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Main Content

Towing Safety | Winter 2015 Out Here Magazine

Towing a livestock trailer is a common practice on most farms and ranches. Livestock trailers, also referred to as stock trailers, are used to move livestock between locations, haul show animals to county fairs, and transport animals to processing plants.

To safely tow a livestock trailer, your truck must be capable of towing the weight of the trailer plus the added weight of the livestock.

Check with the manufacturer to determine the Gross Combined Vehicle Weight (GCVW), which includes the tow vehicle’s weight plus the loaded trailer weight. The GCVW rating can be located in the vehicle’s serial number or in the operator’s manual. When calculating the weight, remember to include the weight for fuel, passengers, and cargo.

The manual for the trailer should specify a maximum tongue weight — the amount of the trailer’s weight that presses down on the truck’s trailer hitch when using a bumper pull trailer or the truck’s bed when using a gooseneck trailer.

Most of the weight — 85 to 90 percent — should be carried over the axles so that only 10 to 15 percent of the weight is carried on the tongue.

Before using a livestock trailer, check both the truck and the trailer to ensure that they are in good working condition.

Trailer Upkeep

  • Latches and safety chains: Double-check the latches and the safety chains and cables between the truck and trailer to make sure they are fastened securely. Make sure you are using a ball that is the correct size for the trailer.
  • Trailer brakes: Inspect the breakaway cable or brake system. Manufacturers recommend that any trailer exceeding 1,000 pounds have its own brake system, but you should also check state regulations regarding brake system requirements.
  • Wheel bearings: Repack the wheel bearings on a regular basis and replace as necessary.
  • Electric wiring and connections: Make sure all wiring is in good condition. Trailer connectors should match the truck connectors. Check to make sure that all the lights — brake light, turn signals, and tail lights — on both the truck and the trailer are working. Make sure the electrical connection is securely plugged into the truck.
  • Tires: Examine the tires for signs of dry rot, wear, or damage, and make sure that all tires, including the spare and inside dual tires, have the correct air pressure. Consider replacing tires at least every five years, regardless of use.
  • Lug nuts: Inspect the lug nuts regularly to ensure they are properly tightened.
  • Trailer floor: Inspect the trailer floor to make sure it is sturdy and clean. If more traction is needed, install rubber matting. Consider replacing floor boards that are showing signs of wear or rot.
  • Battery: If you use battery-powered accessories, ensure that your emergency battery is charged and ready for use.
  • Brake controllers: Test your brake controllers and make adjustments as needed depending on the weight of your trailer.


Once you’re on the road, always maintain a safe speed, keep your headlights on, and stay alert.

Your braking time increases when you are towing a full trailer, so maintain a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you and leave adequate room to stop. Plan your travel time carefully, and be aware that weather can cause delays by impacting road conditions and animal comfort.

With these safety precautions you and your animals will reach your destination safely.