Several weeks ago, Dairy Herd Network published a short article concerning several recent news reports from across the U.S. of traffic accidents involving loose cattle or cattle in transport. While each of the highlighted stories were sobering and should give all of us involved in animal agriculture food for thought, three of the reports highlighted an important topic not discussed often enough within agriculture: safe transportation practices when trailering livestock.
The transportation of livestock and horses is considered an everyday event for those involved with animal agriculture. We load and unload animals, hitch and un-hitch trailers and pull out on the road so often it almost seems second nature.
That, of course, is the problem.
This important and potentially disastrous farm activity is done so often, it can be taken for granted that the truck and trailer will work properly and that the next trip will be exactly like the last — uneventful. Unfortunately, this is not a safe attitude. With tens of thousands of pounds of steel, hooves and rubber on the move, a single failure can lead to catastrophe.
- Lights. All lights on both the tow vehicle and trailer (including connections) should be checked before leaving the farm and whenever the vehicle and trailer have stopped before returning to the road.
- Brakes. Braking with a load is vital to ensuring safety while traveling. Also check the function of any emergency braking systems on the trailer (When was the last time the battery on the trailer emergency brake was replaced?).
- Hitch and safety chains. Many hitch systems are designed to be detachable. When this happens while loaded, it’s dangerous, to say the least. Also, are the safety chains in good condition and anchored to restrain a runaway trailer?
- Doors. Are all doors secured before leaving the farm or other in-transit stopping points? Remember to check the latches on sliding gates and doors, too.
- Tires. Check tires regularly for wear, damage and inflation. It is easier and safer to change a tire before the trailer is loaded than when a tire fails on the highway.
- Animals. Check on the condition of the animals before, during and at the end of a trip to ensure they are as comfortable as possible. Ensuring the security and comfort of the animals in transit is particularly important when animal well-being is a major focus for the livestock industries.
- Attitude. While the driver of livestock transport cannot control the how other drivers use the road, we can control how we approach the problem. It is important for drivers to be proactive about safety. When transporting livestock, you need to drive defensively, which means staying alert, anticipating problems, make rest stops occasionally and remembering that the load is “live” and reacts differently than does a “static” load.