Toolbox Talk: Dump Trailers

By Published On: April 12, 2022

Dump Trailers – Mechanized Equipment 1926.601

In the past few years Dump Trailers have become wildly popular in the construction world. Residential contractors big and small have been buying them faster than they can be made. They are versatile pieces of equipment that can be used to haul aggregate, dirt, machinery, lumber, and just about anything else.

A standard 14’ dual axle trailer can handle a 9,000 pound payload and you don’t need a special license to tow them. A lack of certification, doesn’t mean there should be a lack of training. So here are a few tips to keep you safe while using your trailer.

Operating Tips

The most important thing to remember when operating a dump trailer is that how you load it is critical to safe towing and dumping. These few tips are not just for your safety, but for the longevity of your trailer.

  • Do NOT overload the trailer – Each trailer will have a sticker for the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) meaning the weight of the trailer fully loaded to its max. This sticker will also show the empty weight of the trailer and how much you can load to reach the GVWR.

 Overloading Hazards

    • Damage the axles or blow the tires
    • Strain the hydraulic system when dumping (or worse not lift at all)
    • Extremely unsafe to tow, most standard pickups are rated at 12,000-16,000 pounds of towing capacity. Your engine may pull it but can your brakes stop it?
  • Check your tires before each use. A bulging sidewall or cracked and worn treads can become disastrous when fully loaded at highway speeds.
  • Load over the axles – Equipment and material should be loaded to sit over the axles. Too far forward while cause the front of the trailer to push down the back of the tow vehicle thus lifting the front wheels, making steering very dangerous.
  • Stand clear when raising and lowering the dump body – Most trailers come with a long control cable to allow the user to stand away from the moving parts and hydraulics. If there is a mechanical failure, thousands of pounds are at stake to crash down.
  • Park on a level and flat surface before raising the box – A raised box full of material becomes very dangerous when the center of gravity raises.
  • Take a good look around the area before dumping. Look for soft spots or holes in the ground that may cause the trailer to tip as you dump and pull forward. Look overhead for power lines, branches, and other contact items.
  • When towing, keep and excessive distance between the car ahead. Even though most trailers have breaks, you still have 14,000 pounds pushing you forward.
  • Cover the load with a tarp to prevent loose pieces from flying out onto vehicles behind you. It doesn’t take a lot of mph to set things in motion.
  • Use the safety locks and blocking when working on the trailer in the raised position.

Per OSHA 1926.601(10) Trucks with dump bodies shall be equipped with positive means of support, permanently attached, and capable of being locked in position to prevent accidental lowering of the body while maintenance or inspection work is being performed.

Plenty of Room

These trailers are a lot larger than the weight they can handle. Here is some quick math for your reference:

The volume of a 14’ x 7’ x 2’ trailer = 7.26 cubic yards.

7.26 cubic yards of dry soil (2,000 yrd) = 14,518 pounds.

Max payload is usually 8,000 – 9,000 pounds



Questions for you

  1. What other hazards can you think of for dump trucks that might relate to dump trailers?
    • Back up hazards? Do you need a spotter?
  2. How many scoops of dirt can you safely load into your dump trailer?


Here are a few Toolbox Talks related to vehicles: Traffic Spotter, Motor Vehicle Safety, Roll Over Protection

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