Brake Your Trailer the Right Way...

Deciding Between Electric Brakes and Surge Brakes for Your Water Trailer

There are two types of braking systems that are commonly included with water trailers; electric brakes and surge brakes. Both systems have advantages and disadvantages, with the main difference being that electric brakes are activated through an electronic connection to the towing vehicle and surge brakes are activated mechanically. While you may have heard of these systems, do you know what the differences are? Or how to decide between the two options? Let’s look a little deeper into these two braking systems.

What are Electric Brakes?

The electric braking system is managed through a controller mounted in the tow vehicle, usually located underneath the dashboard so the driver can easily reach it by hand or foot if needed. The system works through the vehicle and trailer’s wiring. Taking 12 volts DC from the towing vehicle’s electrical system, the electricity is sent back to the trailer to activate the brakes.

There are two ways that electrical braking can be activated. The first is simply by stepping on the brake pedal of the towing vehicle. As the brakes are applied, the wiring activates the brakes on the trailer, causing the vehicle and trailer to stop simultaneously. The second way is through the manual activation lever or button, present with all brake controls. This allows the driver to manually send power from the towing vehicle’s electrical system to the trailer behind.

How do Electric Brakes Work?

A key component of the electric braking system is a magnet that is attached to the backing plate of the brake assembly. When the towing vehicle brakes, it sends electricity to the trailer’s braking system causing the magnet to become magnetized and attract to the drum face. This action causes the actuating arm to move through friction and pushes the brake shoe against the drum to cause the wheel to stop spinning.

What are Surge Brakes?

While electric brakes can be immediately applied by the driver of a towing vehicle, surge brakes are applied through a series of mechanisms and the use of centrifugal force. The neck of the trailer is two separate pieces. The front piece contains the hitch attachment, while the back half contains the braking mechanism. When the towing vehicle applies its brakes, the resulting motion causes the front half of the neck to slide into the back half. It then causes a rod to push into the master cylinder. This action forces fluid to the drum or disc brakes and stops the trailer. A wheel cylinder, located inside the brake, expands with the surge of fluid, pushing the brake shoe against the drum or squeezing the disc which stops the wheels. When the towing vehicle moves forward, the neck of the trailer extends, separating the rod and master cylinder and releasing the brakes.

Emergency Breakaway Systems

For the safety of fellow motorists, federal law requires that the braking systems of trailers must automatically activate should the trailer detach from the towing vehicle. In electric brakes, this is done through a battery-operated activator which energizes the electromagnets on the wheels and stops them from spinning. Surge braking systems include a mechanical cable or chain that is connected to the towing vehicle and activates the master cylinder, causing the trailer to slow and stop.

Which Braking System Should You Choose?

The braking system you choose depends on what factors are more important to you. Surge brakes are popular because the system is completely within the trailer, while electric braking systems require the installation of a controller inside the towing vehicle. However, electric brakes are often preferred for increased safety. With surge brakes, the towing vehicle must first brake before the trailer can causing a split second delay and requiring a longer distance needed to safely stop. Electric brakes allow the trailer to brake with the towing vehicle, making driving downhill and quick stops much safer, especially when towing larger capacity water tanks.

There are two different types of brakes that can come with water trailers; electric brakes or surge brakes. These types of brakes each have their own advantages and disadvantages, with the right choice depending on your preferences. Knowing which brake system is right for you can assist you in making your water trailer decision.

Questions? We can help!  Call Us at 772-646-0597 or email us at to get a quote today!

Our Water Trailer Experts can help you choose the right option:

 Electrical Brake Systems                                                             


Wildfires: Part Two...

What Happens After the Wildfire

In Part One of the wildfire series, we discussed the current and ongoing situation with wildfires—how the “new normal” is affecting the way fire-risk areas prepare for future wildfires. One important part of that preparation is water storage products, which includes water trailers, pillow tanks, frame tanks, onion tanks, and rainwater corrugated tanks. A link to Part One can be found here.

In Part Two, we will discuss the recent catastrophic mudslides in southern California, what caused these mudslides, and what can be done to minimize them in the future. We will also talk about erosion control products and the role they play in both prevention and revitalization in wildfire-damaged regions.

When the Rain Falls and the Land Slides

On the early morning of January 9th, just over a month after the Thomas Wildfire in southern California first raged burning a record-breaking 281,000 acres, a pounding rain began in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. The storm poured rain with such intensity that it dropped almost an inch of rain in 15 minutes—4 times the amount of rain needed to trigger debris flow. The rain in the area very rarely falls this fast and this heavy. Within 24 hours, a devastating 5 inches of rain would accumulate in the region.

Rain would be a blessing during a fire or in the middle of a drought. But right after a wildfire has just destroyed an area’s forests and vegetation, rain is a disaster.  Hardened earth in a fire-ravaged area does not absorb water the way it normally would. So instead when the rain fell, it slid effortlessly down the mountains , hills and slopes like a theme-park water slide. On its way down, it took with it fallen and burned debris, sludgy sediment, loosened rocks, continuing and building velocity until reaching the southern California cities of Montecito and Carpinteria. 

Once there, it pummeled the small communities with mud and debris, surprising the residents with its sudden force and destruction. “It looked like a World War I battlefield,” said Bill Brown, the Santa Barbara County sheriff. “It was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere with huge boulders, rocks, downed trees, power lines, wrecked cars—lots of obstacles and challenges for rescue personnel to get to homes, let alone get people out of them.”

By the time the mudslides were over 20 people had died, hundreds more rescued and over 100 homes were destroyed. 

While the mudslides are over for now, unfortunately, the flooding risk in the fire-ravaged Thomas Fire area is just beginning. According to FEMA, flooding can be a problem for up to five years following a wildfire, until natural vegetation has time to take root again and regrow.

What Can You Do?

So what can be done in the meantime to prevent further mudslides if you are in a flood-risk region near a fire-devastated area?

Control of the soil is a crucial first step in prevention of mudslides after a wildfire.

To determine this on a broader scale, a U.S. Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) assessment team evaluates the watershed conditions in forests burned by wildfire. Because time is precious, the assessments often begin even before the wildfire is completely contained. The BAER team produces a post-fire report describing immediate emergency measures to reduce flooding risks and debris flow threats arising from the wildfire’s destruction. 

Steps Toward a Safer Future

The mudslides that affected southern California were tragic and a perfect storm of events—combining the largest wildfire in California’s history with unusually heavy rains. Erosion Control products can mitigate potential flooding in the future, saving the forest and the communities below.

Join us for the third and final installment on our wildfire series. In the next post we will discuss how wildfires negatively affect water quality in communities and how it can be treated and prevented. We will demonstrate several methods of filtration and proper best management practices.

License to Drive: Taking Your Water Trailer Out on the Road

When operating a vehicle towing a water trailer, a common question is whether you need a commercial driver’s license. The answer to that question depends on factors such as the size of the vehicle, the size of the trailer, and what the trailer will be used for. We’ll take you through some of these requirements and why an 800 gallon water trailer might be the right size for your needs.

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Act of 1986
Driving certain vehicles requires the acquisition of a commercial driver’s license to prove you’re capable of handling the size. Prior to 1986, states set regulations for driving commercial vehicles themselves. This created a problem when those vehicles crossed state lines, where there were potentially different regulations. To solve this issue, Congress enacted the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 which set federal standards regarding these commercial vehicles.

What is a Commercial Vehicle?
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) defines a commercial motor vehicle as a vehicle used in commerce to transport passengers or property, if that vehicle and any towed is greater than 26,000 pounds. It also applies if the vehicle is towing more than 10,000 pounds. Additionally, if the vehicle weighs less than 26,000 pounds but can carry 16 people or more, including the driver, it is considered a commercial vehicle and requires the acquisition of a commercial driver’s license. There may be additional requirements for what constitutes a commercial motor vehicle, such as having more than two axles, so check with your individual state’s DOT if you have any questions.

How Do You Know the Weight of Your Vehicle?
The United States DOT classifies all vehicles by their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), and ranks them from class one to class eight by weight. They’ve done this for safety regulation, commercial designation, and registration purposes. Most residential vehicles are classified between class one and class three, meaning they weigh 14,000 pounds or less. While these vehicles typically are not considered commercial vehicles, they can be if they tow enough weight. Vehicle classifications as defined by the United States Department of Transportation are as follows:

Class 1 – 6,000 lbs. or less (minivan, cargo van, SUV, pickup truck)
Class 2 – 6,001 lbs. to 10,000 lbs. (minivan, cargo van, full-size pickup, step van)
Class 3 – 10,001 lbs. to 14,000 lbs. (walk-in, box truck, city delivery, heavy-duty pickup)
Class 4 – 14,001 lbs. to 16,000 lbs. (large walk-in, box truck, city delivery)
Class 5 – 16,001 lbs. to 19,500 lbs. (bucket truck, large walk-in, city delivery)
Class 6 – 19,501 lbs. to 26,000 lbs. (beverage truck, single-axle, school bus, rack truck)
Class 7 – 26,001 lbs. to 33,000 lbs. (refuse, furniture, city transit bus, truck tractor)
Class 8 – 33,001 lbs. or more (cement truck, truck tractor, dump truck, sleeper cab)

In addition to the DOT classifications, most vehicles feature a sticker on the inside door that will tell you the GVWR.

When Would You Need a Commercial Driver’s License?
If you’re just hauling the water trailer around your job site or private farm, you won’t need a commercial driver’s license. However, if you use public roads to reach your destination, you’ll want to be prepared. While you may not take your trailer on public roads now, you may need to in the future. In that instance, you’ll want the highest capacity water trailer available that falls under the 10,000-pound amount.


GEI Works Water-Hauling Experts are standing by to answer your questions!  Call us at 772-646-0597 or email us at for more information – or better yet – get a Quote Today!

Wildfires: The Current Burn and the Future of Fire

This is the first part in a series on modern wildfires.

We will cover the staggering and destructive wildfires in California that last year burned 1.3 million acres and close to 10,000 structures, most recently the Thomas Fire, which is the largest wildfire in California history.

We will also discuss the future of wildfires—how they have been rapidly expanding in size over the past decade from many combined factors, including droughts, changing climate,  population increases, and limited federal and state resources.

Lastly, we will describe several water storage product solutions you can use to prepare for the era of megafires in what is increasingly being called, “the new normal.”

The Current Situation

California recently experienced its biggest wildfire in history, the Thomas fire, which spread to more than 280,000 acres in southern California, burning thousands of trees and over 1,060 structures. Igniting on December 4th, 2017, the strong Santa Ana winds caused it to rapidly spread.  It has taken over a month just to contain the fire. Earlier this year, in October, northern California experienced its costliest and most destructive wildfires in history, adding up to over $9.4 billion in insured losses.  And this fire season will not be an isolated incident according to experts and California lawmakers.

California’s Governor, Jerry Brown said that fire activity will likely happen on a regular basis for decades now. “This is kind of the new normal,” he said. “With climate change, some scientists are saying that southern California is literally burning up. We’re facing a new reality in this state where fires threaten people’s lives, their property, their neighborhoods, and of course billions and billions of dollars. We have to have the resources to combat the fires and we have to also invest in managing vegetation and forests…in a place that’s getting hotter.”

Therefore, the future of wildfire control has no clear solution in sight, other than to prevent where possible and prepare where unavoidable. In recent years, a perfect storm of these factors has led to much bigger mega wildfires that cover greater acreage (many over 100,000 acres), affecting more people and at greater cost and cleanup. And the U.S. Forest Service has limited resources to prevent it.

So, what exactly has caused the rise in these megafires?

  • Outdated firefighting policies regarding fire suppression
  • Increasing population in fire-prone areas
  • Climate change, which is raising temperatures and creating unpredictable weather patterns (hotter weather and drier topography in California)
  • The increase in the number of mega wildfires has depleted the U.S. Forest Service's budget and resources for fire prevention measures. It is estimated that over 52 percent of its current budget is spent on fire suppression, up from just 16 percent of its budget a decade ago. That means it's using more of its budget to fight fires, rather than prevent them or minimize them.

Firefighters use the Wildfire Behavior Triangle to estimate the potential severity of fires—they evaluate fuels, weather and topography. For example, during extended periods of drought, nature produces increased amounts of dried foliage and deadwood that act as tinder for potential fires.  Weather predictions such as seasonal rain patterns are considered.  The last part of the equation is a rating of the area’s topography, such as water sources, wind patterns, manmade structures, and natural physical barriers.

Wildfires are not isolated to California. Wildfires also affect many other western states especially during the fall, including Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. It also affects Florida in the spring.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the number of fires each year in the U.S. has not necessarily increased, it’s the number of total acres burned during each fire as well as rising costs. The statistics back this up. Before 1999, only 1 year had seen over 6 million acres burned. Since 2000, in 10 out of the last 17 years over 6 million acres have burned, including 2015 in which over 10 million acres burned. Before 2000, the average firefighting costs per year were less than $500 million. Since 2000, the average yearly costs over the past 17 years is over $1 billion, and 2017 exceeded over $2.4 billion, the highest on record.

Before the Next Fire, Be Firewise and Prepare with Water Storage

Preparation can make a difference. With wildfires being the “new normal” and the U.S. Forest Service resources stretched past capacity, homeowners, businesses, farmers and local government are taking their own measures. They are learning to prepare for wildfires, the way some states prepare for a hurricane.

Since firefighting resources are limited during a wildfire, providing your own source of water could help to save your property. “Above ground water tanks and water sources that are accessible by emergency vehicles can help provide firefighters with water. Make sure signs or other markings indicate any water sources firefighters can use,” said Nick Williams, a fire resource forester and fuels mitigation program manager with the Wyoming State Forestry Division.

We offer several water storage product options you can use to prepare your home, business, neighborhood, or city. Pillow tanks can store water for long periods of time to provide fast access to large volumes of water in emergency situations. Frame tanks and onion tanks lie flat for storage and can be quickly set up in emergencies, so are often used by firefighting agencies where fire hydrants are not available or functioning. Our DOT Approved Water Trailers store large amounts of water and can be hitched to a truck for transporting where needed. The attached spray bar and fire-hose provides a way to douse down a wide area.
Preparation is especially important for rural areas, which do not have the nearby fire trucks and more abundant fire hydrants that urban areas have. Scott Jamar, a rural resident of the Santa Cruz Mountains, has a 5,000 gallon water tank, 150-foot fire hose, and propane powered pump for his property. His goal is to use the tank to water down his home, deck and yard during an approaching wildfire. “I don’t take it for granted that firefighters will quickly get here,” he said, “I take it for granted that they’re not going to be here. We can’t rely on infrastructure, so let’s try to be a little more self-sufficient and do what we can.” Once firefighters are able to reach his property, any remaining water can be used by the firefighters to douse the flames. 

This is just one example of taking preventative action as wildfires become an increasing threat. Preparing with water storage products can make a difference, one that can help you as well as aid firefighters.

Please join us for the next post in the series. We will go over what happens after a wildfire has ended-- leaving behind charred, hardened earth—and how this affects soil erosion, water quality and flooding. We will explain several erosion control procedures and products that can help you successfully mitigate the ongoing aftereffects of wildfires.

Water Storage Products

Mars Collapsible Water Pillow Tanks

Mars Pillow Tanks and Rainwater Tanks are great for long term water storage. Since they are enclosed, they can store water large amounts of water in an outdoor environment.  Also if they need to be transported empty, they are lightweight and can fold flat.

Centaur Frame Tanks 
Hydrostar Onion Tanks 

The Centaur Frame Tank and Hydrostar Onion Tank can be stored flat, are easily transportable, and can be quickly set up and filled. They are often used by firefighters in remote areas.

Water Trailers

Argo Water Fire Fighting Trailers can store 500-1600 gallons of water. It is transportable and built with hoses, nozzles, valves and a spray bar for spraying down large areas. 


Ongoing list of current active wildfires in the United States:

Annual Federal Firefighting Suppression Costs (1985-2016):

The Rising Cost of Wildfire Operations: Effects on the U.S. Forest Service’s Non-Fire Work

Emergency Preparation for Potential Wildfire

Capturing Rainwater in CA—California Rainwater Capture Act of 2012

Rural Resident Preparing for Wildfires