Keeping Trailering Safe

Keeping Trailering Safe

U-Haul updates its Safe Trailering Driver Education Program as trailer rentals surge during the pandemic

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In 1945, Sam and Anna Mary Shoen founded U-Haul and began renting trailers to do-it-yourself movers for $2 a day. Today, the annual mileage of North American U-Haul trucks, trailers and tow dollies would travel around the Earth 177 times per day, every day of the year.

Clearly, the couple filled a niche. And as their company grew, so did the need to keep customers, vehicles and other drivers on the road safe. So in the 1980s, the Phoenix-headquartered rental business released its first Safe Trailering Driver Education Program to provide basic, practical trailering information and guidelines for beginning drivers and first-time trailer customers.

Since then, the program has undergone several updates, and in 2022, U-Haul published its most recent version of the document. Also this year, AAMVA officially adopted the Safe Trailering guidance in the updated Noncommercial Model Driver Testing System (NMDTS) program as a best practice.

“The initiative is to help prevent injuries, hazards and fatalities on our roadways and provide an education to folks who might be towing for the first time or anyone who needs a refresher,” says Joe Cook, vice president of government relations for U-Haul. “We’ve seen an increase in trailer rentals over the last couple years likely due to economic uncertainty, so it’s a good time to put it out there.”

The guidelines are also intended for driver education professionals, highway safety officers, law enforcement agencies and youth safety groups. Cook has even taken his safe trailering program to schools to show students demonstrations in parking lots.

“We bring all the equipment so kids can really get their hands on what it looks like to drive and load a trailer,” he says. “That’s been a huge hit.”

Aside from in-person demos, the program consists of a 35-page printed guide and a series of YouTube videos that demonstrate how to load and tow a trailer. Online, renters can request their own safe trailering demonstrator to visit their site and can learn which trailer is best for their vehicle’s specifications.

While there are many factors to consider based on the size of the trailer, the weight of the load and the towing vehicle, Cook says there are three key elements people should take away from the program to ensure safety:

  • Follow the 60/40 rule: 60% of the load should be toward the front of the trailer, nearest the hitch, with the remaining 40% positioned in the middle and back of the trailer.
  • Reduce your normal driving speed. The maximum recommended speed for most car-trailer combinations is 55 MPH, according to U-Haul.
  • Wear your seatbelt.

“People often think they can drive like they normally do when they’re towing a trailer, but that’s not true. You have to keep so many additional factors in mind,” he says. “If people take anything away from the program, I hope it’s those three things.”

Ultimately, Cook hopes the Safe Trailering program will make its way into new driver education curriculum.

“When people first learn how to drive, they should also be learning this,” he says. “And that goes for all trailers, not just U-Haul trailers.”

For more, listen to our AAMVAcast episode with Joe Cook here:

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