Driver Ticketed For Towing Semi Trailer With Regular-Ass Pickup Truck

Illustration for article titled Driver Ticketed For Towing Semi Trailer With Regular-Ass Pickup Truck
Photo: Ontario Provincial Police (Facebook)
Truck YeahThe trucks are good!

I like to think of myself as a problem solver. A man who could figure out how to get a 53-foot semi-trailer across town using only a plasma torch, some scrap metal, and a Chevy Silverado. So I feel like I would have some connection with this intrepid Canadian, and I feel like I can give him some slack for forgetting to ask himself the important questions, like: “Is there a non-zero chance that this is incredibly stupid, and that I could injure or kill myself or others?”


Ontario Provincial Police posted photos of a truck that they had pulled over and ticketed for trying to use a pickup to tow a full-on semi-trailer attached with what looks like a homemade I-beam contraption. The I-beam was connected to the truck with only a clevis pin and misplaced confidence.

There is an air hose running to the air brake connection, though several Facebook commentators have noted that the air hose is connected to the spring brakes, allowing the trailer to move. The service brake air hose was not connected, meaning there were no functional trailer brakes and the Silverado was doing all the pulling and all the stopping.

Illustration for article titled Driver Ticketed For Towing Semi Trailer With Regular-Ass Pickup Truck
Photo: Ontario Provincial Police (Facebook)

A look at the photos adds more questions than answers: What is that tank thing for? Where are the safety chains attached? Why do the tires look so different, and is one of them showing cords?

As we’ve said before, it’s not incredibly difficult for a regular truck to pull a heavy load along a flat surface with low acceleration and deceleration. In fact, as Car & Driver noted, this almost seems like a Chevy PR stunt. However, doing it on a public roadway with hacked together equipment designed for very different trailers is maybe not the best idea.

Matt Brown is an automotive engineer, writer, and builder of unconventional things. Mostly vehicles.



OK, former trucker and mechanical engineer here. I just wanted to address this kluge-job, and answer a few of your questions:

The tare weight of a common dry-van semitrailer like this is probably ~15,000lbs, so, yes, it’s more than the truck is rated for. Aside from that, I DID once see a guy pulling a mobile home with a heavy-duty pickup, which I guess migth’ve been legal. I once talked with a guy using a pickup to pull 2 trailers (a camper and a boat), and he said that it was legal in his state (Texas), but THIS thing is waaaay past either of those.

Aside from the exceeding the towing capacity of his vehicle by probably 5 tonnes (Canadian...), I don’t see any electrical connection, which would lead me to believe that the triangle on the ‘barn doors’ was a half-assed attempt at marginal legality. Also, I THINK what’s going on is that the guy has a compressor in the bed, which is providing compressed air to the tank, which is connected to the emergency glad-hand, which will ONLY disengage the brake shoes. I see nothing which will ENGAGE the brakes, and the service line glad-hand is not connected to anything. This means that 20,000 lbs of rig is being stopped only by the truck’s brakes.

Now, let me address the pin connector; There is NO WAY that a couple flat bars of hot-rolled steel with a hole drilled/burned through them and a pin of CR steel (or possibly even rebar) is safe, legal, or otherwise a valid connector. Perhaps, if he had used the pintle/hook connector already on the dolly to connect to the truck, it might’ve been safe, but relying on non-harden and non-forged steel is really dangerous.

Also, dynamically, pulling a 53' trailer on a dolly behind a power unit is a difficult rig to handle under hard braking and avoidance maneuvering. I believe that most places limit the length of a trailer/dolly rig like this to about 28'6", and maybe as long as 40" in some less restrictive states and provinces. Special licences are required for longer trailers on dollies, like on the toll roads in NY , OH, IN, KS, AB,or in Quebec (Train Routier endorsement).

Could this rig ever be legal? Well, if he had a proper pintle/hook attachment, and an ‘air over hydraulic’ brake connection, as well as a proper electrical junction connection, and a class A CDLn with air brake endorsement, not to mention having the power unit weigh limitation high enough (which is taxed higher, and requires a commercial insurance policy), then, yeah, it could be possible.