Health and Safety – Coupling and Uncoupling

Coupling and uncoupling of trailers is a task that can go very wrong, very quickly, therefore only trained competent drivers should carry out this task, even with formal qualifications.

Ensure that the vehicle is parked on suitable, level hardstanding ground and that the vehicle and trailer must be in a safe secure condition and daily defects checks must be carried out prior to use. Bear in mind that additional lighting may be necessary to perform this task, especially if the task is being carried out during hours of darkness. 

Prior to carrying out the task, ensure that the vehicle parking brake is on, stop the engine and remove the keys from the cab, to ensure that the vehicle can’t be started or moved whilst you are carrying out the task. Ensure that the chassis and the trailer are designed to work as a combination. 

NEVER pass or allow others to pass between the vehicle and trailer.

Always ensure that all safety devices are engaged and never place fingers into the towing jaw.

PPE must be worn at all times, including gloves, non-slip safety boots and hi vis clothing.

Pre-coupling checks:

On the towing vehicle.

• Check condition of air and electrical connections.

• Check that the 5th wheel jaws are open and in good condition (artic) / pin is up (wagon and drag).

• Check that any safety devices (e.g. drop downs) are present and working.

On the trailer.

• Check that the trailer parking brake is applied.

• Carry out a visual check of the general condition of the trailer to ensure roadworthiness.

• Carry out a check of air and electrical connections.

• Carry out a HIP check.

Height of trailer / drawbar compared to vehicle coupling?

In-line – is the pin / drawbar in line with the vehicle coupling?

Pin – Is the kingpin and rubbing plate (semi-trailer) in good condition and attached securely?

Pin – is the coupling pin up, and the drawbar eye (wagon and drag) in good condition?

If you are in any doubt as to the condition of the vehicle or trailer, do not couple up. Seek advice.


Position the vehicle.

• Reverse the towing vehicle to approximately 1.5 to 2 meters away from the trailer.

• The vehicle and trailer should be in line.

• Apply the vehicle parking brake, stop the engine and remove the keys, take the keys with you.


• Slowly reverse the vehicle until the fifth wheel ramps are at the front of the trailer (artic) or the drawbar is close to the pin housing (wagon and drag).

• Apply the hand brake, switch off the engine and take the keys with you. 

• Carry out a further HIP check.

• Slowly reverse the vehicle to engage the coupling system.

• Once you feel the coupling engage, attempt to carefully drive the vehicle away – TWICE.

• Allow the combination to relax then apply the handbrake, switch off the engine and exit the cab taking the keys with you.

• Carry out a visual check that the vehicle and trailer have coupled correctly and that any automatic safety devices (drop downs) have engaged fully.

• Fit any manual locking devices (dig-clips).

• Connect the service air line (yellow) and electrical connections. Never connect the air and electrical services unless the towing pin is fully engaged. 

• Connect the emergency air line (red) and watch for any unexpected movement. If the trailer moves, immediately disconnect the emergency air line (red) and check the trailer parking brake has been applied.

• Stow any adjustable support legs fitted.  Release the trailer parking brake, ensure that any air suspension control is set to the “ride position” and attach the rear number plate.

• Test the operation of all of the lights.

• On pulling away test the brakes to ensure correct operation. 


Position the vehicle.

• Ensure that the ground can bear the weight of the trailer and its load.

• Park the combination in a straight line, apply the vehicle parking brake, stop the engine and remove the keys.

On the trailer

• Apply the trailer parking brake.

• Remove the trailer number plate and place in the stowage position provided or in the cab.

• If fitted, lower the support legs until they about 20mm from the ground. 

• Disconnect all of the air and electrical services. When disconnecting the emergency air line (red), grip the connection firmly as it may kick back when released, due to the air pressure in the line. Do not leave the connections on the ground, so they do not become contaminated with water and dirt. 

On the towing vehicle

• Raise the towing pin (wagon and drag) or the pull the locking bar (artic) to release the trailer. Never release the coupling with the air and electrical services connected, it should always be the last thing you do before drawing the towing away.

• Slowly draw the vehicle away from the trailer and stop when the vehicle is clear of the towing eye. Apply the chassis parking brake, stop the engine and remove the keys. 

• Before leaving the tailer, walk around it to ensure that it is in a safe condition. 

• If the chassis is equipped with a retractable under run protector, set it to the lowered position.

If you need any help with health and safety please get in touch via 0345 9001312 and

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