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What Is a Tandem Axle Trailer?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A tandem axle trailer is a unit designed for hauling items behind a vehicle; this trailer will feature two axles to which at least four wheels can be mounted. The added axles and wheels provide stability and strength, and such trailers are usually used to haul heavy items. The style and function of a tandem axle trailer can vary significantly; some are enclosed units that protect the stored items from sunlight, rain, and other possibly damaging elements, while others are open-air models with back gates that can be lowered to create a loading ramp.

Connecting the trailer to a vehicle is accomplished by using a hitch receiver mounted on the vehicle and a hitch designed into the structure of the tandem axle trailer. Chains usually connect the trailer and vehicle as well to act as a back-up safety mechanism should the hitch system fail. A tandem axle trailer tends to be longer and heavier than single axle models, so the vehicle hauling the trailer will need to be strong enough to haul both the unloaded trailer and the loaded trailer. Larger vehicles such as SUVs and pickup trucks are best suited to the task, while smaller cars may not be able to haul the unit safely.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

Like other types of trailers, the tandem axle trailer must be built properly in order to be street-legal. Brake lights need to be installed somewhere on the trailer, as does a mount for a license plate, and the axles, wheels, and tires will need to be of a certain size to be used safely on roads. The structure of the tandem axle trailer must be built in such a way that it is straight and balanced, preventing a loss of control when operating at higher speeds.

The two axles on the tandem axle trailer are usually unpowered, or passive, axles. These axles simply roll and do not provide any forward power or thrust to the system. All the power is provided by the towing vehicle instead, though some heavier trailers will feature braking systems to help slow down the unit during deceleration. In some areas, a braking system may be required for trailers of a certain size, so it is best to research local laws and regulations before purchasing a larger trailer. Laws may also dictate that items being towed in a trailer must be tied down or otherwise secured when being towed on roadways.

Discussion Comments


I have to admit, I always get a bit nervous when I see dual axle trailers on the road. I always imagine whatever they're carrying is going to get loose and slide right into traffic. Or that the trailer itself is going to come unhitched from the SUV or truck that is hauling it.

I know these scenarios aren't that likely, but I feel like they could happen. That's why anyone with a trailer should definitely take safety precautions. Check your brake lights. Make sure whatever you're hauling is chained or tied down properly. And obviously make sure the whole trailer is kept in good repair.


@indemnifyme - I don't know that much about trailer parts, but I've never heard of a trailer colliding with the vehicle that was pulling it under normal circumstances. I feel like if this was a danger, than all tandem axle trailers would need to have built in brakes. But they don't!

However, they do need to come with brake lights, which makes a lot of sense. Being able to see the brake lights of the vehicle in front of you is pretty essential for safe driving. So it stands to reason a trailer should have brake lights in case whatever it's carrying obscures the view of the trucks brake lights.


I find it interesting that some double axle trailers don't actually have a braking mechanism of their own. It seems like if you were carrying something really light, the trailer might not slow down at the same rate of the truck pulling the trailer.

This could be pretty disastrous! I imagine the tandem axle trailer could run into the back of the car or something. This would be bad for the car, as well as for whatever was being hauled by the trailer. I think all of these trailers should come with their own brakes.


@everetra - Well you can load just about anything in a trailer these days. I know someone who likes to take his very large, custom built go cart out onto the dirt roads on weekends and give it a whirl.

This thing is way too large to fit into the back of a pickup so he just loads it inside his ATV trailer. I think that’s a better option personally because in that case it’s enclosed in the trailer. I think there’s a lot less banging around with that thing properly secured in his trailer.


@MrMoody - The utility trailers do come in larger sizes, and I am surprised at the load capacity that they can sustain. When my old Honda Civic died I had my friend take it off my driveway and load it onto his very long tandem axle trailer.

We basically put the car in neutral and pushed it up a ramp onto the trailer. He then secured it with chains all around, and if I recall correctly, this particular trailer did have a drive mechanism to help move it along.

He drove off with that Honda in the back of his trailer until he could get it to his shop and fix it.


We had a big storm a few years back where we ended up having to chop down lots and lots of wood. I basically gave it away but it was more than you could fit in a regular pickup truck.

Some guy offered to take it all off my hands. So he pulled up in a truck with a tandem axle utility trailer and loaded all the wood on it. It was a medium sized trailer, hooked up by a hitch to the back of his truck, but it did the job just fine. I let him haul it all away for free.

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