We tend to have a certain routine when it comes to packing up and leaving wherever we happen to be. I usually take care of things on the inside of the 5th wheel while Michael works outside. Then when it is time to hook the coach to the truck we work together. Michael backs up to the coach, while I move the jacks (automatic) up and down as needed until the pin and hitch are lined up. I ensure that the safety line is hooked up and plug in the lights and close the tail gate. He gets back into the truck and slowly and gently backs up until the pin and hitch connect and the jaws of the hitch are closed.
To be on the safe side we do a 'pull test'. I raise the jacks just enough to clear the ground (about an inch or so) and then he pulls forward and applies the brake (not necessarily gently) and then backs up and applies the brakes again. This way if the hitch is not locked the fifth wheel only has a very small space to fall rather than if the jacks were completely up and could fall unto the bed of the truck.
Back in June of 2011, we had taken the coach to an area camper dealer to have a new air conditioner installed (under warranty). When the work was done, the tech left the coach in the parking lot so we could hitch up and go. As Michael and I were working through our 'routine', a young guy that worked at the dealership came along and asked if we needed help. I told him that we were ok, but he hung around anyway. Michael was backing up and pulling forward to get a better position. Apparently, this young guy thought that I couldn't handle navigating Michael into the correct spot and pretty much took over. I decided to let him have at it. It was hot so I went inside for a few minutes.
Michael and this guy finished hooking up; the young guy confirming that the hitch was locked, Michael not doing a pull test. Michael came in to get me when they had it hooked up. We got in the truck and started off for Montgomery. We drove about 300 feet through the parking lot, turned a corner, straightened out, and there was a HUGE WHAM! You guessed it! The RV dropped onto the bed of the truck.
I went and got the guy that helped Michael and another guy that said he was management. They saw the damage and sympathized. The guy that helped said, 'I thought it (the hitch) was locked'. Michael felt bad and just wanted to get out of there so we didn't talk to anyone else. We called the insurance company on the way home and had no problems.
The majority of the damage was to the bed of the truck and a little bit to the underside of the front cap and pin box cover or so we thought at first. On the way home, we stopped for gas, and I went inside the coach for something and found that the glass shower door was shattered…in a million and one pieces!
Thankfully, we can now laugh about it. We weren't laughing then though. Unfortunately, it happens to a lot of us…and most of us learn from it and move forward. Nothing to be embarrassed about.
There are products out there to help prevent costly damage to your truck and/or beloved Heartland RV if you do happen to "drop your coach". The bedsaver is a part that attaches to your hitch and "catches" the trailer before it hits the truck.
Shortly after our mishap we invested in a Blue Ox Bedsaver. It cost roughly $250 but was a small price to pay for a piece of mind.
The moral of this story: Never let anyone or anything break your routine.