Fifth Wheel safety
The Fifth wheel is a source of safety concern in two major areas, 1.injury to the operator and 2.damage or injury caused by dropped trailers. In this module we will cover both of these areas and at the end there will be a small quiz.
Part 1 - Injury to the operator
One of the most common causes of back injury in the workplace for truck drivers is improper use of the 5th wheel. More specfically, pulling the release on the fifth wheel.
Prevention Starts in the Cab.
Having and Using the Proper Equipment.
The use of a puller is necessary if you are going to use the safest possible stance and posture while pulling on the release. Bending over and reaching in for the handle without a release is an awkward and unnatural position and adds strain on your shoulder, neck and back.
Proper Stance and Posture
Raise the Trailer if Necessary/Get Help.
It Still will not Release?
Part 2 - Injury or damage due to dropped trailers
Every year, we seem to have several accidents involving dropped trailers that are not securely coupled. In each case, the fifth-wheel coupling was mechanically sound, but not properly secured.
Visual fifth wheel checks must be completed with each and every hook. This is especially important during winter and spring, when road chemicals and sand can accumulate and create grit in the fifth-wheel locking mechanism.
To prevent an unintentional release of the fifth-wheel, the driver must make a visual check of the fifth-wheel components, including:
1) Release handle completely pushed in. No tension on the release handle or spring.
2) Lock nut on front of fifth wheel plate tight against the front of fifth wheel.
3) Safety pin moved toward center of fifth wheel.
4) No gap between top of fifth wheel plate and trailer plate.
5) Fifth wheel jaws locked firmly around trailer king pin, with the kingpin collar below the jaws.
6) A sixth visual check includes looking at the openings in the body of the fifth-wheel where the jaws retract when open. Here you can check to see the yoke has moved back and blocked the backside of the jaws, locking them closed. In some low profile fifth-wheels these openings can be difficult to see and a flashlight is necessary.
Silver Eagle dollys (Con-Gear) - we are now adding a new style of Dolly manufactured by Silver Eagle.
The steps are similar to described above accept, as you can see in the image below, the release handls in the front, (no puller is required) and there is no front nut.
The Handle position and the jaw inspection holes are illustrated in the above picture. These two piece along with inspecting that the jaws are closed and there is not gap between the fith wheel and trailer plate help insure no dropped trailers occur.
Simply doing a few of these checks is not enough. Every time you hook up to a trailer, whether single or doubles/triples, you must do a complete “visual check” of the 5th wheel.
Many drivers believe a tug test is all you need to verify that you are properly coupled.
The other common mistake is relying on "checking the jaws" as your primary check.
A six point visual check of the fifth-wheel must be completed to ensure the latch mechanism is completely secured. Oak Harbor maintenance and the 5th wheel manufacturer (Holland Hitch) have demonstrated that if each of these checks is completed, the jaws cannot reopen.
Dropped trailers should always be a serious concern, due to the likelihood or potential for serious multiple vehicle accidents or rollovers. Many companies have adopted a zero tolerance policy for dropped trailers; drivers are immediately terminated regardless of the situation.