Most people haven’t experienced the thrill of alley-docking a 53’ dry van in between two other trailers with less than three inches of clearance on either side. In your F-150, inches of clearance (waaaaay back there at the end of your trailer) may seem like a long way off for you to visually “guestimate;” but when the end of your trailer is almost 70’ behind your point of vision, that “guestimation” suddenly narrows down to a much tighter tolerance. Yet, how is it that we see truckers effortlessly slide these massive rigs into spaces barely wider than their physical dimensions?
Skill and muscle memory comes with experience; but if truth be told, driving a semi is a lot easier than trying to drive some of these lackluster little trailers you’ll see “four-wheelers” (what truckers call cars and light trucks) towing around. That statement comes with many caveats, of course; but having spent about 200,000 miles behind the 425 hp Caterpillar in our Freightliner Century, we could tell you a few things about a few things.
Firstly, trucks are designed to be trucks. Blind spots are nearly eliminated with the proper mirror setups; and the truth is, it’s actually not that hard to slide a big dry van tightly between two other ones once you get used to guiding it from the rear.
Needless to say, all of this comes with experience. You don’t just “wake up good at driving trailers” one day. If you’ve ever wondered how the best way NOT to use a trailer is (or your entire hitch/receiver assembly, for that matter), we’ve put a little something together to help you figure it out.
18 Rotator In Action
You’re literally turning Highway 10 into a bottleneck as the desert version of Highway Thru Hell unfolds (at your doing) along the California interstate. Two massive wreckers are now on the scene (with a rotator en route) to come to clean up your mess. You should have sat down a long time ago. But here you are, still trying to orchestrate the recovery of your boat.
The cumulative total experience between the 6 CHP officers (and a slew of recovery workers) isn’t enough to deter your authoritative hand signals; and while we all appreciate you trying to “right a wrong,” nobody is taking you seriously at this point. After all, if you knew what you were doing, your boat would have made it where it was going.
17 Forward Launches
We understand that backing up a very short trailer can be excessively difficult, but that doesn’t excuse the use of shortcuts to launch your fishing boat when those shortcuts involve inverted boat launches! This just radiates with a grossly-negligent lack of forethought – what was he expecting to do?
Flip a U-turn down at the bottom and drive it right back up into the engine-sustaining atmosphere? We know Fords are tough, but hydro lock is a real thing – and water doesn’t combust that well. In reality, he probably forgot to set the parking brake – but what’s worse? Trying to flip a U-turn at the bottom of a lake, or not setting the parking brake on the steep hill leading to the lake?
16 Anti-Landmine Bumper Dumper
This guy took our advice – to a new level. If the issue is landmines – and you’re vehemently adamant about using the restroom in close proximity to your bumper – try this on for size.
That five-gallon bucket you have laying around makes a great “large-capacity” receptacle for all those high-performance, bathroom runs that are destined to have you making a sudden break for the bumper dumper for the rest of the night. Clearly, this isn't the best idea and one that should be avoided.
15 Camping Sad 2132
We don’t know what goes on within the confines of this tiny camper – but we don’t think we want to know. The “elementary” nature of the scientific journey that almost invariably going on inside is, perhaps, less curious than its origins – I want to see the face of the guy who actually thought he was going to make this thing a hit!
The dangerous little drag-axle under the camper looks like even more of an afterthought than the aerodynamics. Obviously, this thing isn’t going anywhere fast, even – if it can even “go” at all. (The heritage design cues in the grill indicate it’s ready to climb Everest on a half-tank of gas and a quart of oil.)
14 Airstream Dream
If there are not 101 ways to improperly use a trailer, conventional logic would reason that there would also have to be (at least) a few “right” ways to use one as well. The definition of right and wrong depends greatly on who’s doing the asking – and who’s doing the answering.
Despite the wide range of different opinions you’ll get on the subject, it’s really hard to argue with premium-vintage luxury on an isolated beach – especially when you set up camp against the fading sunset on a deserted beach in the middle of nowhere; just you, the soundtrack of the surf, and complete isolation from the hustle and bustle of modern life. Welcome to winning, my friends.
13 Mahoney’s Jackknife
Trailering, in its most basic form, is an art complex-enough to baffle the logic circuits of the average driver’s mind. The technique is simple, really: "Steer into the drift." Remember that, and you’ll be backing trailers up like a well-seasoned professional – every time. Trucking is a refined art, however, and it’s much more than straight-line driving. The only way to really appreciate the pinnacle of “trailering” is to watch it in action, in reverse…with multiple trailers.
Adding an additional trailer can add up to two additional pivot points, thereby causing the “steer into the drift,” technique to tangle your brain into a constrictor knot. Just remember: When backing a multi-trailer combination, you’re not steering your second trailer – your “first” trailer is.
12 Tail Tent
It’s called the “Cruiserlift,” and it represents the pinnacle of trailer laziness – at its finest. As much as I want to slam this product for perpetuating this abominable trailer type, its multi-national book of business is indicative of a successful product launch. Nonetheless, if a diesel pusher is in your fleet – be a man and pull a real trailer.
One pneumatic, ball-bearing caster is highly inadequate (and negligently under-engineered) to stand up to any “real” load. The design is just asking to fail by placing the entirety of the trailer’s load on a single longitudinal axis; your 2” receiver and this lawnmower tire are the only things supporting your whole tail tent (and everything in it).
The laziness doesn’t stop with a tail-tent – no sir! In fact, the laziness is just beginning. For one, you can buy this “Extend-A-Truck” from your favorite online retailer for under $90 (and it even qualifies for your “Prime” membership benefits); that should be a solid indicator that it’s about the furthest thing from heavy-duty you can buy – that and the 25lb-shipping weight.
You’re basically trying to “squeeze” an extra six feet from your pickup truck with 2” tubing that feels like it’s going to struggle with anything bigger than a fiberglass pontoon. Look at it this way, sit on it with a friend and you’re just about at maximum capacity.
Hardly superior to the “Extend-A-Truck,” this product takes trailering to new distances – from the pickup! It’s a setup used in tandem with piggyback campers; the additional extension allows the ball to maintain functionality in spite of the piggyback camper’s long overhang.
Structurally, the two heavy-duty turnbuckles provide lateral support while a double-receiver on the towing vehicle adds rigidity. In short, the system is proven. Still though, when viewed without the enveloping tail of the camper, you see it for what it really is – rickety! (The additional length makes backing shorter trailers especially fun.)
9 OG Bumper Dumper
A match made in heaven. (I’m actually talking about the clever wordplay of the sloganeer moniker; it’s as if this product was destined for mankind – just as soon as he invented the bumper.) The unit itself is actually a great idea – in theory! Think about it – no more sticking your bare cheeks into unidentifiable bushes just to answer the call of nature – you now have the convenience of a toilet seat anywhere there’s a 2” receiver.
On a matter of principle, however, we don’t feel that it’s very becoming to go to the bathroom while connected to the exterior of your truck. Plus – now you’ve got a land mine waiting for you every time you grab something off your tailgate.
8 Reefer Madness
Don’t ever be this guy – you don’t want to be this guy. You – on the other hand – are likely an intelligent and mechanically inclined citizen, and we expect better from you. What he “thought” was going to happen when he crested the razor-sharp, 45° decline is anybody’s guess; but with a loaded 53’ dry van, one of those initial first thoughts should have been simply, “nope.”
It’s the four-letter word that would have saved him from profusely overusing the “other” four-letter one – and subsequently saved him from a very difficult phone call; the ones that start out with, “Well…what had happened was…”
7 Get It Wet
Usually, getting it wet, is a good thing; wetting the whistle when you’re thirsty; wetting the feet, in a metaphorical, sense to get used to something – water slides definitely work better wet. But produce trucks operate much better dry, and even though they don’t mind getting a little rained on here and there, nose-diving your 3406 Caterpillar into the Cape Fear River never got anybody anywhere fast in life.
This Bald Head Island ferry operator in North Carolina was on his way to the island with a loaded reefer when two mistakes happened to come together at the worst time. Even in the absence of wheel chocks, the parking brakes wouldn’t have allowed any movement out of the rig, had it been properly set. “Well…What had happened was…”
6 Slow Your Roll
This Chaffee County, Colorado equipment owner/operator got his money’s worth out of this load before he even dropped it off and invoiced the freight bills – this load literally saved his life! The driver, facing the wrong way in a tight spot, decided that he was turning around – and he was doing right it now!
After about 10 minutes of trying to “compel” the trailer in the other direction with a never-ending series of pull-ups and reversals, the driver became overconfident of the ground beneath his truck. He was at the very edge when it finally did crumble, but only enough to jam up his chassis on the edge.
5 Seriously – Slow It Down!
The rural back roads and windy corners of remote forests are no place for over-sized loads – or the trucks that move them. But, when something’s got to go somewhere – and an excuse won’t cut it – count on a truck and driver to get it done.
Sometimes though, gettin’ it done means sticking your rig way too deep down a road it should not go. When this happens, it becomes painfully apparent (in a very short measure of time), just how difficult “getting out” can actually be. Just because you can nose into a tight spot in one go – doesn’t mean you’re getting it out in that same, smooth, “one go.”
4 Turn From The Inside
Let’s face it, driving a truck isn’t easy. For all the kicking back that they do, sailing gleefully down the interstate on long, open stretches of straight road; there’s another driver somewhere, battling dense city traffic with a 65’ combination vehicle – trying to take it places some people couldn’t even navigate an F-150 pulling an Enviro-Clean Porta-Potty.
This guy, however, shot himself in the foot long before he even started winding the steering wheel into the turn; judging by the proximity of his trailer to the inside corner of the curb – he never left enough space on the approach to get through the corner gracefully. Sure, he’ll make it – looking like a rookie.
3 Swing Wide, It’s A…Trailer
Everyone in the world has had to have seen these trucks by now; they are one of the largest interstate carriers in the nation. They are also notorious for having one of the longest training apprenticeship programs you can buy into. Ironically enough, they produce some of the nation’s worst truck drivers you’ve ever seen – in your entire life.
Is that speculative and subjective? Yes. But with acronyms like Sure Wish I’d Finished Training; Swing Wide, It’s a…Trailer; and See What I “Foul” up Today? – it’s hard to refute the theory.
2 Overloaded, Rockin’ And Rollin
The sheer size of some of the things that trucks are required to move is mind-boggling – equipment that you never even knew existed exists to move things you never thought a truck should even be powerful to move – but something’s got to move them. These are the epitome of professionals, doing an incredibly tough job. Your average, everyday Joe, however, is no such man.
This is the fool that you’ll see trying to move an Ikea bedroom set on the top of his Focus – with that lackluster twine they give you on the way out.
1 Launches Of Any Kind (In A Semi)
A good rule of thumb when operating heavy machinery is to try and keep it out of places that you won’t easily be able to extract it from. Sure, you can blame a flash flood, a rouge mudslide, a hurricane, a tsunami, or any other act of nature that you want – you're still going to be the one stuck getting it out.
Fortunately for this guy, his truck is tall enough to have kept most of the mud out of the cab; other cars were almost entirely consumed.
Sources: Cruiser Lift, Darby Industries, D.O.T., Free Patents Online, Jim Peterson, WWAY News, Porta-Potty.