Any shipment can introduce a fleet to unique challenges. Restricted access to a particular loading dock might require drivers to back in from the blind side. High-value commodities can demand stringent security processes. Everything from long combination vehicles (LCVs) to dangerous goods will need specially-certified drivers.
But no matter what form a load takes, a focus on its unique demands will help to protect against losses.
Consider extremely fragile commodities as one example. While any freight can break, loads of high-end electronics and crystal leave smaller margins for error. Nobody wants to hear a rattling sound inside a delivered box.
The first line of defence clearly involves equipment choices.
But while air-ride suspensions help to cushion loads from bumps in the road, every component has to be in good working order to make a difference.
Dropped suspensions also need to be re-inflated before beginning a journey.
Unwanted shocks are not limited to a rough road surface, either. Tracks and channels in a trailer floor can introduce unwanted stresses unless they are covered with cardboard during loading and unloading procedures. Loads might even need to be redistributed into tiers between each delivery.
Once the wheels begin to roll, defensive driving techniques will play a protective role. Slow and steady acceleration and braking techniques minimize the sudden movements which send shocks through even the best-secured cargo.
As steady as a trip can be, other freight might rely more heavily on carefully controlled temperatures.
The line between frozen and spoiled produce can be separated by as little as a couple of degrees. The proper temperature can only be maintained through the steady flow of air from the reefer, ensured by keeping cargo away from air chutes and cleaning out the channels in a trailer floor. Meanwhile, the insulating panels, door seals and chutes themselves have to be regularly inspected for any damage.
As effective as the trailer will be, however, the cargo also needs to be loaded at the proper temperature. Drivers can ensure these levels by using pulp guns to measure temperatures at the outer edge and middle of a skid, and quickly call dispatchers whenever there are disagreements about reefer temperatures.
Of course, some unique demands can be traced to a load’s high value.
Formal loss-prevention programs will help to restrict access to a yard, protect information about the load and routes, and always keep cargo under lock and key.
Fleets can reduce some of the risk by limiting the time that high-value cargo is under their care. When it does need to be stored, it can be protected with a tall fence, controlled access, and periodic security patrols. Enhanced locks are available for everything from kingpins to glad hands and brake control valves, while GPS tracking devices will broadcast a warning if anything strays from its planned course.
Even if loads are sealed before being delivered, drivers can be asked to take photos of the cargo before the doors are closed.
These images can later be compared to the goods which arrive at their destination, proving that nothing “fell off the truck” while it was in a fleet’s care.
Then there is the matter of oversized freight which must travel under special permits.
Damage to these loads can often be traced to securement methods, which require a focus on more than Working Load Limits alone.
Even if there are enough chains and straps to meet the demands of National Safety Code 10 – the rules which outline how to secure everything from boulders to heavy vehicles – a misplaced securement device could easily crush a hydraulic cylinder on a piece of heavy equipment, or wear away at the colourful coating on a new product.
These unusual loads can also make a dramatic difference in vehicle dynamics.
Combine a high speed and tight ramp with a high centre of gravity, and everything could easily tumble on its side. The rear of a particularly long trailer can also tend to drift out of a lane even during a standard highway curve. Skills will make the difference.
But the unique demands are not limited to driving skills alone. Those who work with oversized cargo also require a high level of mechanical aptitude. Vehicle inspections can extend to additional dollies, or the hydraulic lines and cylinders for the steering axles at the rear of the trailer.
As long as drivers understand the unique demands of their freight, they can be prepared for anything.
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 www.nbins.com.