Trailer Coupling and Pre-Trip Inspections Within a 60 day period, 2 trailers uncoupled from the tractors pulling them after they left the BP Lubricants Port Allen, LA facility. Both tractor trailers uncoupled after having traveled approximately ½ mile on Westport Drive. The landing gear from the trailer involved in the first accident actually became wedged between the tractor frame and the tandem axle and prevented it from tipping over. In the second accident the driver stated he felt the trailer coming loose and he was able to stop before the trailer became completely disengaged. Luckily, the trailer stayed upright because the nose of the trailer was still resting on the frame of the tractor when the driver stopped. Both of these accidents involved experienced drivers. However, neither driver followed proper coupling or pre-trip inspection procedures before leaving the BP site. The driver’s admitted to this in their statements and a review of video from the security cameras on-site, provided confirmation. Both drivers stated that it “sounded” like the fifth wheel locked when they backed under the trailer but they never did a tug test or a visual check. Fortunately, no one was injured and there were no other vehicles involved in either accident. However, an internet search will quickly reveal that this type of accident all too often ends in injury or fatality. Just this year a tractor separated from its trailer while traveling on US 50 in Ohio. The trailer slid into the opposing lane and was hit by 2 oncoming vehicles. Both drivers who hit the trailer were killed. Pre-trip inspections and coupling of trailers is a basic skill required of any professional driver. A driver should NEVER cut corners and assume the trailer is properly coupled because it “sounded” like it was.
The following is a list of generally accepted coupling procedures and are offered in many state CDL training manuals. As there are differences in equipment, use these only as general guidelines and always learn the details on the proper coupling procedures for the equipment you are using.