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Old 02-18-2014, 05:04 AM   #1
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Accident Avoidance

This is a quick post about what NOT to do, about getting lucky, and about being stupid. It's about living and learning and hopefully saving someone else's bacon.

After arriving at the storage facility with the trailer, I parked the truck and turned off the ignition, which is what I always do. The next thing I did was pull the release lever on the fifth wheel plate, then unlocked the door to access the jack controller. Just as I touched the controller, the trailer rolled about six inches.

That was the sickening part. The part that made me vomit was when the pin box slammed down on the tailgate. Many, many thoughts went through my head as I surveyed the damage. I quickly put the landing gear down, and lifted the trailer free from the tailgate, so I could lower it and drive the truck out from under the trailer.

Storage is on level ground. The trailer had never rolled before, so I didn't bother with placing wheel chocks. That was the first mistake. Chocking the tires should have been my very first move.

I usually don't pull the plate lever until just before I'm ready to lift the pin box with the jacks. That way, everything stays secure. This time, I had a lot on my mind. Which is really, really bad. I could have been drunk.

Fortunately, the tailgate on the truck still works, even though it's sprung and gaps a quarter inch at the top.

Live and learn. Hopefully, you learn from my mistake. Don't ever pull the hitch release before you chock the wheels. That's just basic. Even on flat ground. I think there must have been a slight depression in the asphalt, just enough for the wheels to want to roll back into. That was all it took.

Finally, I'm glad I didn't lower the tailgate like I normally do. If I'd done that, the trailer would have dropped another foot and really slammed into the bed of the truck. Who knows what damage could have been done. As it was, no damage to the trailer.

I may get one of those air gates for the truck, with the depression made just for fifth wheels. Nobody needs to know about this event, right? Except you. And me. Never again. Never, ever again.

Chock your wheels!
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Old 02-18-2014, 05:24 AM   #2
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Thanks for sharing. This will really help me remember to chock my wheels.
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Old 02-18-2014, 06:11 PM   #3
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I have heard of this happening but could never figure out how.

Thanks for the honesty in your post. We all do stupid stuff when not thinking straight or paying attention to what we are doing.

My close call was almost putting gas in my diesel truck. That would have been extremely costly. I was distracted an not paying attention. Fortunately I caught myself before pulling the handle on the pump.

I always chock and set the front legs before pulling the release handle on my hitch. Just part of the unhooking routine.
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Old 02-18-2014, 06:18 PM   #4
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Repetition is the key to accident avoidance. Set up a procedure and then do it that way every time.

We can all learn from this, thanks for posting it.
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Old 02-18-2014, 08:08 PM   #5
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Repetition is the key to accident avoidance. Set up a procedure and then do it that way every time...
Agreed that we've all had our share of near-misses, and all of them are learning experiences.

But while repetition helps, I say it still isn't good enough. All too often we get interrupted by snags, or even people introducing themselves in the middle of our setup & tear-down routines.

Sequential checklists are better. There's a reason pilots use them.
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Old 02-18-2014, 09:22 PM   #6
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Sorry to hear you inadvertently modified your truck, but good on you for being honest. Yes, we all have done dumb things, have come very close to doing the same thing. One time, luckily for me, I only modified the large cooler I had behind the hitch when I pulled out with the tailgate up. I have made it a habit to do it the same way every time, yes things interrupt, having kids and dogs for instance. I do not unlock my hitch until the legs are down and the chocks are set, having nearly done what you did.
I have contemplated the fiver tailgates as well, just couldn't bring myself to spend the money on the good metal ones. If I ever modify my factory tailgate though, may be a different thing.
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Old 02-18-2014, 11:41 PM   #7
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There are some great apps out there that have pre-built checklist for setting up and breaking down. We have been using the apple version of "RV Checklist" since buying our first 5th wheel. We continually update/revise to meet our needs.
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Old 02-19-2014, 01:02 AM   #8
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Hey Tom,

That was great that you shared that here on the forum. And for sharing with me right after it happened. I had been doing exactly that same thing that bit you, and routinely. Looking back I have no idea why I was pulling the release lever before chocking the wheels and dropping extending the jacks. Most of the time it would not release. I was just plain lucky. Now, I chock the wheels every time, first thing and take pressure off of the plate. Thanks for telling me back when it happened. As far as a fifth wheel tail gate goes. I would go for it. I had one on my D3500 and loved it. It made everyday backing up so much easier. And you could hook up to your trailer at pretty extreme angels if you want or need to with no tailgate to mess with. Mine got stolen though and now my old Dodge just has a slide in camper living in the bed.

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Old 02-19-2014, 04:16 AM   #9
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I'm glad my experience has been taken so well. Yes, honesty is best. I admit I'm human, and distractions can come from anywhere, even inside my own head, which unfortunately, happens more often than not. I guess that's what happens to smart people, eh?

Anyway, the routine is simple enough:

1. Put the truck in park and apply the emergency brake.

2. Chock the trailer wheels, both sides, front and back.

3. Drop the front jacks to just touching the ground. (On my self leveling unit, I have to do this manually, not using the auto mode.)

4. Pull the hitch release lever to disengage the pin.

5. Drop the tailgate.

6. Bump the jacks up another inch or so to release pressure on the plate.

6. Disengage the parking brake, put 'er in drive, and do a burnout, smoking the tires whilst leaving the trailer parked in it's place.

Failure to smoke the tires means you aren't applying enough throttle. And oh yea, don't forget to disconnect the electrical and safety wire harness. I've pulled that one out, too, by driving away too eagerly.

Short story, it's good to be lucky. But it's better to be smarter and not need the luck. I wonder how much it's going to run me for a new set of dually tires for the Ford...
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Old 02-19-2014, 04:39 AM   #10
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Did you not once say in one of your posts? I crack myself up!

Tom, your too funny. Love it!
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Old 05-17-2015, 07:35 PM   #11
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What type of wheel Chocks do you recommend for Voltage? Thank you for this information. We are new to 5th wheel travel.
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Old 05-17-2015, 08:27 PM   #12
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What type of wheel Chocks do you recommend for Voltage? Thank you for this information. We are new to 5th wheel travel.
I've been very happy with this one:
Ultra Deluxe Chock - Ultra-Fab 21-001080 - Chocks & Levelers - Camping World
I like it because it self adjusts, and you don't have to use a wrench to tighten it. You can also put a lock in it for security purposes.

I've found if you use the plastic chocks and forget, you can pull the trailer over them. Don't ask. I still use them in camp grounds on level ground, along with the chock above.

With this one, the trailer is not going anywhere until you remove it. I also use it as part of my pull test after hooking up the trailer, and lifting the landing gear just off the ground. If trailer doesn't move, it's properly hitched. Pull the landing gear all the way up, remove the chock, and ready to go.

The original poster learned an expensive lesson. I never release the trailer 5th wheel hitch unless the landing gear are touching the ground.

I learned a similar lesson. We have a steep driveway, that slopes from the road to the house. First time I backed the trailer down the driveway, had to leave it on the hill part to go move one of our cars. I set the parking brake, and put the truck in park. I get out, take a step, and hear a loud bang, and the truck and trailer lurch back. Was always able to park like that with our old travel trailer. The Voltage toy hauler is just to heavy for the truck to hold it on a hill, without the trailer brakes being engaged. Now wife hold brake pedal while I either put cinder blocks behind the trailer tires, and/or set the locking chock. I've learned not to park the truck trailer on much of a hill except briefly to clear space, and then someone needs to hold the brake pedal down.
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Old 05-17-2015, 11:14 PM   #13
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We were at a campground with some friends. They had done something very similar to the OP, except, they literally had their head and arm between the truck bed and trailer. No sooner than my buddy moved, the trailer rolled backwards and sat down on the bed rails. We all sat their in silence and some sick feelings in our stomachs.

I use the ginormous chocks from my Lynx Levelers, they work pretty good. I made a buddy some wooden ones that were big triangles, with rope, that way they can be pulled as a complete set.

Cale
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Old 05-18-2015, 02:48 AM   #14
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I had the opposite problem. Not a fiver, but a ball hitch. I chocked the trailer wheels. I had left my truck in neutral, so that after I jacked up the hitch, I could nudge the truck forward 4 inches, and lower the hitch. You guessed it, the truck was pointed downward, and the nudge set the truck a' rolling. It went across the road, swerved to miss a tree, headed towards the campground owner's garden, turned again, went up hill and stopped. On the floor mat was my fallen St Christopher medal. You know who did the driving!
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Old 05-18-2015, 03:12 AM   #15
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Thumbs up Thanks

I appreciate all your replies and humor! So happy you are willing to share your experience and wisdom.
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Old 05-18-2015, 09:27 PM   #16
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I have a travel trailer. Every time I see the trailer shift once I release the coupler from the ball I get a bit queasy as I ask myself "did I chock the wheels?". It gets a bit scary.
So far I've been good about placing the chocks (I use the cheap plastic Camco ones) underneath the wheels but it only takes that one time that I forget and ruin my day.
I do use a printed checklist but sometimes I wonder what others do to ensure the chocks are in place before uncoupling. Are there some tricks others use that makes it so the person releasing the coupler has some way to know that the chocks are in place or maybe some sort of positive control that prevents the coupler from releasing when the chocks are not where they are supposed to be?
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Old 05-19-2015, 12:33 PM   #17
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I use 6"x6" wooden chocks I've made myself. Yes the are a bit heavy, but it is worth the piece of mind.
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Old 05-20-2015, 12:58 AM   #18
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With my TT, I never take off the safety chains from my truck until the trailer is off the hitch and secure. Luckily, I was taught this when I first started camping. As for chocks, I use the cheap Camco yellow ones on one side, and my Andersen levelers on the other.
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Old 05-21-2015, 01:34 AM   #19
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With my TT, I never take off the safety chains from my truck until the trailer is off the hitch and secure. Luckily, I was taught this when I first started camping. As for chocks, I use the cheap Camco yellow ones on one side, and my Andersen levelers on the other.
Good idea, I'll start doing that from now on.
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