Owning a flat deck trailer, can make a lot of things easier for you as a homeowner. When you have access to a trailer, otherwise encumbering tasks like moving heavy furniture or picking up a few pallets of fresh sod become straightforward and cheap.

Unfortunately, because using a flat deck trailer seems so easy, people sometimes overlook the importance of choosing the right trailer and loading it properly. Here are two crucial tips that might keep your equipment and family safe from harm.

1: Mind your GVWR and GCWR

A trailer is a trailer, right? Not so fast. Before you waltz through your local dealership skimming through choices completely based on what will fit on your RV pad, it is important to know what all of the fancy trailer jargon actually means. Here are two words that you will probably encounter during your shopping trip, and why you should pay attention to them.

GVWR: This stands for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. Your truck is capable of carrying a certain amount of weight, and this rating takes into account the total weight of your vehicle including fluids, oils, additional installed features, and the potential weight of your passengers. 

GCWR: This stands for Gross Combined Weight Rating, and it describes the total allowable amount that your vehicle is capable of handling including trailers or other cargo.

So why do these two funny acronyms matter? Failing to understand the difference between these two words can cause a lot of trouble. For example, if you are looking for a trailer and you don’t understand your truck’s GCWR, you might purchase a flat bed that is too heavy for your vehicle to handle.

Hauling too much stuff can cause problems too. Filling your trailer with more than it is meant to handle can make it difficult to brake effectively, or even damage your engine. It is also important to note that you could be given a ticket for going over your GCWR, because roads are only meant to withstand certain amounts of weight. On the other hand, if you choose a trailer that doesn’t have a large enough GVWR, you might not be able to haul as much as you need to.

Before you start shopping, do your research. Become familiar with your towing vehicle’s GCWR, so that you have an idea of how large of a trailer you can handle. Think about the last several loads that you wanted to haul, so that you can determine your average towing requirements. Choose a trailer that will accommodate your needs, and that your truck could tow without any issues.

2: Load Placement Matters

After you have scoured the market and found the perfect trailer, you might be excited to get hauling. Although many new trailer owners excitedly shove cargo into the back of their trailers, the fact of the matter is that there are important safety considerations to keep in mind when you load your flat deck.

The first thing that you need to understand is the importance of tongue weight. The tongue of your trailer is the section that attaches to your vehicle hitch. The tongue weight is a measurement of how much downward force is placed on the hitch as you travel. If you don’t haul enough cargo or put things in the wrong area, your trailer might bounce around as you drive. If you have too heavy of a tongue weight, your hitch might break, which could cause a serious accident.

In order to tow successfully, experts recommend shooting for a tongue weight of between 10-15% of the total gross vehicle weight. For example, if you bought a trailer that weighs 5,000 pounds, you should aim for a 500-750 pound tongue weight. To accomplish the proper tongue weight, never load your trailer with more cargo than it is meant to haul, and place 60% of the load on the front half of the flat bed. 

Being careful and understanding the proper use of your trailer can help you to avoid serious accidents, so that you can haul happily for many years to come.