Wagon Ride Safety at Your KOA

What is it about riding on a tractor or horse-pulled wagon that brings out the kid in just about everyone? Whatever the reason, it is imperative that your KOA takes the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of your guests and staff. Whether your wagon is being pulled by a tractor or a horse, safety should be of the utmost importance. Help your KOA avoid a costly insurance claim by following these simple safety tips.

First and foremost, the path of travel should be well established and preferably contained within the boundaries of the KOA property. Check for overhead wires that could cause interference, and determine whether an emergency vehicle would be able to travel the same path if necessary. Examine the path regularly, looking for ruts, fallen branches, uneven ground, new mud puddles or anything else that might disrupt the stability of your equipment. Public roads should be avoided whenever possible; however, if such roads must be traveled at any point, plan for another vehicle to accompany the wagon. Be sure the path does not have steep grades or other hazards that can affect the stability of the tractor or wagon. Anyone who drives the tractor, or holds the reigns, should be licensed, well trained, responsible, and familiar not only with the terrain, but also with how to pull a loaded wagon. Drivers should take the wagon on several “dry runs,” with another skilled driver on board to observe the driver’s habits, and to ensure and confirm the path is easy to navigate. Most importantly, no one but the driver should ever be in the driver’s seat or tractor cab.

Prior to use each day, the tractor and wagon should be inspected for safety, with careful attention to lights, missing parts, missing or loose boards, exposed nails and screws or sharp edges. Check tires for proper inflation, confirm that all wheels are well secured, and make sure the hitch and safety chains are properly attached. Portable stairs for entering and exiting the wagon should be equipped with at least one side-rail, and an attendant should be available to assist passengers. To ensure adequate traction and braking, the tractor should weigh more than the gross weight of the heaviest wagon it will tow.

A responsible staff member should be present on the wagon and should be able to communicate easily with the driver. Once all passengers are seated, clearly state the safety rules prior to beginning the ride. These rules should include, at minimum, that riders must remain seated with arms and legs inside the wagon throughout the entire ride. Explain to them that the goal is to provide a fun and safe experience for all. If the ride will be occurring after dark, be sure to test-drive the path at night and be sure the tractor lights are fully functional and bright enough to light the path.

Once the trip is underway, it is advisable to drive slowly and to not tow more than one wagon at a time. It is also necessary that your staff pay close attention to the behavior of your guests. Do not allow passengers to stand up or hang their feet over the edge of the wagon. Jumping on and off the moving wagon should also be forbidden and the operator of the tractor should be prepared to stop at the request of passengers.

A tractor or horse-pulled wagon ride can be one of the most enjoyable activities offered by a KOA. We at Merriam are committed to partnering with you to make it one of the safest activities you offer. We realize each KOA is different in its needs and activities, so feel free to contact our KOA team if you want to discuss which safety measures will best protect you and your guests.

James Dick, CPCU, AAI