The Importance of a Trailer Pre-Trip Inspection
One of the more eye-opening exercises that I used to conduct at this time of the year was to park my police vehicle at the brake check and wave in vehicles pulling boat trailers for a mechanical inspection. I had learned that boat trailers were often the most poorly maintained of all recreational trailers and there were often serious safety defects to be found. A simple pre-trip inspection by the driver would have found them easily and made sure that the trip would be a safe one.
The first thing I would do after gathering all the paperwork was to hand the driver a wrench and ask him to open the surge brake reservoir for a brake fluid level check. If the cap did not break off the reservoir was frequently dry or contained rust coloured liquid that indicated the fluid was contaminated with water and likely had been for some time. If the brake fluid appeared appropriate we would then activate the breakaway brake and try to move ahead. It should be very difficult to move the trailer.
Next I would ask for the running lights and hazard flashers to be turned on. A quick circle check examined safety chains, lights, reflectors, tires, wheels, licence plate and decal as well as load security. This could be accomplished in a couple of minutes and I then had a good idea of how roadworthy the trailer was or wasn't.
Many times the exercise would conclude with an order for the trailer to be taken to a designated inspection station for a more thorough examination by a mechanic. I spoke with one of these inspectors once and was told that I had a light hand when it came to using my pen. In his opinion, a large number of the trailers that I had sent should have been taken away from the roadside by tow truck.