How Do You Brake Safely with Your Dump Trailer This Winter?

November 14, 2019 by

How Do You Brake Safely with Your Dump Trailer This Winter?

Snow and ice turn the landscape into a beautiful winter wonderland each year, but they also make the roads treacherous and create less than ideal conditions for anyone towing a dump trailer. But don’t let the bad weather keep you indoors or stop you from doing business. Understanding how braking safely in the winter while towing can help keep you from any unwanted incidents.


The key to safe winter driving is to avoid putting yourself in a position where you have to brake, accelerate or swerve suddenly. Snow, rain, and ice have a huge impact on the condition of the road and the way you drive. Wet icy roads are slippery and to compensate for the reduced traction, you need to drive as smoothly as possible, accelerating and braking carefully.

Smooth braking and using a light touch on the brake pedal is essential when driving on slippery roads if you don’t want to lose control of your vehicle and trailer. One of the best ways to guarantee that you can brake smoothly is to make sure that you leave a safe distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. If you hit the brakes hard, you run the risk of skidding, sliding and even jack-knifing your dump trailer, so think carefully about how long it will take you to get your vehicle and trailer to come to a complete stop. If you have a manual transmission, downshifting can also help you slow down your vehicle and trailer without losing control but once again you have to use smooth, controlled movements.

Besides adhering to a safe following distance, you also need to reduce your speed in bad weather because obviously, your speed has a direct impact on your stopping distance and ability to brake safely. It is also important to ensure that your load is properly distributed and secured, or it could shift during braking and cause your trailer to become unstable and even tip over.


One of the best ways to maintain control over your dump trailer and brake safely is to install a set of trailer brakes. By distributing the braking force between the tow vehicle and the trailer, you will put less strain on your breaks, have more control and your trailer is less likely to skid, fishtail or jack-knife.

The braking power of your trailer comes from your tow vehicle and without an electric brake controller, the brakes and tires on your dump trailer simply lock up when you apply the brakes. To eliminate this situation, you can install an electric brake controller that sends a signal from your vehicle’s brakes to your trailer brakes via the 7-pin hook-up on your hitch.

There are essentially three kinds of brake controllers; proportional, time delayed and inertia activated brake controllers.


A proportional or pendulum brake controller is the smoothest controller, but it is also the most expensive. It senses how quickly your vehicle is braking and transfers the same amount of force to the brakes of your trailer. The advantage of a proportional brake controller is that your trailer slows down at the same speed as your tow vehicle.


A time delayed brake controller applies a predetermined amount of braking force to the trailer when the tow vehicle brakes. The amount of power that is applied to the trailer brakes is set by the driver depending on the weight of the trailer. There is a delay between the driver applying the brakes on the tow vehicle and the brakes being activated on the trailer. This time delay can also be set by the driver.


An inertia activated controller is similar to a time delayed controller but has an automatic override option for emergency braking that allows the trailer to decelerate at the same speed as the tow vehicle.

It is possible to install your own brake controller, but it is better to get the job done by a professional. At McFarlane’s, we can help you install the best dump truck brake controller for your needs and budget.