Confusion by design

by James Menzies

TORONTO, Ont. – Cargo securement regulations are difficult enough to interpret and stay current with. What’s worse is when some suppliers to the industry make matters even more complicated, adding to the confusion rather than providing clarity about the laws that govern their products’ use.

Take for example the application of a Working Load Limit (WLL) to a rubber tarp tie-down. This sends the message to customers that the tie-down can be used as a primary securement device and that this particular brand of tie-down is superior, because it carries a WLL. Not so, contend makers of industry-leading cargo securement products.

“This continues to be an issue and the cause of a great deal of confusion,” said Brian Larocque, managing director with Ancra Canada. “Partly to blame are the companies who distribute these products, and really do not understand the problem they are creating by promoting tarp ties with a WLL on them…These companies will do what they feel is necessary to make a sale, and to do so they twist the legislation and the interpretation and represent them as facts. No one holds them accountable for it, so they are allowed to get away with it.”

This is also a thorn in the side of Allan Boomer, sales team leader for Kinedyne in Canada.

“There are two suppliers that have rated them now and so people are still trying to use it as a tie-down, and it was never intended for that,” Boomer said.

Contributing to the confusion are enforcement officers who, in some instances, are charging drivers for using these devices for primary securement, but using language that indicates they are being charged with using a tie-down without a WLL. This contributes to the belief that tie-downs can be used as primary securement devices as long as they carry a WLL.

“It is easier to tell the driver they are issuing a fine for a lack of a WLL instead of educating the driver that rubber or EPDM tarp ties should never be used as a tie-down,” Larocque explained. “From our perspective, products made from either rubber or EPDM are completely unsuitable to be used as a primary tie-down. There is far too much stretch and give in a rubber or EPDM tarp tie, and therefore it does not meet the performance criteria set out in NSC10.”

Companies like Ancra and Kinedyne have been unable to deter competitors from attaching WLLs to tie-downs, because, as Boomer said, “they’re selling.”

In fact, Larocque noted the practice seems to have spread to chains, with some suppliers now selling aftermarket tags they say can be added to chains, giving them a WLL.

“For any information to be valid, it needs to be there from the manufacturer, not a mail order catalogue,” Larocque warned. “Even the addition of these tags by the manufacturers is still open for debate, and so far none of the traditional cargo securement manufacturers and designers have added them. It is pretty much a similar situation as the WLL on tarp ties; create some fear and misconceptions and some companies will use it to sell product. Enforcement in North America has repeatedly said they will accept the grade marking on the chains as per the standards. If fleets and owner/operators are relying on an add-on, aftermarket tag to get them out of a fine, they could be mistaken.”

Even the markings on chains can be cause for confusion. Boomer said some suppliers are now etching the grade on every second link, which isn’t required by law and adds cost to the product with no real benefit – except for the supplier that can convince customers it’s required, and increase their sales through the spread of misinformation.

“One trend we’re seeing a lot of, and it’s almost becoming an epidemic, is a misunderstanding on how chains are supposed to be marked,” Boomer said. “The legislation states you have to have the grade on it every foot, and we had one company who came out and put it on every other link. A couple companies are saying that’s what the rule is. It’s extremely costly to put that on every other link, so people are paying for something they really don’t need.”

Part of the problem within the cargo control industry is that there is little adherence to industry standards, and a steady influx of new providers, most of whom don’t manufacture their own products. Boomer said most suppliers actually broker product, sourcing parts (ie. webbing and hardware) from wherever in the world they can get it cheapest – often China. This leads to what Boomer describes as the “China fade”, explained this way: “The first product you’ll get is fantastic, but they’ll look at how they can still make this product, make it acceptable, but save some money. So the product quality starts to fade and it’s not what you originally started with.”

When choosing cargo securement products, Boomer suggested inspecting the webbing for a tight weave. This will prevent road grime from getting between the threads and causing the strap to wear prematurely. He also advised against choosing straps with excess stitching, as extra, unnecessary holes will increase the likelihood of webbing failures.

Larocque is heartened to see more fleets and owner/operators investing in quality product.

“Every day, more fleets and owner/operators are investing in premium products to extend the service life of their straps and reduce long-term costs,” he said. “The dangers and consequences (of not doing so), range from fines and CSA issues with enforcement to lost and damaged cargo, to a potentially serious accident.”

Larocque suggested fleets and O/Os invest in newer, more abrasion-resistant straps to extend the life of the products and reduce costs.

Once the investment in quality straps has been made, Larocque said operators should inspect them for wear regularly, “from an enforcement point of view, every time they use them,” he said. He also said operators should be checking straps to ensure the WLL tag is in place or stenciled on the strap and that chains carry the proper grade markings. They should also look for excessive wear in the webbing/chain or hardware, which could lead to failure. Also, Larocque suggested removing the straps from the winches when not in use, to reduce their exposure to UV rays and the elements. Boomer added drivers should pull over after travelling 400 metres to ensure the load is still secure.

“With chains and straps, after 400 metres re-check the tension on it because it’s going to become a little bit loose as things settle in,” Boomer advised, adding, “That’s not being done.”

Perhaps the most important advice, however, is to always err on the side of caution when securing loads.

“There is nothing wrong with adding one or two more straps or chains to a load, as added insurance,” Larocque advised.

Have your say

We won't publish or share your data