Got lots of camping gear? Go l-o-o-o-n-g, go triple unit
Almost everyone has seen them, particularly in Carbon County where camping and RV rigs pass through by the thousands on holiday weekends.
They are the trailer trains that people construct to haul everything from ATVs to boats, sail planes to snowmobiles.
Only a few years ago they hardly existed. People who had to haul along their "toys" had a rack on their truck and a camp trailer dragged along behind. Or they had a camper with a boat or dirt bikes behind it. Now, however, that just isn't enough space for some; those who have to drag along multiple diversions or units for a large family.
While there have been laws on the books about what a private vehicle could tow or not tow for years, triple units (the towing vehicle, and two trailers) were just not very common, partly because of length. Utah State law limits any private units pulling or being pulled in one strand to a 65 foot length limit, front bumper to rear bumper.
Most people never considered pulling two trailers until the popularity of the fifth-wheel trailer came along. Suddenly little could be stored or hauled in the bed of the pickup pulling that kind of gooseneck unit and people had to find all kinds of ways to start hauling along other things. For dirt bikers it was the rack that held a machine on the front of the pickup bumper (some of the racks could actually hold two machines) and one on the back of the trailer. But ATVs, snowmobiles, personal water craft and boats posed another problem. And who wanted to take two vehicles when one would do, especially with the cost of fuel escalating so rapidly?
With a fifth-wheel part of the length of the camping unit lies over the bed of the truck so the length is mitigated sometimes up to a third. And a gooseneck trailer is also easier to handle and back up; so the private hauling of a third trailer began. However it didn't stop there.
Those who had standard camp trailers began to reason that a third trailer behind their units would work well to. As long as it is below the 65 foot limit, it is legal and no special licenses are needed in Utah. Consequently the private triple unit rig numbers started to increase.
While three units can be in the string, there are a lot of things that going into making any trip with two trailers safe. The primary trailer needs to have electric brakes on it and a breakaway device for the activation of the brakes in case the largest, heaviest unit detaches from the towing vehicle. All attached units must have dual safety chains, crossed over so control of the driver can be maintained in an emergency should one of the trailers detach from the vehicle or primary trailer.
Drivers also need to be cognizant of where they are going and plan ahead. Tight corners in the middle of city blocks or on narrow country roads can become very tricky; it's easy to cut the corner with that third trailer, particularly if it is one that can't be seen very well in the mirrors.
Also a driver should never go up a road until he or she knows what is at the end; turning three units around or worse, having to back them up can be a nightmare. In fact backing them up is almost impossible for most people. Many drivers who find themselves in tight spots end up unhooking the rear trailer backing and turning the second one and then reattaching the third trailer to get on their way. If the third trailer is very heavy, this makes for some interesting maneuvers.
If one is towing double trailers out of Utah, drivers also need to check what the laws in other states are. In some states three trailers on a private vehicle are just not allowed, whether it be a fifth wheel or regular trailers, regardless. Length of units can also vary. In South Dakota for example, one can haul two units in addition to the towing vehicle that can spread up to 75 feet in length. In some states, such as California, a special license is required to do so. In other places, such as Arizona, states only allow double towing when a fifth wheel trailer is involved. They don't allow two standard hitch units to be towed at once. Speed limits also vary. In Utah it is the posted limit as it is in many other states. However in some say that any double towing can not exceed 55 miles per hour. Check local laws before going out of state with two trailers attached to any vehicle.
The main thing to remember when doing any kind of towing is safety. Be sure to have a vehicle that has the power and is set up to tow the kinds of loads that will be placed behind it. There is more to it than just the engines power and gearing. Suspensions, the proper class of hitches and well maintained equipment are important. And never drive when full attention cannot be paid to the rigs behind the vehicle. While cell phone use is allowed while driving in Utah, it is not a good idea anytime, much less when two heavily loaded trailers are going down I-70 behind you at 75 miles per hour.
As the world of camping and RV travel changes, obviously the way things are done will change too. In some states double trailers are completely banned from private vehicles. Other states are considering laws that will greatly restrict them. Like anything, how people use them and behave with them could very well determine how the laws progress on this kind of road warrior configuration.
(Information for this article came from the Utah Department of Public Safety and towingworld.com).