Many long- and short-distance truck drivers are hauling loads of grain, vegetables, nuts or other bulk products in hopper bottom trailers. While many of the most popular products are agricultural in nature, anything that needs to be shipped in bulk and can be loaded into the trailer easily as well as unloaded through the unique hopper bottom is fair game as cargo.
There are a few things that hopper bottom carriers should be inspected for before they are used.
Nobody wants to lose their load on the way to their destination. If the frame of the trailer is not in good condition, repairs are necessary. You will want to check for rust on the undercarriage, particularly near cross beams or side rails. If there is surface rust, you can clean it off, but beware of structural rust. Also look for cracking or twisting as well as large dents.
One of the key things to note is whether the hopper doors open properly and shut tightly. The last thing you want is for your doors to be stuck in either the open or shut position. You need to be able to keep your load together until you reach your destination and then unload it quickly and efficiently. Be sure to properly maintain the trailer doors.
As with any vehicle, brakes are a critical component. Always check them before and after making a run. Your safety is of utmost importance, and your brakes are your first line of defense. Uneven wear on the brakes can be a sign that something else is having issues, such as the alignment or the tires.
At the same level of importance as brake function, tire wear must be checked frequently. Visually check to verify that the sidewalls are not cracked or seem to be spreading and splitting. How is the tread? Most states have specific regulations as to the amount of tread that must be maintained on trailer tires. Tires may be expensive, but a tire that shreds or comes apart while you are hauling a load can be lethal.
While this is not an extensive list of things you should keep up on, they are all important items if you want to stay in business. Maintaining your hopper bottom trailer is key to maintaining your livelihood. Don’t get so busy that you forget to take the time necessary to stay safe.