Regardless of what you’re transporting, load security is absolutely vital for the safety of everyone on the road. A poorly secured load can result in damaged cargo, lost income, substantial fines and will adversely affect your reputation and relationship with your customer. Items that fall off the truck or trailer could strike the following and oncoming traffic, or a load that shifts could cause the truck to rollover. Any of these occurrences could cause bodily injury or a fatality. In all situations, an improperly secured load is an avoidable situation that professional drivers prevent from occurring.
The current FMCSA Cargo Securement Rules have been in effect since January 1, 2004, and provide detailed instructions for different types of loads in the Drivers Handbook on Cargo Securement found on the FMCSA website. “As the driver, you are ultimately responsible for the securement of your cargo,” says Bruce Mochrie, Volvo Product and Indus-try Training Manager. “Your life and the lives of others on the road depend on it.”
Planning and preparing
It is important to arrange the cargo to ensure the lowest center of gravity possible. Too much weight on either side will increase the risk of a rollover, while too much at the front or back might overload any of the truck’s axles. Always approach all corners and intersections at a slow cautious speed, especially if you have a top-heavy load. During hard braking, the full weight of your cargo will add significantly to the stress on the securement devices, so allow for extra braking distance to gradually slow to lower speeds or a complete stop.
The driver is responsible for the cargo securement and inspection activities, so before starting a trip take the time to inspect your truck and your load. Verify that the Working Load Limit (WLL) of the tie-down device has sufficient rating for the cargo weight. Verify that you are compliant with all rules and regulations that apply to where you will be driving. Drivers also are required to inspect at specific intervals, pre-trip, within first 50 miles (80 km), when duty status of driver changes, at 3 hour intervals or every 150 miles (240 km), whichever occurs first.
FMCSA requires the cargo securement devices must be able to withstand a minimum amount of force in each direction when measured as a percentage of the total weight of the cargo being tied down.
- Forward Force = 80% of cargo weight when braking while driving straight ahead.
- Rearward Force = 50% of cargo weight when accelerating, climbing a hill, or braking in reverse.
- Sideways Force = 50% of cargo weight when turning, changing lanes, or braking while turning.
- Upward Force = 20% of cargo weight when traveling over bumps in the road or cresting a hill.
On the road
Anticipation of changing traffic conditions is the key to safe and efficient truck driving, especially with high vehicle weights. By looking well ahead, you can avoid sudden and dangerous maneuvers such as sudden hard braking and swerving. Fuel savings will also come as an additional reward for good anticipation by allowing you to use the momentum of the truck and load to coast wherever possible.