Like all trailers, horse and livestock trailers need to be marked with reflective tape so that they can be clearly seen and identified at night. This is especially true given the value of what is being hauled. By marking your trailer, other vehicles will be able to see it much sooner at night, and as such, drivers will be more able to make adjustments in order to stay clear. An unmarked trailer is especially dangerous both while being towed, or when parked. And since the cost of effectively marking the trailer is less than $100, it makes sense to exercise due diligence when it comes to trailer safety.
NOTE – The suggestions below are in addition to the required Reflex Reflectors already required for trailers in FMVSS 108. Reflex reflectors are the plastic or stick on rectangular or round reflectors that are required by the DOT for trailers. These will come on the trailer from the factory.
To properly mark any trailer, we recommend creating an outline so that other drivers can both see the trailer, and make out what it is quickly. The Department of Transportation requires that any trailer over 10,000 pounds, and wider than 80 inches must apply red and white dot tape to the sides and back of the trailer. Most horse trailers are both lighter and smaller than this, so the requirement is not applicable. However, marking is not a matter of what is required, it is more a matter of what is needed for safety. So following the guideline for larger trailers, and adding additional reflectivity, is the best way to keep you, your horses or livestock, and your trailer safe.
For the bottom of the trailer, we recommend red and white DOT tape that covers at least 50% of each side. On the back, use a solid section of the white and red tape. For the top corners of the back of the horse trailer, use white reflective tape to create an inverted L. Keep any red reflective tape away from your brake lights to avoid confusion for drivers behind you. For the top of the side of the trailer, use either the same DOT tape, or solid red reflective tape. For the sides and back, you can also use reflective word panels that say CAUTION HORSES or LIVESTOCK TRAILER, or another simple phrase. Use common sense to create an aesthetically pleasing design that get the attention of other drivers. 2 inch wide tape is recommended, but for areas where 2 inch tape is too wide, 1 inch will work.
By doing this you will create an outline that quickly lets drivers know they are seeing a large trailer. Word panels further identify you as hauling animals. By making your trailer visible, you will greatly reduce the possibility of an accident from being hit by a driver that does not see you.
Steven Cole (Economics, MBA – University of West Florida , Business & Innovation – Stanford University) 25 years of experience in the reflective safety business. Specializing in vehicle accident and rear end collision reduction through increased visibility.