Not only is properly securing our cargo a matter of good business, it is a crucial safety matter as well. If a piece of cargo is damaged due to a shift or a fall, not only will the carrier not get paid and load not delivered, but someone could get seriously injured – or even killed – should the incident be particularly severe.
This is why the aim of Part 393 of federal regulations pinpoint specific aspects of cargo securement, from how items are blocked or braced to how they are tied down, whether it be on a flatbed, in a van or reefer. When the vehicle is in motion, will the load shift around or stay put? During moments of a sudden stop, can the cargo be relied on to remain immobile?
Also, it is important to consider what inspectors look for when they are addressing safety violations. As an example, if you don’t have enough securement straps to handle the weight of the load, you could get hit with a hefty fine.
Tie-down Rating Specifications
Have you heard of belly strapping? Depending on the size and weight of the load, it is important to ensure there are enough straps in place to properly secure the load. A belly strap refers to an instance where a strap is placed on the first tier of the load, then more placed atop the load as it climbs.
In total, the combined ratings of the straps or chains used to secure the load must equal at least one-half the load’s total weight. As an example, if the load is 40,000 pounds, then the combined weight of whatever tie-downs are used must equal 20,000 pounds. If the cargo is especially dense, more rules govern how it should be blocked.
There is no difference in weight requirements between straps and chains. Chains must also equal at least one-half the weight of the cargo. For a heavy equipment hauler carrying anything in excess of 10,000 pounds, direct tie-downs must be applied, at a minimum of four, although most fleets will opt to use more than the minimum for added safety.
If a tractor is hauling a flatbed trailer with no header board, or they are pulling a lighter cargo, two straps must be utilized within the first ten feet of the front of the load.
Although weight and friction will often keep loads from moving across a trailer deck, it is important to butt together the first and second stacks of cargo. When they are butted together, regulations dictate that a strap every 10 feet should keep it in place. If the stacks are not butted together, the second will need straps too.
If there are loose metal pieces or other various articles, such as those with a lumber load, those sections are sometimes inserted into gaps in the load for greater stability. There must always be downward pressure on whatever is being hauled, keeping it snugged firmly to the deck, otherwise the vehicle will not be cleared to hit the road.
In cargo hauled in vans and reefers, the freight must be kept from shifting around when the vehicle is either stopped or in motion. Loading the freight to the walls of the van is great, but some vans flex. In this case, load-lock poles can be used.
Depending on the jurisdiction and type of cargo being hauled, inspectors may or may not decide to open the doors. Regardless, it is up to whomever locked and loaded the freight to ensure it is secure.
In the end, all parties are responsible for the safety of the load, whether it be in regards to the truck driver or those around them on the road. In the end, for freight’s sake, cargo safety is key.