How To Load A Skid Steer On A Trailer?

While loading a skid steer onto a trailer, proper planning and analysis is essential to prevent tipping, slipping and other accidents. 

Many heavy equipment operators treat loading equipment onto trailers as routine. But it is a hazardous job that can result in injuries and even fatalities as this Department of Energy report points out.  

In this post, we explain how to safely load a skid steer on a trailer, and the dangers to watch out for. 

Loading Heavy Equipment Poses Many Dangers

Loading Heavy Equipment Poses Many Dangers

When a job becomes routine, most people tend to take fewer and fewer precautions. This increases the risk of a serious accident.  

According to OSHA, some of the most common causes of loading/unloading accidents include using planks or blocks as ramps, loading a machine that’s too narrow to drive securely on both ramps, and skidding on the ramps. 

In most loading accidents, poor or inadequate preparation is the main cause. 

Doing extensive analysis and preparation before loading ensures that you identify potential hazards and take steps to prevent or mitigate them. 

For example, checking that the ground is safe for the loading process, that you have the right trailer, and that the trailer and truck are in the right condition to haul the skid steer. 

A Guide On How To Prepare For Loading

Here is a step by step guide on how to prepare for loading and how to go about the loading process in the safest way possible. 

1. Pick The Right Trailer & Truck 

The first step is to pick the right trailer and truck. 

Skid steers are not as heavy as a backhoe or an excavator. A trailer with a capacity of about 10,000lbs should do, since the average weight of a skid steer is 7,500lbs. 

Do not guess the weight of your skid steer. Check the user manual or online of the weight of that specific model. Then choose a trailer that can comfortably handle that weight. 

Next, the truck. Whether you opt for a pickup truck or a full size track, make sure it can tow the combined weight of the skid steer and the trailer. 

When it comes to the trailer, there are three different kinds you can use: flatbed, step deck, and removable gooseneck or RGN. 

A flatbed trailer is the cheapest option to buy or rent, and most can easily haul a skid steer. The only downside is that it doesn’t come with ramps, so you need access to a loading dock to safely load the skid steer. 

Do not attempt to use makeshift ramps made out of wood or some other material. They are unsafe and can lead to injuries and fatalities. 

If you don’t have access to a loading dock and all you have is a flatbed trailer, there are loading ramps that you can attach to the trailer. These have a rated weight capacity, so make sure you get the right ones that can accomodate your skid steer. 

A step deck trailer is great for most heavy equipment. It sits lower, allowing you to haul taller equipment without hitting bridges and other road infrastructure. Most step deck trailers also come with built-in ramps for easy loading and unloading. 

An RGN trailer is simply too much for what you need. It’s typically used for very heavy equipment. 

2. Get The Right Tie Down Chains & Binders 

You’ll need at least four tie down chains to secure the four corners of the skid steer onto the trailer, and a binder for each chain. 

Tie down chains have varying working load limits. Safety standards recommend that the combined working load limit of all the chains be equal to at least 50% of the weight of the load, in this case the skid steer. 

Each binder should have similar working load limit as the chain, or higher. 

3. Prepare the Loading Site

You need a safe area to load the skid steer. It should be flat, firm, and without any obstacles too close such as large rocks or buildings. 

The flat part is really important. Loading a skid steer onto a trailer on a slope is a recipe for disaster. Either the skid steer or the trailer and truck have a high risk of tipping. 

Firm ground is also essential. If the soil is too soft, the trailer could sink as you load the skid steer, causing an accident. Avoid loading on muddy or snowy surfaces, and if necessary, compact loose soil before loading. 

4. Assemble a Team 

Loading a skid steer on a trailer is not a 1-person job. At the very least, have one other person to act as a spotter. 

They’ll make sure you are loading correctly (especially when going up the ramps), and will watch out for any dangers such as someone coming too close. 

If you could have a couple of spotters, even better. 

5. Loading The SKid Steer 

Do a final walkthrough of your plan to make sure everything is in place and everyone knows what to do. 

Park the truck and trailer at the designated spot. Secure the truck’s wheels with blocks to reduce the risk that it’ll roll forward.  

Before you start roading, inspect the trailer and truck. Make sure the tires are properly aired, the suspension is working, and your brakes are good. 

Also check the trailer bed. It shouldn’t have any debris, mud or snow. 

Lower or attach the trailer ramps, then slowly drive the skid steer up the ramps. This is where having a spotter is handy since you won’t be able to see exactly where the skid steer’s wheels or tracks are. 

A spotter will help you keep the skid steer centered on the ramps. 

When going up the ramps, lower the bucket to improve stability and reduce the chances of tipping. Once you are on the trailer, fully lower the bucket or attachment until it rests on the trailer bed. 

Make sure you position the skid steer at the right spot such that its weight is distributed evenly over the axles. 

Activate the parking and hydraulic brakes and get out of the skid steer. Now it’s time to tie it down. Remember to raise or detach the ramps. 

6. Tie Down the Skid Steer

Identify the tie down points on the skid steer. There’ll be two in the rear and two at the front. If you cannot find them, consult the operation manual or check online. 

Do not use any other points such as the door handle to secure the skid steer. These could snap as they are not rated to handle that much weight. 

Pass each chain around the tie down point and the trailer, then secure it with a binder. Make sure the chain sits at a 45-degree angle for maximum support. Tighten the binder until there’s no slack in the chain. You don’t want any kind of movement from the skid steer once you start driving. 

Double check all tie downs to ensure they are tight and secure. 

Regularly Inspect the Load On Long Drives

If you are hauling the skid steer 50 miles or less, check on it once to make sure the load is still secure. Feel the chains and see if they need to be tightened. 

If it’s longer than that, inspect it once every 150 miles or 3 hours, whichever comes first. 

Offloading Can Be Just as Dangerous As Loading

Don’t assume that unloading the skid steer will be easier. The same risks present during loading are still there when offloading. 

Follow the same safety standards and precautions as you did during loading. Use a flat offloading site, make sure there’s someone to spot for you, and watch out for any dangers such as loose soil or slippery ramps. 

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