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Handle with care

Every fleet is expected to handle cargo with care.


Every fleet is expected to handle cargo with care.

After all, shippers want their freight to be in the same condition at the beginning and end of every trip.

Less-than-truckload fleets simply face a few extra challenges along the way.

Fragile goods loaded onto these trailers might need to sit in the shadow of heavier skids which could deliver a crushing blow.

Oddly-shaped freight might need to be secured with a completely different combination of blocks, straps and chains than the cargo sitting next to it.

But fleets can protect their freight – and the drivers who haul it – by following a few of the tips and techniques that will help everyone feel a little more secure.

Review the latest rules
North American cargo securement standards offer detailed steps that need to be followed when blocking, chaining, strapping and securing a wide variety of cargo.

Many of the original standards have also been clarified by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, which publishes the latest interpretations at www.ccmta.ca.

Stack with care
As obvious as it is to suggest that freight needs to be stacked with care, fragile cargo is often damaged when heavier skids are piled on top of lighter freight.

Cardboard boxes are particularly prone to collapsing under any added weight when they are shipped in humid weather.

Many of these issues are addressed by stacking a customer’s freight in tiers – with the most rugged goods creating the bottom levels – and then holding everything in place with a combination of cargo straps, nets and logistics bars.

Fill the gaps
Physics teachers tell their students that “nature abhors a vacuum.” The same rules seem to apply to the empty spaces between one pallet and the next.

Shifting cargo just loves to move through these gaps and slam into nearby goods.

Well-placed dunnage in the form of broken skids or purpose-built air bags can fill these spaces and absorb unwanted bumps.

Warn forklift drivers about hidden pails and drums
Forklift drivers have been known to puncture pails or drums that were sitting behind the skids they were trying to move, but this threat can often be addressed by sharing a little information.

I once worked for an LTL fleet that equipped drivers with a series of warning stickers which could be applied to any skids that were blocking the view of the freight sitting behind it.

Drivers could even create their own warnings with no more than a few sheets of cardboard, some duct tape and a magic marker.

Prepare drivers for warehouse hazards
Some warehouses ban drivers from their loading docks, but truckers who are allowed to step out of their cab can take the time to inspect freight as it is loaded, and share insight about any cargo that is already on-board.

They simply need to protect themselves from the surrounding hazards.

Work boots, a reflective vest and hard hat will be a must for anyone who steps into an active warehouse, and a sturdy pair of work gloves will offer an important line of defence when handling a wide variety of freight.

Those who are required to handbomb freight may even want to consider back braces as a defence against strain-related injuries.

Inspect the cargo handling equipment
Tools like hand trolleys, pallet jacks and lift gates can help to move freight with ease, but they also need to be inspected and maintained like any other component on the truck.

Bent or damaged parts can affect load ratings and movements alike.

Approach the loading dock with care
Those who slam a trailer into a loading dock can damage the truck, building and cargo.

Sure, warehouse employees might chuckle at the three attempts needed to carefully back the trailer into position, but this will be far less embarrassing than any damage caused by careless actions.

Knock before opening
It is tough to know if the freight inside a van trailer has shifted during a trip, but drivers can spot some hidden hazards before opening the barn doors.

A quick bang on the doors should generate a hollow sound. A dull thud may suggest that something is leaning against the door and is about to spring free.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst
Many disagreements with shippers can be eased by establishing the clear steps that a driver should follow if any damage does occur, no matter who causes the issue.

– This month’s expert is David Goruk, risk services specialist. David has served the trucking industry for more than 25 years providing loss control and risk management services to the trucking industry. Northbridge Insurance is a leading Canadian commercial insurer built on the strength of four companies with a longstanding history in the marketplace and has been serving the trucking industry for more than 60 years. You can visit them at www.nbins.com.


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