SPECIAL REPORT: Robert invents a way to see what really happens inside a van trailer

MONTREAL — You have to secure a load on a flat-bed trailer? No problem. Standard 10 of the National Safety Code on Cargo Securement, adopted in 2004, should give you pretty good instructions on how to proceed.

But what about securing loads inside a van trailer? Know anyone else who wings it?

Apparently, the only requirements for freight hauled in a van are limited to the following:

“The cargo securement system shall be capable of withstanding the forces that result if the vehicle is subjected to each of the following accelerations: (a) 0.8 g deceleration in a forward direction; (b) 0.5 g deceleration in a rearward direction; (c) 0.5 g acceleration in either sideways direction.”

Do you know if the freight in your van trailer can support these forces? Probably not, and you are not alone.

Findings from a securement table Robert Transport
created could one day be the industry standard.

The truth is nobody really knows what happens inside the walls of a van trailer. Are pallets placed on the floor truly stable and do they really support the G-forces required?

The Minister of Transport of Quebec (MTQ) wants to know. In collaboration with Camtech Consultants, an engineering firm from St. Nicolas, Que., the MTQ recently performed an array of tests to determine how loads react when they are submitted to lateral and longitudinal strengths.

To see inside the box, the engineering team did not install cameras in a moving vehicle nor did they observe a load of pallets with X-rays. Instead, they rented a tilt table designed by innovative carrier Transport Robert of Rougement, Que.

The table is made so different loads can be placed and tested at the same time. Two hydraulic cylinders smoothly tilt the table, simulating movements that can occur inside a van trailer. Robert designed the table from scratch a year ago to validate its own loading practices to customers.

“There’s some criteria for securement of freight inside van trailers, but it’s difficult for carriers and their customers to know if they comply or not. When the new rules arrived in 2004, many wondered if they were meeting the acceleration and decelerations standards,” says Réjean Laflamme of Robert.

Folks at Robert wanted the table to be as versatile as possible, so they tested it with a wide assortment of loads: pallets, cylindrical freight like steel or paper rolls, and even frozen goods.

It wasn’t long before the MTQ came knocking. It asked Robert if it could rent the table and hired Camtech Consultants to enhance the device’s capacities with an even wider selection of measurement and data capture options.

“Our goal is to define guidelines that will allow us to give some parameters to the industry, to reach a global agreement so we can tell carriers, shippers, and road inspectors what are the best ways to place loads in van trailers,” says Guy Desrosiers, who is in charge of securement at the MTQ.

Full Tilt: Robert’s tilt table simulates
movements that can occur inside a van trailer.

The ministry set out to test different scenarios and determine the reactions of palletized products in a van trailer depending on the number of rows, the height, and the type of product.

“Among others, we made some tests to verify if the top of a load on a pallet moved more than the center or the bottom of the load, or if the whole pallet and load move in the trailer,” says Jean Grandbois, engineer at Camtech Consultants.

Today’s Trucking sister publication Transport Routier got an exclusive look at some of the MTQ tests performed on the tilt table. For the tests, three “displacement sensors” were placed at different heights on the load to compare lateral movements. Those sensors showed what part of the load “slips” first.

Some tests surprised even the research team. In certain situations, the load tested was more unstable than anticipated, indicating many similar loads inside van trailers do not meet the requirements of the Standard 10.

“This research will be exportable to the rest of Canada and the United States,” says MTQ’s Desrosiers. “We believe that the results will make the Standard 10 more precise.”

Desrosiers says the ministry is eager to share the results with the industry. A meeting with the North American committee on load securement, of which Transport Robert’s Jean-Yves Letarte is a member, should be held in the next few months.

Canadian Trucking Alliance President David Bradley says he’s aware of the MTQ project and is hopeful of its implications. “We will work with stakeholders in order to try and develop common sense cargo securement standards that fulfill the promise of a uniform national standard,” he said. Right now it’s a dog’s breakfast.”

— To read the complete feature, be sure to pick up the March print issue of Today’s Trucking magazine.

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