With gross train weights and tractor speed limits on the rise, now might be a good time to make sure your trailers are safe and legal. Geoff Ashcroft sought some tips from Brackley-based trailer maker Merrick Loggin Trailers.
Recent changes to legislation means farm tractors towing agricultural trailers can now travel at a higher gross combination weight of 31 tonnes - an increase of 6.61 tonnes from the old 24.39 tonne limit.
However, the maximum trailer gross weight of 18.29 tonnes has not yet been changed. Similarly, tractors and trailers previously restricted to a 20mph speed limit under the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, are now able to travel at 25mph (40kph).
As a result, there has never been a more pertinent time to ensure lights and brakes are in full working order.
Trailer manufacturer, Merrick Loggin says: “The first thing you need to ask is, are your farm trailers fit for purpose?
Have a look around your trailers to see what needs to be repaired, replaced or simply straightened out.
If it looks dodgy, chances are you stand a good chance of having a roadside inspection.”
Working indicator lights are a legal requirement and are essential to warn other road users of your intentions.
If any of your lights are broken, consider replacing with LED light units – they are more durable than regular bulbs, offer a brighter light and use much less electrical power.
The white central light (pictured) is not a number plate light, but a flashing orange LED, intended to replace a traditional beacon.
“If you’re using a lighting board, put the correct width on for the trailer,” says Mr Loggin. “A narrow lighting board for example, won’t be easily visible once the trailer starts to make a turn. And I would want other road users to know that I’m turning right.”
Trailers longer than 5m (excluding drawbar) should be fitted with side reflectors no more than 3m apart, and should also be within 1m of the front and rear of the trailer.
Self-adhesive reflectors are cheap, as is reflective tape, which can help your trailer stand out, particularly at dusk.
Trailers more than 9m long require illuminated marker lights every 3m down their length.
Sticking brakes are often a sign of worn shoes and drums, allowing the cam which forces brake shoes against the drum to go over-centre.
With the axle supported, slacken the brake adjusters, remove the wheel nuts followed by the hub nut, to allow the brake drum to be removed.
Replace shoes, refit and adjust as necessary to restore braking performance and reliability. Non-standard brake shoes can also be relined.
With the drum removed, check that the grease seal is doing its job and keeping lubricant on the bearings, and not on the braking surface.
Parts for trailers using commercial vehicle axles are commonplace, suggests Mr Loggin. “Commercial axles deliver impressive braking performance too, and should offer longevity and reliability if checked and correctly set.”
Check tyres for cuts and bulges, and of course, tread. If in any doubt about their ability to carry weight, replace them. But don’t get hung up looking for exact replacements as some sizes can be hard to find.
Mr Loggin suggests ‘super singles’ are a low cost replacement, and part-worn wheels and tyres are in plentiful supply. “If the hub has a 10-stub pattern, they’ll go straight on, but never mix tyre sizes on an axle,” he says.
A manufacturer’s plate is a legal requirement for any trailer using public roads.
It must show gross weights and axle weights, and any trailer which has undergone conversion work must have its plate revised by the conversion company.
All farm trailers using public roads need to carry a number plate too, matching any one tractor registered to the farm.
Finally, a lot of farm trailers have been around the block a few times and have also stood the test of time.
That said, rust and rot can easily set in, so make a thorough inspection each year to ensure the trailer is sound and capable of carrying its payload.
Replace rotted outriggers to maintain structural integrity and replace rotted floors.