Towing Safety: What Causes Roadway Trailer Sway?

Imagine driving down the highway with your family, camper attached to your truck’s tow, and you’re all sharing your excitement about your annual camping trip. Suddenly, a large gust of wind strikes your vehicle on the driver’s side. This fun-filled family trip has now transformed into a life or death situation.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there are over 50,000 accidents every year related to towing.

At high speeds, trailer sway problems can have fatal consequences. Trailer sway control is imperative for any truck driver with a tow attached. Any trailer towed with a hitch can sway or fishtail while driving down the road. The hitch acts as a pivot point in-between the centers of gravity of the two automobiles. Even the slightest sway or side-to-side force can turn the vehicle and create unexpected and dangerous forces. First, let’s identify what primarily causes trailer sway:

  • Strong winds and drafts — Strong winds can cause problems for any vehicle, and are even more dangerous when large trailers are involved. Drafts from passing semi trucks can result in serious on-road problems, as well.
  • Weight and balance issues — If there are weight distribution issues on your vehicle, it’s only a matter of time before you lose control. Weight distribution systems are recommended if your trailer weight is more than 50% of your truck’s weight. Additionally, between 12% and 15% of your trailer’s weight should be resting on your towing vehicle’s hitch. While descending hills, if your weight distribution is off, you will be in serious trouble of losing control of your vehicle and trailer.
  • Driving erratically — The best way to ensure trailer sway control is to simply drive safely. Erratic driving in any vehicle is dangerous, but it’s so much worse to drive a truck towing a large trailer fast and unstable. Rather than putting yourself, your family, and everyone else out on the roadways in danger, drive much slower than usual and stay as safe as possible.

There are two main types of trailer sway devices: those that reduce sway as soon as it has begun and those that work to prevent sway altogether. Make sure your vehicle is equipped with sway control devices, weight distribution systems, and that you’re driving safe at all times.

If you want to learn more about trailer sway prevention and purchase a quality trailer sway control hitch, give Hayes Towing Electronics a call right away.

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