The April 2017 issue of Trailer Life magazine featured our article on the new Companion OEM fifth wheel hitch from B&W Trailer Hitches. Ironically, just as that issue came out, a reader emailed us the harrowing tale of his recent fifth wheel trailer rollover accident.
Like most RVers, we installed our hitch without giving much thought to rollover accidents, and we have been very happy with it.
The B&W Companion OEM fifth wheel hitch is special because it is designed to fit into the new puck sytems that the diesel truck manufacturers are now making available in the beds of their pickup trucks.
This makes it easy to install the hitch in the truck without having to take the truck to a shop.
Mark was able to install it in our truck with a friend’s help in about an hour, using minimal tools, and that included opening the boxes and reading the instructions. A step-by-step guide for how to install the B&W Companion OEM hitch are at this link:
The other fabulous thing about the B&W Companion OEM hitch is that not only is it easy to install but it is easy to remove from the truck.
Anytime you want to use the bed of your truck to haul something big like lumber, fire wood or furniture, it is a very straight forward process to take the hitch out of the truck.
The best part is that there are no hitch rails in the bed of the truck, so once the hitch is removed, the bed of the truck is totally flat.
These features are not part of the design of conventional fifth wheel hitches, like the conventional rails-based B&W Companion hitch (not an “OEM” model), so it’s a worthwhile to consider buying a truck with the optional puck system on it if you are considering buying a late model diesel truck.
When buying a truck/trailer combination, not only are the quality of the truck and trailer important, but the hitch is really important too, and not just for its ability to tow a heavy load…
We were shocked when full-time RVers Mark and Doran Gipson sent us photos of their terrifying rollover accident with their fifth wheel. They were towing their home, a 2007 32′ Hitchhiker Discover America fifth wheel, with a 2008 Dodge Ram 2500, and they were hitched together with B&W Companion hitch.
While driving at 60 mph on I-10 outside in El Paso in February, two very inconsiderate drivers suddenly cut them off in a series of swerves right in front of them.
Here is Mark’s description of what happened:
The result was that the trailer went over on the driver’s side at 60 mph, slid 150 feet and hit its roof on the concrete median.
Fortunately, as the trailer went over on its side, the B&W hitch — which comes in two pieces: a base on the bottom and a coupler on the top — separated in two. The coupler stayed attached to the trailer’s king pin as the trailer toppled over while the base stayed in the bed of the truck, allowing the truck to remain upright.
So, while Mark and Doran came to a skidding stop in their truck, sitting upright in their seats, the trailer rolled over, detached and slid to a stop on its side.
If the truck had rolled over too, Mark and Doran could have easily been very badly injured or even killed. However, because the truck stayed upright, they walked away unscathed. Thank heavens!!
With the truck badly damaged and the trailer on its side on I-10, Mark called for help and a wrecking crew arrived. As he wrote to me:
My husband Mark and I saw a trailer accident on the highway once, and the entire trailer was in splinters. That is what usually happens in trailer accidents and that’s why the wrecker driver arrived at the accident scene prepared to pick up a million pieces off the highway.
It is quite a testament to the way the Hitchhiker Discover America trailers were built that one could fall over on its side at 60 mph and still be intact with the slide-out mechanisms still functioning and only cosmetic damage on the side that skidded on the asphalt.
Unfortunately, Hitchhiker (NuWa Industries) stopped building fifth wheel trailers in 2013, but used models of all ages can still be found. Our blog posts from our visits to NuWa in Chanute, Kansas, can be found at the following links:
- 2008 – NuWa factory tour & 5th wheel purchase in Chanute, Kansas
- 2009 – Return to Chanute, Kansas, for minor repairs as the recession was growing
- 2015 – A boatload of trailer repairs at the NuWa Service Center.
B&W Trailer Hitches is located just a few miles away from the NuWa plant (NuWa is now called Kansas RV Center) in Humboldt, Kansas, and we enjoyed a wonderful factory tour and a unique American heartland small town celebration that was sponsored in part by B&W Trailer Hitches two years ago (blog post here).
For Mark and Doran, the key to their truck staying upright during their rollover accident was the way the pivot arm on the base of the B&W Companion hitch bent sideways and let the coupler break free as the trailer toppled over.
It is impressive that the B&W hitch allowed for the hitch coupler and hitch base to separate completely once one of the pivot arms on the hitch base began to bend as the trailer went over. As the wrecker driver noted, usually both the truck and the trailer roll over together because once the trailer starts to go over the hitch forces the truck over too.
In the end, Mark and Doran decided to replace both their truck (a 2008 Dodge Ram 2500) and their trailer (a 2007 32′ Hitchhiker Discover America) as well as their slightly damaged B&W Companion hitch with a new set: a 2012 3500 Ram dually truck, 2012 36′ Hitchhiker Discover America and a new B&W Companion hitch!
We feel very blessed to have towed our fifth wheel trailer so many tens of thousands of miles and seen so many beautiful places in nearly 10 years of full-time travel. We’ve had our share of near misses, especially in our trip back east two years ago where traffic is blindingly fast on very crowded and confusing highways, and we’ve seen our share of accidents too.
One RV upgrade we did that has made a massive difference for us in dealing with sudden stops at high speed while towing our 36′ 14k lb. fifth wheel trailer was a trailer disc brake conversion where we upgraded from standard trailer drum brakes to electric over hydraulic disc brakes. This is a pricey upgrade, but one we highly recommend doing.
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More about B&W Trailer Hitches:
- B&W Companion OEM Hitch for Ford and “Slider” version for short bed Fords
- B&W Companion OEM Hitch for Ram and “Slider” version for short bed Rams
- B&W Companion OEM Hitch for GM
- B&W Companion Hitch (on rails, no truck bed pucks required) and “Slider” version for short bed trucks
Other blog posts about trucks, trailers and hitches:
- How To Change The Inner Rear Tire on a Dually Truck 06/30/16
- 5th Wheel Trailer Suspension Failure – Replaced with our RV Warranty! 05/19/16
- Choosing a Trailer for Full-time RVing: Cargo Carrying Capacity 05/01/16
- How to Put DEF (Diesel Exhaust Fluid) in a Truck & Which is Cheapest? 04/17/16
- Go Cheap, Go Small, Go NOW!! Have Fun & LEARN in a Small RV 03/31/16
- B&W Companion OEM Fifth Wheel Hitch Installation – Easy! 03/12/16
- Dodge Ram 3500 Dually Truck – Best RV Fifth Wheel Trailer Towing 02/28/16
- Alice Cooper Sells Us a New Truck! 01/17/16
- RV Refrigerator Replacement – How an RV Warranty Saved Our Bacon! 09/27/15
- Trailer Disc Brake Conversion – Electric Over Hydraulic Disc Brakes – WOW! 03/30/15
- Edge Evolution CS Tuner Review – Peak Truck Performance! 02/19/15
- 2007 36′ Hitchhiker 5th Wheel Trailer for Full-Time RV Living 02/10/15
- 2005 Fleetwood Colonial Popup Camper 09/03/09
- 2007 Fleetwood Prowler Lynx 27′ Travel Trailer 09/03/08
More about Trailer Life Magazine:
- Subscribe to Trailer Life – We subscribed for years when we first got started with RVing
- Trailer Life magazine articles by Emily & Mark Fagan – Trailer Life has posted a few of our articles online
Our most recent posts:
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- Solar Eclipse 2017: Time-Lapse Videos from the South Dakota Badlands 08/21/17
- An RV Trip through the Small Towns of Eastern Wyoming 08/15/17