Bottom Line
Load securement

As you may already know, on Dec. 18, 2000, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a notice of a proposed rule making concerning load securement.

For the most part the proposed rule follows guidelines, which are the result of a harmonization committee formed by the American Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) and Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administration (CCMTA). The idea being, that a trucker could secure a load in Nova Scotia and be in load securement compliance all the way to Mexico City. For that to work, all three countries and each of the individual Canadian provinces would have to enact the very same document. Since the proposed regulation published by FMCSA is already different from the Canadian version in two places, it appears there is even more work ahead for the harmonization committee.

Whatever the final regulation ends up being, load securement is one of those things where you really have to know your stuff. In this article, we want to share some of the accumulated load securement wisdom of our hardworking OOIDA members.

Of course, every trucker wants to protect his cargo as best he can; nobody wins in cargo claim disputes. However, more importantly, shifting cargo can cause the driver to lose control of the rig and the resulting crash can be of danger to the motoring public as well as the trucker.

Some decisions on load securement come before you even accept the load. If there are special trailers made for a commodity, you should let someone with one of those trailers take the load. A member reported he was once asked to haul a load of plate glass on his flatbed. The glass was in wooden crates, but the crates were designed to protect the glass from shifting about while being shipped in a trailer specially designed with tilted bunkers to cradle those crates. The shipper, seeking to save some money, decided to ship the load on a standard flatbed. Now, the wooden crates were being asked to do something they were not designed for, absorb the additional force of a load securement system. Part way through the trip, one of the wooden crates failed. The resulting chain reaction left half the load as just so many pretty sparkles out on the roadway. The member came out of the experience OK because he had properly secured the load.

The crate failure was the responsibility of the shipper. However, it taught our trucking friend an important lesson. Never take a load of specialty freight, for which specially designed trailers exist, on a standard trailer. There is a reason for those special trailers and ignoring that fact is just asking for a world of headaches.

Ray and Joan Kasicki run a flatbed out of Cleveland, OH, and Ray has some sage advice for figuring out how many chains to put on a load. Ray says, "The first piece of advice I can give anyone is to get a load securement chart or calculator. These charts are available though CVSA or from the chain manufacturers or from the stores that sell chains. It is a lot easier than figuring out the working load limits. With the charts, all you do is look up the chain size, rating of chain (usually printed on the chain) and load size. It will tell you how many chains are required for that particular load." Ray says it's always a good idea to add an extra chain just for safety's sake.

Construction engineers have a motto for designing bridges: "When in doubt, build it stout." Truckers would do well to adopt that same motto in designing their load securement plans. Determine the correct tie-down method and then throw on extra ties. Nobody was ever put out of service for having a load secured too well.

Ray says that, "Loading a flatbed means you have to think ahead about what you are going to do. Let's say you're going to load a steel coil. First, you must figure out where to put the coil so you have the weight distributed properly. You must also look to see where your tie downs go and place the coil so it's close to your tie downs. The closer to the tie downs, the more secure your load will be."

One of the most common mistakes he sees is the way chains are secured to the trailer. The proper way is to put the chain around a pocket inside the rub rail, and then attach the hook to the pocket, not to the rub rail. Nothing should be attached to the rub rail. The rub rail is there to protect the chains if you hit something or something hits you. The securement system can't be protected if it's outside the rub rail.

Ray suggests if you're using a snap binder, take the chain around the pocket, and then put the hook on the chain. At this point, if the chain is too tight or too loose, you can take it up a half of a link at a time, instead of a whole link. You won't need that long cheater bar, which you should never use any way. More drivers have been hurt by binder pipes and cheater bars than anything else.

Ray reminds us that having your chains too tight is just as bad as having them too loose. The chain manufacturers tell you that you should never need a pipe or cheater bar, your hand is enough. The dangerous part of being too tight is that even the flex of the trailer could cause the chain to snap. Also hitting an over-tightened chain with a hammer can cause the chain to fail.

Most importantly, think ahead and use common sense.

Household movers are masters of load securement by virtue of their technique of cubing out available trailer space until there is not a quarter of an inch left anywhere for the load to shift. In the words of HHG movers Bill and Cindy Klemm, everything is wrapped and stacked like a giant 3-D puzzle. Strapping systems like Aero-Quip that lock to the van's wall posts are well worth the money for HHG movers. If the truck is only three-fourths full, the bedsprings and mattresses may get strapped across the rear end of the load keeping everything tight and compact.

The Klemms, OOIDA members from Richfield Springs, NY, are featured in this issue of Land Line. See page 78 for more about moving HHG with Bill and Cindy.

For some advice on car hauling we went to member Michael Rust, of Kittery Point, ME. Rust says, "Car hauling is real simple. Put four chains on the car and cinch them down tight." He says you can tell a rookie car hauler by the way the cars bounce on the rig and their tendency to use only two chains per car. With the new uni-body construction cars available, it's important that a car hauler learn the four tie-down points designed into each car. Some imported cars have welded loops on the undercarriage that are only for use on the ship, but are not reinforced enough to be used for truck transport. Other cars will have what appears to be a tie down but is really made to take lateral force from towing. These points will pull right out of the car from the downward pressure of cinching down the car's suspension. Mike has seen truckers attach chains to un-reinforced areas of the car and actually bend the car's body. Once he saw a windshield crack because the car's securement chain was attached to the wrong slot in the underbody and tightened. Some dealers will remove the car's transport loops prior to selling it. If the new owner ever wants to ship that car, the car hauler will need to have axle straps to secure it to the truck. Mike Rust says the best tie downs have 'R' or 'T' hooks on them rather than the common 'J' and 'S' hooks that are on most chains. "'R' or 'T' hooks slide in, turn, and drop down into place," says Rust. "Once tightened, they cannot accidentally slip loose."

Oklahoma owner-operator Richard Kershman has run reefers his entire trucking career. Kershman shares that it's a race to see whether you're going to weigh out before you bulk out in a reefer van. He says the 22 pallets you can run straight on a 48-foot trailer can be expanded to 24 pallets if you alternate rows of one pallet straight and one pallet sideways. It also makes the load tighter, but when a pallet of apples already comes to 2,200 pounds you may only be able to put on 21 pallets anyway. Richard uses five long load locks and always places them floor to roof, rather than wall to wall. A moving trailer can bounce and bow both walls at the same time letting the load lock drop to the floor. The van floor and roof, however, are generally moving together in the same direction.

When Richard has pallets of smaller boxes he uses two butterfly locks, which give added support for the load. Richard says, "If a pallet looks like it's liable to shift, always put that pallet up against the right side of the trailer." Most pallets that dump will fall to the left, because of the vibration and the crowning on the road.

No matter what the new regulations end up stating, the idea is to have the load not move or shift during the trip. Using common sense and forethought will serve you well in meeting that end. Just remember the old Chinese proverb, "He who jumps off trailer swinging from the end of a six foot cheater bar, is liable to end up looking just like Wiley E. Coyote sailing through the air. Beep! Beep!"

Editor's note: The OOIDA Foundation Inc. will be producing the official training video to be included in the new North American Load Securement Standard training materials. The video will include an overview and feature 10 sections on specific commodities. The project is in the scriptwriting phase now but is scheduled to be completed sometime this year.