Safely Loading and Unloading Grain Trailers
Transporting and unloading grain at grain facilities may seem like the easiest part of the job, until you realize that some of the drivers may be farm workers who get little experience except during harvest season each year. Here are several safety tips to help keep both your experienced and seasonal drivers safe during this harvest season.
General Grain Transportation Safety Tips
- Be aware of and avoid contact with all overhead electric wires when moving grain transport equipment.
- Stay out of loaded grain wagons, truck beds and trailers in order to avoid potential grain entrapment and suffocation hazards.
- Do not allow children to play in or near grain wagons, trucks or trailers.
- Use extreme caution when backing grain transport equipment in order to prevent running over bystanders or other workers.
- Use extreme caution when traveling on public highways. Use hazard flashers as necessary to alert other drivers of your presence.
- Be extremely careful when field loading and operating trucks and trailers near ditch banks. At a minimum, stay away from the edge of the ditch bank a distance equal to the depth of the ditch.
- Avoid rollovers by keeping grain evenly distributed, and slowly travel up and down the slope on hilly fields.
- When the loaded tractor trailer rig reaches the mill or storage, it may be pulled across a grated dump. In the case of a hopper bottom trailer, each section of the trailer may be emptied by opening a sliding gate and letting the grain from that section flow by gravity into the dump grating. Then the truck will be pulled up to empty each segment of the trailer.
- The truck may be pulled across the dump for weighing and then be backed up to the dump grate after weighing in. The driver will not be able to see behind the trailer and may need a “spotter” or ground guide to back safely onto the dump, so as not to endanger dump personnel.
- If the trailer of the truck is not a hopper bottom, the entire truck (both tractor and trailer) may be raised by a lift to an angle sufficient to allow the grain to flow from the rear of the trailer into the grated dump until the trailer is empty. The lift is then lowered to level, the truck is driven off the dump and returns to the field to be refilled and the trip to the mill is repeated.
- Safety in the truck loading, transporting, unloading and return phases of the hauling operation cannot be overstated. Operators should be cautious during the transition from field roads to public roads, stops, starts, foot traffic during loading in the field and unloading at the mill because each phase has its unique safety hazards.
- Although many of the drivers of hauling rigs may be owner operators and have many years of professional experience in over the road operations with large loads, some may be farm workers who get little experience except during harvest season each year. Caution and practice to build familiarity with the equipment and extensive training in the specifics of transporting grain should be seriously considered before allowing inexperienced workers to operate this equipment. ¹
Grain Trailer Safety Tips
- Make sure the trailer is in good operating condition, including all required lights.
- Never overload the trailer or the tow vehicle. Always refer to manufacturer’s specifications for details and limits when in doubt.
- Make sure about 60 to 65 percent of the total load is placed in front of the trailer axles. Proper weight distribution affects how well the trailer “follows” the tow vehicle. It also affects the traction and “steer-ability” of the tow vehicle. When properly loaded, the rear of the tow vehicle should “squat” down a little. Too much “rear squat” and too much front lift of the tow vehicle indicates the trailer load is too far forward. On the other hand, lifting of the rear of the tow vehicle indicates the trailer load is too far to the rear.
- While loading the trailer, remember to set the tow vehicle brakes and to chock the wheels. This is important to prevent tipping and movement of the trailer during loading.
- Make sure that load will not fall from the trailer or move within the trailer during transportation.
- If using tarps, protect ropes and straps from sharp edges or corners on the load; these serve as wear points and locations of failure.
- Secure tarps so wind cannot get under the front edge of the tarp. This will prevent the low air pressure at the rear of the load from lifting the tarp. Avoid flapping as it leads to tarp damage which can reduce its capacity to protect/contain the grain. ¹
Source: Sadaka, S., & Johnson, D. M. (n.d.). On-Farm Safety for Grain Wagons, Semi-Tractor Trailers and Trailers. On-Farm Safety for Grain Wagons, Semi-Tractor Trailers and Trailers. University of Arkansas, United States Department of Agriculture, and County Governments Cooperating. Retrieved from https://www.uaex.edu/publications/pdf/FSA-1065.pdf