TORONTO, Ont. — Load securement rules for flatdeck haulers are a constant concern; the rules are often in a state of flux and enforcement’s interpretation of the rules is not always consistent.
There are also bad habits that have been ingrained into the minds of many drivers and are passed on to others. Take for example the widely held belief that a strap that’s twisted once atop the cargo it’s meant to secure experiences less vibration and therefore provides greater securement.
“There’s no truth to that at all,” says Allan Boomer, sales team leader for Kinedyne in Canada. “Straps are tested for tensile strength using a straight pull. When you twist a strap it’s not a straight pull anymore, so you’ve compromised the overall integrity of the strap. A lot of guys do that because of the vibration, but if they add one more click to the winch to tighten the strap a little more, the vibration goes away.”
The load securement equipment industry has done itself few favours in dispelling industry myths and misconceptions. In fact, it could be argued industry suppliers have contributed to the confusion in recent years. One such example occurred recently, when a Canadian supplier stamped a working load limit (WLL) onto a rubber tarp tie, insinuating it was suitable to use as a primary securement device.
“You can’t rate rubber,” Boomer says, noting the WLL would no longer apply after a few days’ use, since rubber deteriorates with exposure to ultraviolet rays as well as hot and cold weather. “Unfortunately, people were paying triple the price they should for a tarp tie because of this illusion.”
Brian Larocque, general manager of Ancra Canada, has encountered the same problem.
“One of the most common mistakes we see is the use of tarp ties and bungee cords as primary securement devices,” Larocque says. “These products are designed to hold down tarps, not cargo and equipment. Rubber should never be used as a tie-down, regardless of whether or not it has a load rating on it.”
In fact, Larocque says truckers can be fined even for using tarp ties to secure accessorial equipment such as ladders.
“If a driver uses a tarp tie to hold a ladder on his flatdeck, enforcement has every right to ticket him because he is not using proper securement equipment with a WLL,” Larocque says. “Even if he has a WLL on a tarp tie, enforcement still has every right to ticket this driver. Tarp ties, either rubber or synthetic, should not be used as a cargo or load restraint.”
Boomer says the rules have since been clarified to indicate a WLL cannot be applied to a rubber tarp tie, but the misperception lingers. The industry has also struggled with an influx of inferior tie-down equipment, which is produced both domestically and offshore. Adherence to Automotive Manufacturers Equipment Compliance Agency (AMECA) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA) standards is voluntary, and industry associations are reluctant to lobby for mandatory compliance since many of their members may not conform.
“For regulators, forcing load securement suppliers to comply with a third-party certification such as AMECA or CSA would go a long way towards weeding out all the bad suppliers overnight,” Larocque says. “Waiting for the supplier and manufacturer associations to do it themselves will never happen. It is simply not in the best interests of the members who could not comply.”
Instead, Larocque says he’d like to see the end users better police the industry, by demanding suppliers to provide test reports and third-party accreditation through AMECA.
“Fleets and distributors can ask for this and demand it,” he says.
Besides that, a keen eye can identify warning signs that a strap is not well designed. Boomer suggests examining sew patterns and looking for excessive holes in the material, which can weaken the strap.
“Sew patterns are the biggest fault we see, where people put excess holes into the strap,” he explains. “Every time you puncture the webbing with a needle, you weaken it.”
In some cases, Boomer says testing has shown inferior straps to break at as much as 1,400 lbs of pressure below the stated threshold. He also says some manufacturers are supplying straps that stretch as much as 10.8% under load.
“On a 30-ft. strap, that’s three feet of stretch,” Boomer says.
Yet, there’s a market for shoddy straps, as they’re typically available at a lower purchase price and flatdeck fleets in particular are looking for any way to save a buck given the difficult times they’ve been through in recent years.
“There are two things you should never cheap out on,” Boomer insists. “Number one is your brakes, because if they go you could kill somebody and number two is cargo control, because if it lets go, you could also kill somebody and lose your company.”
He also notes multi-million dollar lawsuits are becoming the norm when accidents occur and personal injury lawyers can build a strong case against the trucking company if it wasn’t using certified straps from a reputable supplier.
With the new Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) safety measurement system now in effect south of the border, there have been some reports of enforcement officers ruling a load to be out of compliance if just one strap is non-compliant, even if more than the minimum number of straps were used. Both Boomer and Larocque say this should not discourage drivers from throwing an additional strap or two onto a load.
“There is nothing wrong with adding a few mores straps to the load, as long as they are properly marked with a working load limit and are not cut or damaged,” Larocque says. “If all you’re doing is adding more defective product, you are a potential target for a fine.”
Boomer says it’s easy to underestimate the weight of a load or to receive inaccurate paperwork from the shipper, so throwing an extra strap or two over the load will in most cases do more good than harm.
“The best practice would be to throw an extra strap or two on,” he says. “They’ve never given anyone a ticket for overdoing it.”
Anecdotally, Boomer says most inspectors have indicated they won’t fine a driver for using a non-compliant strap, as long as they’ve used requisite number of legal straps to secure the load.
The absence of a WLL tag or stenciled imprint is a frequent source of fines. WLL tags cans be removed – intentionally or otherwise – so it’s a good idea to purchase straps with both the tag and the stencil, Boomer notes. Canadian regulations have only begun approving the use of a WLL stencil in the past couple of years.
“A lot of people are still confused by that,” Boomer says, noting Kinedyne straps come equipped with a WLL tag as well as a stencil.
Another misconception is that the WLL tag must be secured by all four corners.
“The illusion is that if all four corners are sewed on, the tag will stay on better,” Boomer says. “All you’ve done is perforated around the tag itself and the tag material and webbing material will expand and contract at different rates, so after one trip you’ve lost the tag.”
Fleets and drivers should not be altering the tag or reattaching it, Boomer says. “If you’ve lost it, it’s done. You have to replace the strap.”
Once a quality set of straps has been installed, there are ways end users can extend their life.
“They can protect their straps from UV damage by removing them from the winches when not in use,” Larocque points out. “Using corner protectors and protective sleeves will also go a long way.”
Boomer also suggests laying the s
traps out on the flatdeck and running them through the truck wash on occasion.
“Some straps are webbed so loosely, the road grime gets in there and they wear out more quickly,” Boomer says. “Occasionally at the end of a trip, wash them down and get the road grime and salt off them.”
Interestingly, there are regionally nuances in how straps are cared for within Canada. Boomer says in eastern Canada, customers tend to leave their straps on the winch year-round while in the west, they’re often removed and as a result they last longer. Western Canadian customers favour four-inch straps, while three-inch straps are the norm in the east.
“It doesn’t make any sense, it’s just preference,” Boomer says.
Of course, the most effective way to extend strap life and at the same time avoid fines for non-compliance with Canadian and US load securement rules is to purchase quality equipment in the first place.
“I would ask for a test report and third-party accreditation,” Larocque advises. “If the vendor can’t produce these, then how the strap feels or looks, or how the WLL tag is applied means nothing.”
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