Mobility pays off on the road: Owner-op’s trailer-mounted two-wheeled personal transport

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Updated Feb 9, 2019
Got your own example of a do-it-yourself solution to a problem related to truck equipment or the owner-operator business? Send your story to tdills@randallreilly.com with the “highway hacks” subject line to be considered for this new monthly feature.Got your own example of a do-it-yourself solution to a problem related to truck equipment or the owner-operator business? Send your story to tdills@randallreilly.com with the “highway hacks” subject line to be considered for this new monthly feature. Owner-operator Kenny Capell carries his motorbike on this platform mounted to the front of his van. Using a modified crane and winch, Capell can load and unload the unit quickly.Owner-operator Kenny Capell carries his motorbike on this platform mounted to the front of his van. Using a modified crane and winch, Capell can load and unload the unit quickly.

A few years ago, Philadelphia, Tennessee-based owner-operator Kenny Capell sat for 11 days in Alabama awaiting work on a warrantied repair to his 2003 Freightliner Columbia’s modified air system. He’d just had it fixed ahead of a holiday weekend, only to find it needed fixing a second time. After that experience, he decided he’d never be stuck like that again with no personal mobility.

He devised a way to mount a relatively lightweight on-/off-road motorcycle to the front of his van trailer on a platform. His bike: a 2009 Honda CRF250M. Use road tires on the bike, he says, and you’re street legal. It’s less than 300 pounds, but big enough for his wife, Nikki, to ride with him.

From Harbor Freight, he picked up a 500-pound-capacity pedestal-mount crane intended for use with a pickup. “Then I went to OTR Truck and Trailer Repair that does my fabrication work and explained to them what I wanted to do,” he says: Use the crane, mounted to the sleeper, in tandem with an electric winch to load and unload the bike from a platform on the front of the trailer.

It required some modification, including adding 18 inches to the crane itself, “welded to the muffler bracket for the exhaust,” he says, with “little feet that sit on top of the frame.” After also welding the winch to the top of the crane, he ran wires to power it into a pigtail receiver, and another wire “down to the frame for the ground.”

Loading and unloading is more or less painless. It’s a careful dance with the winch and crane that’s gotten plenty of accolades from fellow haulers and inspectors. “Dude, that’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” an agriculture inspector told him once, noticing only the bike. “How do you get it down?”

“Have you ever seen those ice skaters when the man will swing around and hold that girl up in the air?” Capell quipped. “It’s all about technique.”

“My wife got more interested in riding with me, too,” after the project, he says. This past fall, the pair hauled a load putting them near Austin, Texas, with intentions to attend the Tiny House Jamboree there. “We found a place to park three miles away” and used the motorcycle to get back and forth, Capell says.

To say nothing of money saved on parts. “I had an air bag recently go out on the sleeper,” he said in November. “The place where I was wanted $95 for the air bag.” He ended up searching the area and found a set of two for $84 he picked up on the bike, among many other examples.

Capell unloading the bike.Capell unloading the bike.

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