Have you ever heard of NATM? Most boaters probably have not. The acronym stands for the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers, and the organization plays a key role in making sure trailers meet required Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and best practices when it comes to the manufacturing process. Boats are a significant investment, and thus it is crucial to ensure that your precious cargo is being towed on a trailer that meets all legal requirements.
“Our mission is to promote trailer safety and the success of the of the trailer manufacturing industry through education and advocacy,” says Kendra Ansley, executive director for the group which has been on the job since 1987. “Our membership is comprised of two parts: those who manufacture trailers and those who supply parts and services to those manufacturers. We focus on ‘smaller and midsize’ trailers which, more or less, we define as those that can be towed by a car or truck but not a semi.” These trailers are under 26,000 lbs. gross vehicle weight rating and include boat trailers.
NATM has over 900 members internationally and has representation not only from the U.S.A. but also in Canada, Mexico, China, Poland, Germany and Australia among other nations. That means they are working across the globe with partners who either sell parts to trailer manufacturers in the United States or manufacture trailers and then import them into the U.S. for sale.
“We provide a variety of services to our members,” explains Ansley, “but the most important is our compliance verification program. Through that program, we compile all the federal laws and directives pertaining to the light- and medium-duty trailer space into The Guidelines – which is NATM’s compilation of federal regulations and industry standards. This document is nearly 500 pages and helps to simplify the potentially confusing and complex information regarding federal and state requirements. We then offer a voluntary program built around these guidelines through which we go out to a manufacturer’s facility biennially and ensure they have procedures in place to follow and enforce those regulations throughout the manufacturing process.”
On their inspection visits, NATM checks a multitude of aspects. Do all of the components meet or exceed the trailer’s rating? Does the trailer have all of the required lamps and reflective tape? Are the safety chains correctly attached to the trailer? Is the company registering with the federal government as required, and are they providing end-users with the general operation, safety, and service information? These are just a few of the things that are federally regulated or mandated to be provided to end-users and so NATM checks to ensure they are instituted. Companies found not to be NATM compliant that then fail to make necessary corrections have their memberships terminated. Those who pass inspection, however, can place a NATM compliance decal on their product so customers know they have passed NATM’s unbiased, third-party audit of their federally required manufacturing processes.
“The regulations governing trailers are just so vast that end-users simply can’t know them all to check that their own trailers are fully in compliance, so we like to think that our compliance decal takes the guesswork out of purchasing. When you see the red, white and blue NATM decal on a trailer, you know the manufacturer has been through a rigorous program to ensure its product meets regulatory standards,” states Ansley.
Beyond the compliance verification program, NATM also works to educate trailer dealers. In fact, they recently released a trailer dealer affiliate program to educate dealerships on the importance of selling compliant trailers and to help them gain access to resources to pass along to their own customers. Additionally, they put a lot of emphasis on getting trailer safety information out to the public, especially during National Trailer Safety Week which is held in the first week of June every year. This year it will take place June 7-13, 2020. You can visit the Trailer Safety Week website at www.trailersafetyweek.com for some great trailer info and safety tips, plus a free brochure on trailer safety that fits in a glove box and can be ordered online. The brochure is worth keeping handy.
“The point of all this,” sums up Ansley, “is to better serve end-users so that they are not only buying a compliant trailer but will also know how to use and maintain it correctly. Simply building a compliant trailer doesn’t guarantee it will be used properly. We’ve all seen trailers on the highway that looked a little precarious based on heavy rust, items loaded loosely on top, or tires that seem a little flat. The more we can enlighten our members, dealers and the general public about trailer safety, the better it will be for everyone.”
Raising consumer awareness about the importance of safe trailering is a great idea and, as one of NATM’s newest members, Sea Tow International, Inc., is proud of its affiliation with this safety-first trailer advocacy organization. In fact, Sea Tow even offers a Trailer Care™ package that provides customers with extra peace of mind on the road 24/7/365.
Sea Tow offers two options, Trailer Care Marine and Trailer Care Universal. The first for those who use only boat and/or PWC trailers, the second for those who in addition to boat and/or PWC, also own non-commercial trailers such as motorcycle, snow mobile and utility.
We’re hoping you never have to use it of course, but if you do find yourself with trailer troubles, you’ll be glad to know that Trailer Care by Sea Tow will be available to assist.
For more information about the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers, visit their website at www.NATM.com.
For more information about Trailer Care by Sea Tow, click here.
Written by Tom Schlichter
Tom Schlichter is a full-time outdoors writer, editor and marketeer living on Long Island, NY. Follow him on Facebook at @outdoortomcorp or visit his website at www.outdoortom.com.