Much is written for anglers on what to do to catch fish when they reach the
water. We've certainly added our share to that library of information over the
But, little is written on a topic that can literally wreck a fishing trip
before it gets started.
"Towing Troubles: Danger on America's Road," a two-year study
released in 2006, noted that towing problems led to more than 400 deaths and
nearly 30,000 injuries in 2004, the latest year examined.
The main reason -- motorists lack knowledge or the proper equipment. The
trend for accidents related to towing is moving upward as more people invest in
boats and trailers, the study found.
Most Need Towing Knowledge
Though the online survey focused on people who tow boats, travel trailers and
the like, only one third felt they were very knowledgeable about proper towing
practices and safety. The vast majority of those surveyed, 71 percent, admitted
to being only "somewhat" to "not knowledgeable." And, incredibly, about one
third said they had no knowledge on the topic at all!
"Too many people are inexperienced with towing, shifting loads, and the
knowledge you need," said Dan Williams, truck field manager for Toyota
Motor Sales USA, Inc., based in Chicago. "You run into safety issues with
The research revealed many people don't know even the most basic
information. For example, more than half did not know, or were unsure of, their
trailer's gross weight, which is critical to know what kind of vehicle and
hitch you need.
More than half the people questioned didn't know, or were unsure of, the class
of hitch already on their vehicle, a rating that determines how much weight can
be towed without problems.
Only 1-in-10 were given towing information from their boat or trailer
dealer. In some cases, the fault rested with the drivers themselves. Less than
1-in-4 bothered to open the owner's manual for directions. Three out of
four said they learned by doing through trial and error -- a dangerous
classroom at best.
Ignorance apparently is bliss. Nearly two thirds said they didn't think they
needed more information on safe towing procedures. More specifically, only 1-in-10 cared to know more about weight distribution. One-in-20 wanted to know
more about leveling a trailer, a key safety issue since an improperly leveled
trailer can lead to fishtailing and loss of control.
Williams said Toyota hopes potential customers research what they need
before they arrive at a dealership. When they don't, Toyota sales
representatives are prepared to walk people through the selection process so
they wind up with the vehicle they need. In Toyota's case, that's the new,
Apparently, the company is doing it right. Toyota claimed the status of No.
1 in vehicle sales worldwide earlier this year. To meet growing demand for
Tundras, a second truck plant was opened recently in San Antonio, Texas. That
adds to the plant in Princeton, Ind., where Tundras -- the most
"American-built in the USA" pickup on the market -- have been
assembled for several years.
Williams said that too often, people are only concerned with horsepower,
payload, and towing capacity. While important, he said people should also
consider factors such as spring ratings, stopping power, and handling.
Tundra: Plenty Of Towing Power
Having enough horsepower and towing capacity are not issues with trucks such as
the Tundra. Equipped with a V-8 engine, the 2007 Tundra can pull up to 10,000
pounds and handle a payload of 2,000 pounds in the bed. Using a six-speed
transmission and gearing designed to provide added muscle, the vehicle has the
most torque and horsepower in its class, yet Toyota says it gets 19 miles to a
gallon on the highway.
Many pickups have heavy-duty shocks to do the job when loaded. But, take
away the boat or travel trailer and they ride, "like a rock,"
Williams said. "Tundra has special springs to handle that," he said.
Tongue weight is a measure of what the back bumper or hitch can handle. A
good rule of thumb is to have 10 percent of what the total trailer weight is,
"Four-wheel drive is great to have and makes a difference even on dry
pavement when pulling a heavy load or a boat out of water on a slippery
ramp," Williams said.
Still, Tundra comes standard with computer-controlled Auto Limited Slip
Traction Control so even a two-wheel-drive version gets excellent traction.
And, ask about brakes.
"It's great to brag about towing capacity and horsepower, but if you
can't stop it, you're going to have issues," said Williams, who noted the
Tundra has the largest brakes in its class.
Towing Safety Checklist
The National Highway Traffic Safety Institute offers a checklist of safety
issues regarding tow vehicles. Many of the points echo Williams'.
* Before buying a vehicle, check the owner's manual to be sure the vehicle
can tow your trailer and boat;
* Make sure you have the right hitch, especially if you have one installed
* A towing package should include a heavy duty radiator, battery, flasher
system, alternator, suspension, brakes, as well as an engine-oil cooler,
transmission-oil cooler, and wiring harness.
* Towing packages rarely include the draw bar, an assembly on which the
hitch ball is mounted; the ball mount; or the hitch ball. Make sure you buy the
right ones for the job.
* Before leaving home, make certain your vehicle and trailer are well
maintained. Tires should be inflated to the proper pressure. Take wheel chocks
and jack stands along just in case. The wheel lug nuts should be tightened. Be
sure the hitch, coupler, draw bar, and other equipment that connect the trailer
and the tow vehicle are correct. Check all lights, including running lights,
brake lights, turn signals, and hazard lights. Check the brakes. Use all
available safety gear, including the breakaway switch to stop the trailer in
the event it comes loose. Cross safety chains below the hitch to help keep the
tongue elevated off the road if it slips free.
Make Sure Bearings Are Greased
* Once underway, use the right driving gear. Also, feel trailer hubs after going a short
distance. If hot, bearings need to be greased in a hurry. Drive at moderate
speeds to avoid stressing your vehicle or trailer. Trailers are more likely to
sway at higher speeds or if the tongue weight is incorrectly balanced. Tandem
axle trailers follow the truck more smoothly and are less apt to sway. Don't
stop or swerve suddenly in either case.
* Here's a good trick when backing. Put your hand at the bottom of the
steering wheel so when you want to go left, you can move your hand left. Turn
right by moving your hand right. Go slowly. Have someone at the rear to help
* Avoid parking on grades if you can. Block your wheels.
* Before unhitching, put blocks at the front and rear of the trailer
* One of the features on the new Tundra's is the rear back-up camera. This
nifty device allows you to line-up your ball and hitch without assistance from
someone else. It is truly a godsend!
Read the entire "Towing Troubles" document at:
Take care when choosing a tow vehicle and towing your boat. These simple
decisions and suggestions can mean the difference between having fun day on the
water or a disaster.
For a fine assortment of Towing accessories, click here.