer MOT is unfeasable simply because trailers would have to be registered or have a chassis number. There's too many around without and MOT stations would have to be kitted out specially to test surge brakes.
Besides, it's those that don't obey the law (for example the guy towing the defective trailer you mention) that will still cause the problem. The laws are already in place within the Construction and Use regulations to charge people for dangerous trailers-they just need enforcing.


What I personally think would help would be a proper series of public information films about keeping your trailer maintained properly.


BTW, I drive more miles in my car with a trailer than without-and I tow 40' trailers for a living.
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Old 08 January 2008, 12:11   #9
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Originally Posted by jyasaki View Post
US DOT (Dept of Transportation) regs require safety chains. Given the number of trailers being dragged around over here, I can't see any technical reasons that would prevent the UK from doing the same.

jky

Size of tow vehicle. In the main, you guys use far bigger towing vehicles than we can and they are far more suited to handling a weaving trailer as they are a lot heavier.
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Old 08 January 2008, 12:25   #10
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Family want to campaign for all trailers (ie including braked) to have a secondary coupling to maintain some steering as is compulsory for unbraked trailers.
My understanding is that using a secondary coupling on a braked trailer is illegal. Probably for the reasons Nos outlined.
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