Motorists can reduce hitch-related truck and trailer accidents by following key safety steps offered in a new Purdue University Extension guide.

"Keep the Trailer Connected to the Truck: Understanding the Hitch System" describes appropriate hitch system selection and use in an effort to decrease the number of highway accidents caused by detached trailers.

"Trailer accidents caused by faulty hitches aren't just something we are saying could happen," said Fred Whitford, lead author of the publication and Purdue Extension safety specialist. "This is something that does happen every day across the nation, causing serious injuries, death and environmental hazards."

The publication, PPP-92, is available through Purdue Extension: The Education Store or by calling (888) 398-4636. It is free if downloaded from the Web, or for $5 per copy in a printed format. It's also available at Purdue Extension county offices.  

"Keep the Trailer Connected to the Truck" describes how to properly select and assemble a hitch mount for a trailer. It also describes safety measures that should be taken before and during transport.

The publication emphasizes four points about hitch system safety:

* The truck, receiver, insert and ball each have a rating that lists maximum pulling weights, with the lowest rating of all components determining how much can be pulled. For example, if the truck, receiver and insert's ratings each are 5,000 pounds, but the ball can tow only 2,500 pounds, the load should be no more that 2,500 pounds.

* Safety chains should be strong enough to hold the trailer if the hitch fails.

* Emergency brake cables must be functioning and properly connected to the trailer.

* Proper placement of the load on the trailer will minimize stress on the hitch system.

"Most of the time, we're lucky and the unhitched trailer stays intact and goes into a field," Whitford said. "But, sometimes the luck runs out and there can be serious consequences."  

 Source: Purdue University