To Trailer or Not to Trailer?

MOE is considering buying a trailer to help transport the robot and other necessary equipment to competitions (especially off-season, when less people attend) and to demonstrations and community events. (We can then, of course, paint the trailer with our colors and dazzle people going down the highway). We have been using mentor’s pickups and vans for transport, especially to Atlanta, as we generally either fly or drive to the competitions.

Does your team have a trailer? Some questions:

What kind do you have?
How often do you use it?
Where do you store it?
Who pulls it? How many mentors/parents are able and willing to pull the trailer?
What are the annual maintenance costs?
How do you manage who is authorized to pull the trailer?
Do you have training sessions for authorized operators?
Do you find the trailer more or less convenient than a pickup truck or van?
Do you have insurance for it? How much does it cost?

Since we are not affiliated with a school, we have to organize and pay for our own transportation and the insurance that requires.

All advice is appreciated! :smiley:

What kind do you have?
We bought ours from the Home Depot. IT is 6X5X12 inside
How often do you use it?
When ever the team needs it or my family.
Where do you store it?
At my house
Who pulls it?
I do or a mentor of ours that owns a trailer of his own.
How many mentors/parents are able and willing to pull the trailer? Around 3
What are the annual maintenance costs? Zilch The insurance is covered by the owner/mom of the team and the trailer is paid off.
How do you manage who is authorized to pull the trailer? Those with a background with trailers.
Do you have training sessions for authorized operators? No
Do you find the trailer more or less convenient than a pickup truck or van?
The trailer is a nice addition to our team. It makes packing easier, travel easier and unloading easier.
Do you have insurance for it? Yes
How much does it cost? ???

It makes travel easier because you do not have to allow for suitcases when traveling over night so less vehicles in the caravan. We went to alanta this year so we told the students and mentors to bring in their packed lugage before the trailer left so when we arived at the airport in alanta we did not have to wate for them to unload the airplane.

We have a dual axle, 15’ (or so) trailer. I don’t know what brand off hand.
We use it to transport everything to and from competitions and other random events.
Ours is stored in a lot right next to our shop.
Our primary trailer puller is the HOT H2. Although a couple of our mentors with large trucks could do it as well, they all would rather put the miles on the H2.
I would say that the trailer is a more convenient solution as compared to a pickup or van. We’ve made ours even more convenient and installed a ramp to easily push things into it.

So the teams owns the trailer and the H2?

We have a motor home type van that the county gave us that is no longer being used and we are in the process of painting logos and things on it. It is a 30 ft motor home with the inside open. We are placing some van seats in it for travel and it has a wheel chair lift to use for loading the pit boxes and things. We will use it to travel with the drive team and programmers that goes early for the practice day.

We own the trailer, bought it with team funds, it’s ours.
The H2 is on loan from some department within GM. It’s basically a set up in which we are *allowed *to use it.

It is very helpful to have a trailer. We use it for taking our stuff to regionals, like our big blue table, the canopy and all the other things in the pit. For IRI, we use it to transport pit cables and other things. It is well worth it to have one.

We have a new trailer, which was donated to us in the spring. We just got the plate and we are ready to roll!!!

Our trailer is donated to the team, but technically “owned” by the school district. We specified its features.

It is 8’ wide x 6’ tall x 12’ long (interior). single axle, double back door and side door, roof vent, skylight, interior light, and six installed tie downs. we also have an exterior mounted spare for extra room. Color is White so that it is ready to decorate.

It has already come in handy as outside drop-off storage for when the school was closed coming back from Atlanta.

Can’t Wait to get this thing out on the road for Daisy Tour 2006-2007!!!

237 has used two trailers in the past but we basically use the back of an Explorer to transport the robot these days. The Explorer is being used due to the courtesy of K.Shaw and Scott Shaw here on these forums.

The first trailer we used was my utility trailer. It was a “home built” single axle 5’x9’ open utility trailer able to hold up to 2000lb. Had lights but no brakes. The down side with an open trailer is the elements and we basically limited this trailer to local demonstrations. I owned the trailer so I paid for the CT registration, $17 for two years. Here in CT we renew our registrations every two years. I also paid the property tax every year on it, $6 and change. The trailer had no insurance of it’s own, it became insured as soon as it was hitched to an insured vehicle. The main vehicle we used to tow it was my father’s S-10 Blazer.

There is no yearly inspection for personal trailers here in CT. The only expenses were the registration and property tax as mentioned above but these expenses will be different from state to state. Some insurance carriers may also require you to have insurance on them. Alot of this also depends on the size, type, and how the trailer is registered.

The other trailer we had was an 8’ enclosed Haulmark that a parent (Nick Reynolds) on the team had purchased. This trailer was fitted with cabinets and small machine tools and a portable generator so repairs could be made at competitions. He took care of the registration and other costs associated with it. This trailer was VERY heavy loaded down and some vehicles couldn’t tow it easily. Nick’s Aerostar had trouble with it. After Nick’s son graduated he wasn’t really active with the team. He passed away about three years ago (there’s a thread on here about that) and the trailer was sold.

Both of these trailers were stored at the owners houses when not in use. Mine was under my deck while Nick’s sat in the corner of his driveway.

Keep in mind that the tow vehicle or vehicles will have to be set up to tow the trailer that you chose. The hitch ball(s) will have to be the same size on the vehicle(s) to be towing it. The same goes for the wiring harness plug and electric brakes if required on the larger trailers. The tow vehicle(s) will have to be wired and have the brake controller mounted in them. The tongue height will also have to be taken into account and what class hitch needed. For large trailers being towed by an automatic vehicle will require an external transmission cooler to be added to the vehicle. Find out what vehicles you have available to tow with when deciding on a trailer. You could buy a 20’ trailer and tow it behind a Surburban with no problems but if all you have available to tow it with is a Civic then you have a big problem and that 20’ trailer isn’t going anywhere! Also find out what paperwork, inspection and reqiurements are required in the state you live in. Remember they will also vary depending on the size, type, gross weight, manufacture* and the registration of the trailer.

*Some states have different registration requirements for a “home built” or “custom trailer” vs a premade one.

MOE get the trailer, it will help in the long run.

We purchased a trailer our very first year, 1996, and found it to be a great tool. In the “Old Days” we were allowed to transport our own robot (1996) to events. The rules changed after that year (there was only 1 regional and the Championship - 40 teams total) and currently teams are not allowed to transport the robot. Currently we send the trailer to every event with the tools and supplies (we ship all spare parts as per the rules).

We have a advance drive team (adults - Engineers) that pull the trailer with a 1995 Suburban provided by Delphi. This suburban is getting old and may be retired soon - it will be destroyed as it is a “Dollar” car and cannot be sold. I also pull the trailer to events with my van.

The trailer is a great tool to have if you can facilitate it. Costs range from used - $1000.00 to new $2500.00 for a 6 x 8 single axle.

It is said that you never have enough room, so buy the largest you can pull and afford. However large you get, you will always find stuff to put in it.

We rent a trailer from a local place - one team member’s brother works there, so we get a better deal. It is about 5’ wide by 8’ deep x 6’ tall. We find it more cost-effective to rent it (something like $40/day) than to own it - no storage or maintenance costs. At the moment, only the coach has a vehicle that can pull it, but it’s light enough that anyone with a hitch shouldn’t see any problems.

The nice thing about the trailer is that we can go near or far and not have to worry about weather, or if the 'bot will fit in the van. The inconvenience is that for even a minor event, we have to go through the process of renting it.

A trailer is a great idea, if team funds permit it, get one.

Your points abut insurance and driver training and authorization are all very valid, and should be dealt with in writing.


Carol- team 25 got a trailer last year- a nice 12 ft Haulmark with a drop down rear door and all sorts of niceties.

Big Mike is the only one with a truck big enough to move it so we set him up with the hitch. His dad has trailer experience and trained him. The school registers and insures it through their auto pool.

But so far we have used it only a few times. It hauled the pit materials to the NJ Regional. It picked up and stored the materials for the building of the field components this year.

But with the gas prices skyrocketing the expense of dragging it to distant sites hasn’t warranted it. Lately we shove the robot in the back of my Blazer as we did before.

It does give us secure storage for materials. We park it in the athletic stadium behind closed gates.

If money is tight you might want to rethink a trailer. If not, we look forward to seeing it at Brunswick Eruption 5 on November 4th. (shameless plug :wink: )


MOE, i know you guys carry a lot of pit supplies to the regionals, Just make sure that the trailer is big enough for everything. We were going at a 12-16 ft. dual axle trailer. This will also help with the weight of all the tools and things. Better to be too big then to not have enough room for all the things and still have to use pickups.

One item I have not seen mentioned that is essential is electric brakes. I haul a trailer for Rosie that is owned by a friend of mine and stored at my house. It is a Pace American, 15’Lx7’Wx7’H, dual axle, 7000 lb capacity with electric brakes. You do not want to be traveling down the highway at 65 mph and have to try to stop in a hurry with a full load of robot and tools without electric brakes set up properly!!! The brakes system module costs range from $90-120. Professionally installed in the $150 - 200 range.

The other major thing to consider is the tow vehicle. Mine is a '96 Dodge 3/4 ton p/u with a Cummins diesel. I have not met a trailer with a draw bar type hitch I cannot tow. (I also haul horses. In a different trailer) :rolleyes: