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  by Bob Matheson  
   
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Dual axle utility trailer selection

Wow, why buy a utility trailer?  Even worse, why buy a dual axle trailer for utility purposes.  What an educational experience learning about trailers and "trailering". It is really not easy to buy a landscape trailer, I had to learn a lot.  And what you need to know may be different in every state in the USA.  The information I provide regarding tandem axle utility trailers is based upon my state requirements.

My utility trailer with tandem axles with compact tractor

Buy a utility trailer with dual axles; the reasons

TO SAVE MONEY.

You are nuts you say.  Last year we had six yards of mulch delivered, the delivery fee was $50 for probably a 12 mile run, the mulch was $90.  Not long ago I wanted some ornamental stone delivered, 3 tons, the delivery fee for 20 miles, $95, the stone cost $90!  My brand new tandem axle trailer cost a little over $3000, now I can pick this stuff up myself, when I want it.  Please review all the reasons for your trailer purchase.

Convenience

We maintain about 1 acre of property as our "yard".  We have raised bed vegetable garden planters and a greenhouse, so at times we need "garden soil", "mushroom soil", compost, etc.  My wife loves to plant flowers, so we have quite a bit of "landscaping".  The trailer lets us buy what we want, how much we want, exactly when we want it.  No more waiting a week for the "we are on the way" delivery phone call, taking time off from work to be home.

Transport my compact tractor, and now my lawn tractor

My Kubota B7610 tractor weighs close to a ton, could be more.  What do I do if it needs serious service?  Pay a dealer to transport it?  That can cost a lot of money.  Even if the engine fails on the tractor I have a small winch that will pull it onto the trailer.

Buy big, heavy stuff

Now if I want to buy something big, or heavy, locally I can just do it, and not pay a delivery fee, and not have to be home when they want to deliver. It is called freedom!

Do not forget firewood

Wood is heavy, maybe 2 to 3 tons per cord,  now I can collect a cord or buy a cord to stack in my homemade firewood rack.  Firewood delivery is usually not that costly.  Here is a mention of the weight of firewood.

My mulch supplier loves to load this trailer!

Here is a new one.  My local mulch supplier really enjoys loading my trailer!  He has so many customers with beautiful new pickup trucks.  He has a big bobcat loader and many of his pickup truck customers want a bed full of stone.  Well this poor guy really feels bad loading the stone.  No matter how careful he is with the loader, some stone dribbles down the side of the paint jobs on these $40,000 dollar trucks.  He usually says something to the pickup truck owner and the response is always "Well, that is what I bought it for".  He knows my dual axle utility trailer only cost $3,000 and feels that I, the owner, will be less concerned about a few nicks and dings, and he is right!  Plus the bed of this trailer is 6 1/2 feet wide by 12 feet long, an easy target to hit!

Utility Trailer Tips and Tricks

How to unload the material, it is not a dump trailer

Unloading the tandem axle trailer using the compact tractor bucketA dump trailer seemed too expensive and way too heavy, so how the heck am I going to unload my 6 yards of double ground hardwood mulch.  Not with my shovel!  Why, with my compact tractor.  I recently bought 3 scoops of topsoil.  (Why do they sell scoops instead of yards?  See Yards versus Scoops.)  I decided the reason I did not need a dumping trailer was, I could use my compact tractor to unload the trailer.  One trailer dealer thought this was not feasible.  He should review his thinking, it works great!  I was able to drive onto the trailer and scoop almost all the topsoil out with the 4 ft. bucket on my tractor.  When done I used a plastic snow shovel to clean out the trailer and there was less then half a bucket load left in the whole trailer.  Granted it takes more time than dumping.

Note and Warning, unloading with a tractor

Unload a utility trailerMy trailer is outfitted with two 5 ton jacks in the two rear corners.  When I told the fellow from which I was ordering the trailer, about my unloading plans, he recommended adding two scissor jacks to the back of the trailer, to carry the load of the tractor while driving onto the trailer.  Well I experimented and was able to drive onto the trailer and unload without the jacks, but I was putting quite an "up" load on the trailer ball and tow vehicle.  They really are not designed for this.  Plus with the jacks I can disconnect from the tow vehicle and still unload the trailer safely.  Please do not forget to chock the trailer if you do this.  The jacks added to my trailer were a bit of overkill.  I had my trailer modified so the jacks could bolt on, versus direct weld.  Who knows there could be a clearance problem in the future, or I just need a jack for something!  By the way, the jacks are marked "not to be used for flat tire changes"!  I suppose you are shifting the load to an odd point on the trailer and if still hitched jacking in the rear would shift a lot of load to the hitch ball and towing vehicle.  So review this thoroughly, certainly crank down your front hitch, but conceivably you could bend your trailer chassis!  I am sure that is why they say jack only under the axles!  (I can unbolt my jack!)  Finally I could have reviewed using vertical crank jacks like on the tongue of the trailer.

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Disconnecting the trailer from the tow vehicle

The first time I tried to do this I could not get the trailer to lift off the ball!  What the heck?  (This is my first trailering experience).  Turns out, once you pull up the release lever, you also must pull it toward the back of the trailer!  That is all it took.  It took me 45 minutes to figure this out.

I have absolutely no manual

I guess the manufacturer does not provide manuals for the trailers, so be prepared.

The benefits of a tandem axle trailer.

Load distribution in a landscape trailer

There are got 4 tires distributing the load on my lawn not two, so there will be fewer tire marks left in my property.  This could be really important if you have an area that stays wet a lot.

Ride stability (tracking) with two axles

A trailer with 4 tires goes in a straight line, it is much less likely to become unstable when traveling at highway speed or when not uniformly loaded.  It does a much better job of independently carrying the load, versus affecting the performance of your tow vehicle.

Load handling of the trailer

Over the past several years I have found whenever we needed material for the yard we tended to need large quantities, 6 yards, 2 tons, etc.  A trailer with a single axle typically only had a 3500 pound Gross Vehicle Weight.  This means the trailer, and its load, cannot weigh more than 1 & 3/4 tons.  The single axle trailer will weigh in at 1000 lbs, leaving you with a 2500 pound load capacity.  This could become a problem, especially with my unloading scheme, using the compact tractor bucket.  The trailer has to also handle my tractor's weight.  Although, I am sure the trailer can safely handle a higher static load when parked, versus traveling a bumpy road.  So the dual axle trailer has just the capacity I need and I can get the job done in one trip to the materials supplier.

Utility trailer brakes

In my state any trailer above 3500lbs GVW requires brakes.  Tandem axle trailers require brakes on all four wheels.  Well frankly brakes are a benefit.  They make you feel much more comfortable when driving.  I live in a very hilly area, so I am very happy having the brakes on the trailer.  This does mandate the installation of a brake controller in your tow vehicle.  This controller was setup once, and it appears the setting works well regardless of load in the trailer, so no adjustment of the controller is required.

The drawbacks of a dual axle trailer.

Cost

Brakes on all 4 wheels.  I still bought a spare tire.  WARNING: The spare is even easier to steal than the trailer!  

Inspection required over 3500 GVW.

Inspection takes 5 minutes.  The fellow that inspected my trailer never put the vehicle on the lift to check the brakes.  It is obviously a brand new trailer, but his comment was trailers tend to get so little actual use that the brakes never wear out!

Registration

Got to pay the man, well the man does not really charge that much.  The paper trail might help get your trailer back if it ever were stolen.

Brake controller required

Your tow vehicle must be modified.  A brake controller will cost about $60-$100 and it will cost another $100 to have the controller installed.  It turned out, my turn signals were backward when I had the trailer inspected.  I am told, in my state, inspection is required within ten days of you taking delivery of your trailer.  Some vehicles have provisions for the controllers.  When will they give them a truly built in look though.  I may not buy a new vehicle till they do!

Securing the trailer, when not in use.

Utility trailer serial number plate photo, actual photo is larger

A trailer certainly would be an easy thing to steal!  It should be secured, but has not yet.  One thing I did do immediately.  I have a digital camera, so I take photos of my possessions, like this trailer.  I take close-up shots of all the serial number and model information, like the photo above.  Also I have a cheap scanner on my computer, I scan in any pertinent documents.  Somebody steals the trailer, I have all the ID info and photos from several angles.  There will be no doubt it is my trailer, if it is ever found!

I really should mark the trailer, in a hidden place, with some unique identifier like my phone number!  Another thought was using ultra-violet paint.  Have you seen it?  When you drive under certain highway lights at night it lights up, but is invisible during the day.

And I certainly should lock it up.  There are trailer hitch ball locks available.

Insurance

Your car insurance will cover this type of trailer, but it might not cover what you haul in the trailer.  I called my car insurance company and made sure they new I had a trailer.  One weird thing here, insurance.  I thought about collision coverage for my brand new trailer, but I am towing it with a 1989 vehicle.  The insurance company would not give me collision coverage of the trailer, without collision coverage on my tow vehicle.  I do not want to pay collision on a 1989 vehicle, so now I have no collision for the trailer either.  Well, I will just have to drive carefully!

Scoops versus yards

A local farmer explained to me that he only sells scoops, not yards of mushroom soil.  A scoop is about a yard he says, which is what I need to know for storage space requirements.  So why not just say a yard?  I am told as soon as you say "yard" you involve the Bureau of Weights and Measures.  You have to pay fees and make sure your yardstick is one yard long.  A scoop is not a legal form of measurement, so the state is not involved.  I have no idea exactly how much I am getting but it does look close to the right amount.  With my new dual axle utility trailer, if I took the time to level out the load, I could verify a vendor's scoop size is close to a cubic yard.

Well I hope all this rambling info was helpful,
Bob

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BHT Created: 07 Aug 2005

BHT Revised: 29 May 2014

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Copyright 2003-2014 Robert Matheson  All rights reserved.

 

Copyright 2003-2014 Robert Matheson.  All rights reserved.  Email Bob at BobsHowTo.com - . 

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