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University of Minnesota Extension

Livestock Trailer Safety

Source: Karen Johnson, University of Minnesota Extension - Wright, McLeod and Meeker Counties

Utilizing a livestock trailer to transport animals from one place to another is common among farms and sale auctions. This method of livestock transportation increases during the summer as exhibitors attend a variety of shows. Trailer safety is essential to decrease the chances of a costly incident happening to you and your livestock. Before you hit the road, ensure that your vehicle and trailer are in good condition for the animal and equipment to arrive safely at the desired location. Proper preparation of truck and trailer, animal loading and driver attentiveness are all factors that contribute to safe and effective livestock transportation.

Below are several steps to complete when preparing to transport animals:

  •  Know your vehicle. Check the Gross Combined Vehicle Weight (GCVW) to know the towing capacity of the vehicle or your vehicle weight plus the loaded trailer weight. Additional weight such as fuel, passengers and cargo (livestock) must also be included.
  • Know the law. Depending on the species of animal, the need for health testing, veterinary inspection and official identification paperwork will vary based on the purpose of transporting and destination. Additionally, all state-federal highways laws must be followed including licensing and DOT numbering requirements.
  • Check all tires including the spare tire(s) for quality, proper air pressure, and tread. The tire’s lug nuts should also be checked to ensure the tires are snuggly attached to the vehicle and trailer.
  • When hooking the vehicle up to the trailer, the ball should be appropriately sized and greased for the hitch. The ball should be locked into place along with the safety chains attached as an additional safety precaution. For trailers that have brakes, check to see that they are in working order.
  • Check the electrical works for the vehicle and trailer. Make sure that all lights (brake lights, turn signals, and tail lights) work properly. A secure electrical connection between the vehicle and trailer must be made and maintained throughout the entire trip. 
  • Check the floor of the trailer to ensure that it can support the weight of the cargo. Additional floor mats may be added to provide traction for livestock.
  • Be prepared in case of a flat tire or accident. Have safety cones/triangles, tire iron, some type of nut penetrating fluid and a jack capable of lifting a loaded trailer available to use during these situations.

When transporting livestock, the well-being of the animals is the top priority. Before loading the trailer, identify the broken or sharp object that may cause injury to the animal. Repairs should be fixed before loading. Once complete, trailers should be loaded with 85% - 90% of the weight carried over the axles with the remaining weight carried on the tongue of the trailer. Typically, the older larger animals are loaded first; followed by younger animals. Extra precautions such as installing padding to trailer sides and gates can be added to prevent unwanted cuts and scrapes commonly experienced during transport. Doors of the trailer should be latched close to prevent them from opening unexpectedly. Do not lock the trailer closed. In the event of an emergency, rescue workers need to be able to access the trailer quickly.

Finally, the overall attitude and mental condition of the driver is vital to a safe and successful trip. The driver should be well rested. Avoid all distractions including talking or texting on the cell phone, adjusting the radio or climate controls, eating or drinking and daydreaming. Take all measures to drive safely. Allow for greater braking distance and travel at slower speeds allowing for more time to react to other roadway driving factors. Also, even in the daylight, travel with your lights on.

The ultimate goal for transporting animals is to maintain the highest standard of hauling with the well-being of the animals as a top priority. Preparing the truck and trailer for travel, loading the animals properly and driver attentiveness are essential to ensure a safe ride for your livestock. For more information about livestock trailer safety, check out this “Livestock Trailer Safety” article for more tips and some helpful videos. \

Feel free to contact Karen Johnson, Extension Educator in Wright, McLeod and Meeker Counties at 320-484-4303 or ande9495@umn.edu with additional questions. 

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