Though road accidents with commercial livestock trailers tend to get on the 6 o’clock news, accidents with smaller, private trailers such as stock and horse trailers happen as well. Jerry Yates, West Virginia University, says in the livestock industry there are tens of thousands of “non-commercial” people who only haul livestock even just a few times a year. “We need to be prepared and in the mindset that we are hauling livestock when we get in the truck,” he said last week at an emergency preparedness seminar preceding the 2nd International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare at Kansas State University.
Often in rural America and on farms the driver of a truck and trailer may not be the owner. Either truck or trailer may be borrowed or belong to the farm or another individual. This can be problematic should there be an accident, says Yates. The driver needs to have with him/her:
- Driver/vehicle information (including driver’s license, vehicle registration)
- Where the livestock is from and where it is going
- Health papers or brand if applicable
- Insurance information (both for the vehicle as well as valuable livestock)
Lisa Pederson, North Dakota State University Beef Quality Assurance specialist adds that if you encounter a stock trailer accident, first assess the scene for safety and security. Next, communicate with the driver if he or she is able, including determining if you speak the same language. Pederson says especially with stock trailers, there can be unique factors involved such as:
- Are there valuable and/or insured animals (this may make a difference in whether an animal is euthanized or potentially given lifesaving/expensive veterinary care)
- Are there imported animals?
- Are there dangerous animals such as bulls or others?
- Are they loose or tied in the trailer?
- Is there more than one species, i.e., cattle, horses and goats going to a local fair?
- Are there different classes/ages in the same trailer (i.e. mature cows and young calves)?
Yates offers these tips for producers before they haul:
- The trailer should be inspected, including floors, doors, tires, spares, lights, brakes and hook-up apparatus including ball and chains. The truck’s brakes and lights should be in working order.
- Evaluate the weather conditions. What is the heat index and/or windchill inside the trailer?
- Never exceed the recommended gross weight of the trailer.
- Evaluate the loading and weight distribution within the trailer such as when hauling cattle and horses together or even different classes of cattle such as cows and calves in the same trailer.
- Practice careful and defensive driving. “Drive the truck and trailer like the first day you brought your baby home from the hospital,” Yates recommends.
For more information, read the Beef Quality Assurance brochure Stock Trailer Transportation of Cattle. You can receive a copy by contacting your State BQA Coordinator.