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The Specifics of Cargo Securement

New cargo securement regulations, already enforced in the US and about to go into effect in Canada Jan 1, 2005, mean that Canadian truck operators, especially flat deck and special commodity haulers, will have to re-examine the way they tie down f...

New cargo securement regulations, already enforced in the US and about to go into effect in Canada Jan 1, 2005, mean that Canadian truck operators, especially flat deck and special commodity haulers, will have to re-examine the way they tie down freight.

Intended to create a standard that can be applied equally across North America, the new rules cover a wide variety of products and commodities, anything from steel coils to empty containers to boulders to crushed cars, and specify exactly how they have to be strapped, chained and/or tied down.

And while Canadian regulatory officials are still tweaking their final version of the standard, US authorities (as with the hours of service regulations) have jumped into the enforcement pool with both feet.

As early as September of 2002, the US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued the final rule on the North American Cargo Securement Standard. But it was only in Jan 1, 2004 that the regulations went into effect south of the border. Since that time some Canadian carriers have run into problems at US inspection stations.

“They’re giving tickets for having strapping on the outside of the rub rail in New York State,” says Cliff Hall, president and CEO of CRH Transport of Cambridge, Ont. His company specializes in heavy machinery moving and operates about 20 trucks and trailers internationally.

Rolf Vanderzwaag, maintenance expert with the Ontario Trucking Association, thinks that some inspectors are misinterpreting the intent of the new rules. “Different (US) enforcement agencies have been reading sections and applying them as they see fit. Some states are handing out tickets left and right for having the straps on the wrong side of the rub rail,” he says.

“The regulations state ‘wherever practicable’ the straps are to be inside the rub rail, but if there is no other place to attach the straps as in the case of an overhanging load, or if the trailer is built without rub rails, then they have to attach them to the outside rails.”

For its part, the FMCSA is aware of the problems concerning the “wherever practicable” terminology. Public affairs spokesperson David Longo comments: “FMCSA believes there may be inconsistent enforcement policies among the states with regard to whether it is practicable to keep the tie-downs inside the rub rails. FMCSA is considering alternate solutions to eliminate misunderstandings and will work with its Canadian and state safety partners to resolve the issue.”

Another fuzzy area concerns the movement of heavy equipment like shovels or front end loaders on floats. The American regulations stipulate that moveable hydraulic equipment has to be lowered to the deck and secured. But some enforcement officers have interpreted this to mean that the leveling legs on a backhoe have to be extended too, and this could result in an over-width infraction.

As well, Vanderzwaag thinks that the language concerning general freight could become problematic in the future. “One section says all freight must be immobilized. This should not apply if the container walls are of sufficient strength. However, the rear doors are not considered cargo securing devices. So the flip side is, when are officers going to start opening up trailers and have a look inside and say this is not secure?”

To further complicate things, in the past year, some Canadian carriers hauling paper rolls using friction mats for blocking have been ticketed in some US jurisdictions. Although friction mats are recognized as securement devices for paper rolls in the new standard, it appears some American states are still applying the old rules.

John Pearson, technical consultant to the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, and the project manager of the Canadian version of the standard, thinks these are just growing pains. “Thirty two states have adopted the regulations by reference,” he says. “They (the FMCSA) had expected that the others would have adopted them sooner, but it’s not automatic.”

Eventually, Pearson envisages the creation of a mechanism that US and Canadian (and eventually Mexican) inspectors would be able to call upon to deal with securement issues as they arise. “Any enforcement agency could contact FMCSA if they had a question about load security. They would get a ruling or interpretation. We’re looking to tap into that system, so we could work together,” he says.

“If you want uniformity throughout North America you have to give up some sovereignty,” adds Pearson. “People have to commit to collaborating on the answers. And this requires on-going maintenance, a better communication system and a commitment to use it.”

The development of a comprehensive North American model has been a decade-long process for Pearson, although the initiative was actually started in the late 80s. The North American Cargo Securement Standard is a joint project involving the CCMTA and its corresponding US body, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Association (CVSA).

Committee meetings involving 180 participants took place on both sides of the border. Stakeholders included equipment manufacturers, shippers, trucking industry representatives and officials from regulatory bodies.

For most Canadian carriers, the new rules will have very little effect – many are already meeting or exceeding the standard. But some may have to make adjustments.

“It really depends where you live and what the rules have been in the past,” says Pearson. “There has not been a high degree of consistency (across Canada). Every province will have more elaborate rules, though in most cases, they might not change much.”

Evan MacKinnon, chair of the Canadian Trucking Alliance and CEO of MacKinnon Transport, doesn’t think most Canadian carriers will be hugely affected. “I was involved in the committee meetings and we didn’t end up too far from what we’d been proposing all along,” says MacKinnon. “In general, some carriers will have to use a few more tie downs, a couple more belly straps where they used to use just one or two.”

However, on big change in the rules is that all securement straps and chains will have to display a load rating. “My understanding is that if your three-eighths grade 7 chain has its stamp worn off, it will be taken to the weakest standard for that diameter which is a grade 3 transport chain,” says MacKinnon.

As well, straps and chains have to be secured in such a manner that they can no longer become unfastened during transit. Todd Walker, central sales representative of Kinedyne Canada, thinks this will make many current strapping systems obsolete.

“There’s no provision for the grandfathering of old straps,” says Walker. Instead, he suggests that flat or wire hooks could be replaced with chain anchors (18-inch chain sections attached to the nylon straps with delta rings).

An even better solution might be Kinedyne’s Kaptive Hook system already in use on some trailers. “It cannot come unattached during transit – it has to be physically lifted and turned 90 degrees to be removed,” says Walker.

The US rules also include the following significant points: loads and securement devices will have to be inspected within the first 50 miles of a trip; knots will not be allowed in strapping; and chains cannot cross each other through the eye of a steel coil. The entire FMCSA securement standard can be viewed at

While manufacturers are scrambling to supply products to meet the new standard, the CCMTA is working on educating operations and safety people about the impending Canadian regulations.

Canadian and US officials have jointly created a training module to “train the trainers.”

The two day course is available on the CCMTA website at This site contains the entire 400-page instructor’s manual, a participant’s guide and workbook, 15 PowerPoint modules and it all can be downloaded for free!

Al Kirsch, senior driver services manager for Kleysen Transport, recently took the course at a Manitoba Trucking Association seminar in Winnipeg and he’s enthusiastic about the approaching harmonization. “Having this uniformly applied allows drivers to learn this right and learn it once,” he says. “Drivers will have the physics explained to them and be able to do some calculations on their own.”

Perhaps waiting a little longer to enact the new regulations will prove an advantage for Canadian administrators. For one thing, they will be able to avoid the pitfalls contained in the vague language in the US model.

Further, the continuing consultative process has illuminated some areas of commodity securement that still have to be addressed. Stakeholders have indicated they’d like standards for securing items like bales of hay, fish tubs and yellow jacket pipe.

“I’m pleased to say there’s fairly good awareness in Canada,” adds Pearson. “But there are a couple of things we’re continuing to press for. Within the next five years, all equipment shall be marked and rated with a working load limit (and manufacturer’s stamp).” This will include anchor points, winches, load bars and decking material, which means that every truck operator in Canada will be eventually impacted, one way or another.

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1 Comment » for The Specifics of Cargo Securement
  1. John M says:

    Now to create a uniform standard for all flatbed manufacturers that establishes the working load limit on the anchor points.
    To create anchor points where chain can be dropped through without the tiedown having to be outside the rub rail.
    Might as well get this out of the way now – your securement system is only as strong as your weakest point.
    If the anchor point is an unknown – we’re ALL in the dark!

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