There is probably no better workout in trucking than manually hoisting a loaded trailer that is resting a foot below the frame of the tractor assigned to pull it. But it’s hard to appreciate the task’s physical benefits when you’re panting like a dog and cussing the idiot who caused the problem.

Nearly all truckers eventually encounter trailers requiring a few heartfelt turns of the landing gear crank. If they are lucky, the mechanism will be in good repair and well-greased.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the norm, says Lee Brace, president of Jost International. “Lack of maintenance is the biggest source of trouble affecting landing gear,” he says. People simply forget to keep the system lubed.

“We always tell people to grease their landing gear every three or four months,” he says. The job is fairly quick, involving just a few zerks, but it does require that the legs be fully extended beforehand to ensure the elevating screw gets adequate lubrication. Brace says operators should use high-grade lithium grease, which won’t turn into putty when ambient temperatures sink below zero.

Misuse and abuse are two other contributors to landing gear failure. Brace says the systems should be periodically operated to keep them working smoothly. Also, both legs should be firmly planted on a solid supporting surface before a trailer is unhooked from a tractor. Some people stop cranking while there’s still a gap between the legs and ground, causing the trailer to drop hard when they pull away. Brace says that sort of carelessness eventually strips the threads of the elevating screws, rendering the legs useless.

The best way to preserve landing gear is to dump the air from your tractor suspension to gently lower a trailer onto its legs. It’s also a good idea to dump the air before picking up a trailer, using the suspension to lift the weight off the legs.