I just received my January PVDA newsletter, (the January newsletter is not online as of date of this posting) and I was struck by a short article by Rita Boehm, "The Glitch Was the Hitch: A Cautionary Tale." As many of you know, I recently had quite a scare with my trailer, which has now gone to a trailer graveyard. I've read countless articles and checklists on all the safety things to check on a trailer... floorboards, lights, brakes, air pressure... A few months ago, I learned that walls covered with fiberglass, which appear flawless from the outside, can rot entirely from the inside. Luckily, as in the PVDA newsletter story, my "glitch" was discovered without harm to the trusting and faithful steeds who let us put them in a tiny box to go wheeling around the DC beltway - with all kinds of DC wackos weaving around (and on!) us, without compassion for our magnificent animals tied in those boxes painted all over with signs warning "CAUTION HORSES" "STAY BACK"... Having read the PVDA story, I have now added 'regular removal and inspection of hitch' to my trailer safety checklist. When the newsletter is available online, take a look at the picture of the hitch. If you imagine the steel portion of the bumper-pull hitch that slides into the hole portion on the truck - now imagine the portion of the hitch that would remain hidden whenever the hitch is in place - and imagine it totally rusted and rotted - like Swiss cheese. And it didn't take 30 years to get this way. Scary. Here's Rita Boehm's article...
On the Saturday afternoon before Chapter Challenge, Lisa Lewis loaded her two horses for what she envisioned to be an uneventful 50 minute trip from Sandy Spring, Md., to the Prince George's Equestrian Center. As she sat at the stop sign before pulling onto Norwood Road she felt a thud and an odd pull, like one of the horses had fallen down in the trailer. Concerned, she put the truck in park, and got out to check on what had happened.
Lisa glanced at the hitch on the way to check the horses, and what she saw made her stop short. The hitch had buckled in half! Fortunately, it hadn't broken all the way through and the barn was still nearby. She was able to disconnect the trailer, reconnect with another hitch and eventually continue on her way.
If the hitch had buckled on the Beltway, what turned out to be something of a minor inconvenience could easily have been a tragedy for herself, her horses and perhaps some unsuspecting drivers. Luck was on her side that day, but it could so easily have been a much different story.
The Drawtite hitch was 6 years old and had been left on the truck for the last two years; prior to that the hitch had been out in the elements infrequently, only when it was in use. When Cequent Performance Products was contacted for comment and to find out if there was an average life expectancy, the following information was provided. "What you have here is certainly severe and not something that you would expect to see. The life of the hitch is directly related to the use and storage of the product and I would not be able to list an 'average' life expectancy. The most critical issue is inspection of the towing rig each and every time prior to any use."
This may have been an unusual occurrence, but adding a regular inspection of the hitch to a trailering checklist is advice that those who saw the broken hitch will certainly take seriously.
P.S. - I am expecting my NEW TRAILER to begin its journey from Florida any day now - hope for clear roads and good weather for its trip!