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Safety: Towing the Tiny House- Interview with Andy Lee

This is the second installment of the series about Safety. It will be in two parts, The first is an interview with Andy Lee, (the second part is from Bill Kastrinos of Turtle Shell Home).  I thought it would be nice to have two different perspectives for such a crucial subject. Both men offered vital information that I believe you will find as useful, as did I.

Tiny House Wisdom had the pleasure recently to be in touch with a writer many will know by the name of Andy Lee. I became familiar with him via the book by Lloyd Kahn, “Tiny Homes, Simple Shelter,” recently published by Shelter Pub. A bio of Andy can be found at the end of this interview, as well as his website to find more from him.

Tiny House Wisdom: Hello Andy, thank you for being a part of Tiny House Wisdom’s “Safety” series!

In light of your comments for the book by Lloyd Kahn, “Tiny Homes Simple Shelter,” where you were featured recently, (on page 68, if I remember correctly), I want to put to you the following questions. I noticed you did seem to have quite a bit to say in the book, and I was impressed by your experience.

What I wanted to know was a little bit about towing tiny houses, specifically, are they safe to tow?

Andy Lee: If all the precautions are taken the tiny house will be safe to tow. The precautions have to do with brakes on the trailer that are controlled by a “brake controller” in the cab of the tow vehicle.  When the tow vehicle applies the brakes the signal is sent to the trailer brakes to activate, too.

Another precaution is sway bars and safety chains from the trailer to the tow hitch of the tow vehicle. Use a load distributing hitch.  If the hitch should fail the chains will engage and keep the trailer from running away from the tow vehicle. Do not tow from a bumper hitch, which is asking for trouble.

Another precaution is proper weight. Do not exceed the weight limits of the trailer frame, the trailer axles, the tow vehicle or of the hitch apparatus.

The Tiny House itself should be well constructed. Shoddy construction may well fall apart on the highway.

The Tiny House should be well balanced so it does not put an undue strain on the hitch or the tow vehicle.

Windows in the tiny house should be shuttered outside so they don’t break from flying road debris or gravel.

Everything in the tiny house should be screwed to the floor or strapped to the wall so it won’t slide all over the place and upset the trailer or wreck the interior of the tiny house, (THW: GREAT POINT! I have seen pics of houses with no apparent restraint for things when in tow, and my mind always imagines those items at the END of the journey strewn everywhere….).

The driver should maintain a speed that is reasonable for the trailer tiny house being towed. It is not reasonably to drive 70 mph on the highway towing one of these things. They are heavy and it takes a lot of braking to stop them, and they are top heavy so weaving in and out of traffic or taking curves at too high a speed may cause an accident.

Tiny Houses are broad and tall and subject to turbulence caused by high winds and by wind from other vehicles, especially large trucks and buses. Drive prudently.

Tiny House Wisdom: Did you have any issues handling the houses on the road?

Andy Lee: Common sense is required. Don’t speed, don’t overtake vehicles, slow down on curves, watch for overhead wires, give plenty of clearance when passing another vehicle. Do not go on the highway without a load distributing hitch, sway bars and tow chains.

Tiny House Wisdom: Is the design the secret to being able to tow the house more frequently?

Andy Lee: Proper construction methods are required. The design can be anything you want as long as it is sturdy enough to be towed.

Tiny House Wisdom: Do you choose designs with safety when towing in mind?

Andy Lee: No, I chose designs that looked good and could be built with readily available materials and would withstand the stress of long distance hauling.

Tiny House Wisdom: What safety features do YOU recommend? What safety features you employ, especially those that you find useful when moving the tiny from place to place…

Andy Lee: Just use common sense. Don’t drive too fast, slow down on curves, pull over and let impatient drivers go around, swing wide your turns so the trailer doesn’t hit the sign post, that sort of thing. Just drive sensibly.

Tiny House Wisdom: Lastly, what advice would you give people reading this about towing a tiny house?

Andy Lee: Go talk to a trucker who will let you drive his truck a few miles while he coaches you about road hazards, pulling techniques, turning radius and a range of things that are vastly different that most non-professional drivers are familiar with. Unless you have experience pulling a trailer, don’t put your life and your family’s life and other driver’s lives at risk by doing something stupid like pulling one of these things on the Interstate. Take lessons and learn how to do it first.

Tiny House Wisdom: One more thing- is there anything else you would like to add?

Andy Lee: I forgot to mention about locking the trailer to the tow vehicle hitch ball you can buy a really good trailer hitch lock at Lowe’s or similar stores. I think it’s about $20 but it’s been a while since I bought one.

It is designed so that bolt cutters cannot cut it.

If you are leaving the trailer tiny house parked without the tow vehicle you can use the lock to cover the ball receiver so the trailer cannot be hitched to another tow vehicle without the key.

Andy Lee: Good luck with your blog!

Tiny House Wisdom: And good luck to you and your projects! I look forward to hearing about what you are doing in the future! Feel free to keep Tiny House Wisdom apprised of what you are doing.

Andy Lee Bio:

I was an organic farmer for 20 years and felt I could build a better retirement income for myself by building houses, so I started building both regular size and tiny ones. That worked for 10 years until the market collapsed in 2007. Then I chose to live another of my dreams and live in Colombia, South America where I am now. I’ve written several books about my experiences; “Backyard Market Gardening,” “Chicken Tractor,” “Day Range Poultry and A Tiny Home To Call Your Own.” My most recent book is, “Romancing Paradise; Men’s Guide to International Love.” It came out on Amazon last week.

My current book project is, “Five Hundred Miles to the Sea; Canoeing and Kayaking the James River in Virginia, Allegheny Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean.” It will be on Amazon in March 2012. After that I am writing the, “Single Guy’s Guide to Colombia,” and another book, “Retiring In Colombia.” My web page is www.myandylee.com.

Thanks again to Andy for a wonderful interview full of great information!

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