The lessons about cargo securement procedures can be tragic.
One driver who recently travelled a scenic route through Washington, D. C. didn’t notice that his load of dressed lumber was shifting inch by inch with every turn of the wheel.
And when the lumber did break free in the midst of a curve, it fell off an overpass and onto the traffic below.
Three cars were crushed and two motorists were killed.
Tragedies like these do not need to happen.
The North American Cargo Securement Regulations offer clearly detailed guidelines for virtually any type of load, whether it includes coils of steel, boulders, crushed cars or even dressed lumber.
But as detailed as the rules are, the regulations are only effective if they are understood and followed by fleets and their employees.
A fleet’s commitment to load securement begins the moment that candidates are first interviewed for a job.
While interviews should gather information about experience with freight that will be associated with specific contracts, road tests should also include a practical example of the related procedures.
Do your job candidates know that a rub rail is not actually an anchor point?
For that matter, how many straps are required for a particular load?
Any securement system is supposed to withstand 0.8 g of force in a forward direction and 0.5 g from side to side.
To put these forces in perspective, a typical stop on a dry road will produce less than 0.6 g in a forward direction.
And unless the right tools are properly used, the cargo will continue to move as the truck comes to a stop.
Whenever a fleet agrees to move a new type of freight, it also needs to secure the detailed information about the way everything should be strapped, chained and blocked to the trailer. These details should be included in a document that a driver can use as reference materials, and be incorporated into any training programs.
Fleets also need to be aware of any needs to upgrade equipment. A new contract to haul loads of steel, for example, may require the addition of headache racks to protect drivers from the threat of any shifting cargo. And purchasers should familiarize themselves with the ratings of every component within a securement system. A 5,800-lb strap may appear to offer enough protection, but it will only be as strong as the lesser-rated winches at the other end.
The attention to load security should not be limited to flatbeds, either. The cargo that is shielded inside a van trailer also needs to be held in place with the help of friction mats, dunnage bags and load bars.
Drivers, meanwhile, need to be confident that everything is ready for the road before they ever accept a load.
Granted, that can sometimes be easier said than done, particularly if a trailer has been sealed.
But your employees should look for the opportunity to witness loading procedures, check bills of lading for details about cargo that presents a potential threat, and inspect the load from one end to the other.
According to an interpretation guide from the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, drivers should even document situations in which they are instructed not to break a seal and inspect a load.
Once they are on the road, drivers need to pay close attention to en-route inspections. A load that appears to be properly secured when it is first added to a trailer can wiggle itself loose, ultimately becoming a projectile.
The elements of any securement system should be inspected at 160-km intervals, even though the regulations require an inspection for every change in duty status, 240 km of travel or every three hours.
There is no such thing as being too careful.
These efforts are not simply needed to secure the freight as a vehicle travels down the highway. Personnel should also be confident that they can open a trailer’s barn doors without dumping the cargo onto the ground or themselves.
It is all a matter of safety, and that comes by following the clearly defined standards that allow everyone to feel more secure. n
– This month’s expert is Jean Marie Gagnon. Jean Marie is the manager of Markel’s Safety and Training Services, Eastern Canada (Quebec and Atlantic Provinces), and has over 25 years of experience in safety, training, and management positions. Send your questions, feedback and comments about this column to firstname.lastname@example.org. Markel Safety and Training Services, a division of Markel Insurance, offers specialized courses, seminars and consulting to fleet owners, safety managers, trainers and drivers.