Safe, Secure. . . and Finally in Writing

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After nine years of discussions, drafts and a massive research project, Canadian lawmakers appear ready to tell you how to strap, chain or otherwise secure cargo to trailers. Provincial and territorial officials are in the midst of reviewing what’s thought to be a final version of load security rules submitted through the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA). And transportation ministers are expected to receive them during a meeting in late September.

It’s ironic, really, that Canada will follow the U.S. in adopting these standards. It’s the CCMTA that coordinated the North American initiative to develop the rules, and the science behind them is based on experiments conducted in the mid-1990s by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation and the Forest Engineering Research Institute of Canada, on behalf of Transports du Quebec.

New U.S. rules have been in place since Dec. 26, 2002, with the adoption of North American Cargo Securement Standard Model Regulations that are also the foundation of the proposed Canadian version. But carriers need to pay particular attention to a Jan. 1, 2004 deadline, when they’ll actually be required to follow the new regulations south of the border.

“We originally hoped to meet the same Jan. 1 deadline, but that appears unlikely,” says project manager John Pearson of the CCMTA. Carriers will more likely need to comply with Canadian rules by July 1, 2004.

“The actual regulations themselves have not changed on a sweeping basis,” adds Pearson, referring to the overall process.

But the rules will be more descriptive than ever, right down to describing the number of tie-downs and blocks that need to be used to secure specific loads. Detailed procedures are outlined for commodities including logs, dressed lumber, metal coils, paper rolls, concrete pipe, intermodal containers, vehicles in their new or crushed forms, roll-on containers and large boulders.

“One of the big changes is going to be the fact that all the components will have to be rated and marked. That’s going to be a huge issue, whether it’s a strap, or a chain, or a coil bunk that’s used to secure coil steel,” says Evan MacKinnon, CEO of MacKinnon Transport in Guelph, Ont. “Pretty much anybody in the industry today already has this equipment, and this equipment has a fairly lengthy life span to it.”

Straps tend to wear out within 18 months because of cuts and general wear, he says. “But a chain can have a 10- or 12-year life span, and we have to deal with the ones that we already have in service today.”

If markings aren’t available, load ratings will be based on conservative calculations. An unmarked chain, for example, will be considered to have the same strength as similarly sized Grade 3 proof coil. Webbing strength will be calculated based on width, and synthetic cords by their diameter.

“No doubt they were rated at the time they were bought, but maybe they weren’t marked in a way that you’re still going to be able to read it seven years later,” MacKinnon adds of the tools.

It means that some existing equipment will likely have to be replaced, and suppliers such as Kinedyne have been preparing themselves. While the manufacturer has always attached rating information to its straps, it now ensures that devices such as winches also come stamped with working load limits.

Rules won’t be limited to detailing the number of tie-downs that are required, however.

Among the proposed regulations are provisions banning the presence of any knots in tie-downs, and requirements for drivers to inspect the security of a load after three hours or 240 km (150 miles) on the road, whichever comes first. And tie-downs that are fed through the eye of a coil can’t cross over each other.

The rules also recognize that friction mats can help keep loads from shifting, serving a purpose similar to blocks. “It’s probably the single biggest change in the new rules,” Pearson says. The mats will be considered to offer horizontal resistance equal to 50% of the weight of the cargo that sits on it.

“They’re also going to have to attach their cargo control in a manner that it can’t come loose,” adds Todd Walker, the central Canada sales representative for Kinedyne. “That’s really going to affect the guys using wire hook and flat hooks.

“For the guys using chain anchor straps, it’s fairly easy to go around a stake pocket, and go around a tie-down point, and attach the hook back onto itself. With flat hook and wire hook, you can’t do that.”

He expects growing interest in the company’s Kaptive Hook system that can’t unknowingly be unhooked. It’s already standard equipment for trailer manufacturers such as Manac and Thru-Way, and options on Doepker and Lode King. “There’s a pin material that welds between the frame and the rub rail of the trailer. It comes in steel or aluminum, and the shape of the pin is made to accept a special hook that goes onto the strap,” he says. “Once you drop the hook onto the pin material, even if it does come loose, it can’t come off.”

While rub rails are not recognized as an approved tie-down point, drivers continue to use it as one, he adds. (Straps should be shielded inside the rails, which are designed to protect them from abrasions in the first place.) “Guys really need to look at their straps, to look for the burns, the cuts and the rips.”

With the new rules about to become a reality, there is also going to be a push to train the industry.

“You wouldn’t be able to talk to too many truckers who have read (the entire draft of the rules),” Walker says. “There’s just way too much information to read right now. They’re looking for the Coles’ Notes version when it’s out.”

And it is coming.

The CCMTA is still working with the U.S.-based Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Administration to develop a two-day course that will explain the rules to enforcement officers and anyone else who is interested in taking it.

The material was scheduled for completion in August, and a pilot project to test it was expected in September.

Carriers will be able to select from a series of modules to find information about the specific commodities that they haul.

MacKinnon, however, is reserving judgement as to whether he will use the new material. His company already has a training video and program of its own.

Kinedyne, meanwhile, has a flatdeck “training” trailer traveling the country to teach its customers how to secure cargo.

Larry Harrison, general manager of Kinedyne Canada, says there still is a general concern with the overall wording of the legislation not being specific enough to have a general standard of inspection and fines. “Currently when we take our training trailer to inspections stations we do not get consistent answers with regards to even our current regulations on what is and is not acceptable,” Harrison says. “Drivers will tell you that what is acceptable at one station is not at another. This can be frustrating for both the O&O’s and the fleets. This is not the inspector’s fault as much as a need for more descriptive rules and perhaps more on-going training.”

But Harrison says that at least the Canadian government is stepping in the right direction with the new regs.

While Canada has yet to approve its wording of the rules, the legislative process isn’t completely finished in the U.S., either. While the federal rules cover traffic on U.S. interstates, and 32 states adopt their own versions by simply referring to the federal regulations, there are exceptions, Pearson says. California, for example, has a set of rules that’s more elaborate, and is still working to fit the new federal regulations into its framework.

Regardless of the adoption of the rules, one issue that doesn’t change is the way that responsible carriers will consider load security, MacKinnon says. “If it’s been something they’ve been at for years, that’s their livelihood – protecting the freight while it’s on the vehicle, keeping it on the vehicle, and avoiding damage… But you have to put the rules in place for people who aren’t educated in the issue, or who abuse the privilege.”

“It’s a remarka
ble achievement,” Pearson says of the process behind the new regulations. About 180 people were involved in related meetings, and had a hand in reviewing or contributing to the document.

Perhaps related enforcement initiatives will intensify now that the rules are clear, MacKinnon adds. “Years ago, it was secure until it fell off,” he says. “Right now it can be deemed as secure long before it falls off, which is a step in the right direction.”

To review a draft version of the North American Standards, go to

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