Tools and technique keep cargo secure

by David Goruk

Freight needs to move. The business of trucking depends on it.

The secret is to ensure that freight doesn’t move off a trailer before a trip is complete.

North America’s Cargo Securement Standard – applied in Canada as National Safety Code 10 – defines the various steps which will keep cargo snug and secure during a journey. It is where fleets and drivers alike learn how to apply tools such as straps, chains and hooks to hold freight as varied as logs, skids, metal coils and rolled paper. Related fleet training programs and manuals tend to focus on the specific loads a driver will encounter.

But as important as the number and placement of load security devices will always be, there are other factors to consider in the efforts to avoid spills or fines.

Cargo straps offer a perfect example. Those which are safely stowed away when not in use can be protected against common causes of nicks and cuts, and they are certainly easier to manipulate when protected against salt, ice and snow. Other options will shield the straps that are in place. Premium designs often come with plastic wear sleeves which protect against abrasion, while plastic corner protectors shield the straps from sharp edges on the cargo itself.

In each case, the required number of straps is dictated by clearly marked Working Load Limits, and the quality of the related markings will make a difference of its own. Some roadside inspectors have been known to reject straps because the recorded limits were simply too faded to read.

It is not the only cargo securement device that deserves ongoing inspections during circle checks. The bungee cords which hold tarps in place are prone to their own weather-related damage. Those that are always left exposed to the elements will begin to crack. And, if the cords snap, the hooks at their ends will become dangerous projectiles.

Even seemingly rugged links of chain can use some added support. While load binders help to pull the links snug against piece of cargo, the drivers who apply the leverage of an oversized bar can actually stretch the links out of shape; rusty chains might break altogether. The threats are not limited to the chain, either. Long bars applied to over-tightened binders have been known to snap back at the drivers who use them.

The hooks used to connect straps and chains to their respective anchor points complete the job. Straps which are fed under a rub rail, for example, can be locked firmly in place with a closed hook. Well-maintained binders, meanwhile, are properly secured with dedicated mechanical locking devices rather than makeshift anchors made from coat hangers or O-rings.

A few pieces of personal protective apparel will shield drivers against any swinging or snapping straps in the process. Work gloves are a start, but safety glasses will be a welcome protector if a bungee cord breaks free or if sand and gravel begins to fly off the surface of a tarp on a windy day. Safety boots will help to secure proper footing when climbing on top of any load to inspect the different securement devices.

As important as each tool will be, drivers also have a chance to enhance cargo security by observing how freight is stacked inside a trailer. Those hauling half a load, for example, can pile goods in staggered tiers. This lowers the centre of gravity and makes a trailer less prone to tipping. Filling vacant spaces with dunnage materials or air bags will keep items from shifting side to side, while a few sheets of plywood will distribute the pressure from a load bar and hold everything tight. Stacking the heaviest freight on the driver’s side of the trailer – so it sits close to the highest point in the lane – helps to keep a trailer from pulling toward the shoulder of the road. And when the heaviest trailer is placed in the lead position on an A-train, the configuration will travel in the straightest-possible path.

The final step in any commitment to load security involves actions in the driver’s seat. Freight is more likely to topple if trucks head too quickly into a highway off ramp, and seemingly secured cargo can be dislodged when trailers are allowed to slam into loading docks. The light touch of an accelerator or brake pedal will limit the forces which can cause trouble.

Actions like those should help everyone feel more secure.

This month’s expert is David Goruk. David is a risk services specialist and 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 long standing history in the marketplace and has been serving the trucking industry for more than 60 years. You can visit them at

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  • If your chain is not stamped with the working load limit or your web tie down is not marked with the working load limit, do not use it. Tarp straps (bunge cords) are for tarps only or a secondary means of securement. If you use chains or tie downs that are not marked or tarp straps as a primary means of securement, theae are out if service and you could be fined. This included stuff on the cat walk or dunage under the trailer. Your are also required to stop and check your load to ensure it has not shifted or you tie downs have come loose.

  • the lasdt 20 or so years I get rocks from trucks mostly from flat bed haulers y my cost to replace ranges from 200 to400 can the person who hauls the shit clean off there deck please