Sep 5, 2023

Expert Tips for Ensuring Flatbed and Cargo Safety with Proper Securement Techniques

In the trucking industry, flatbed and cargo safety is of utmost importance to avoid potential hazards. The rule of thumb for Proper securement of cargo is essential to prevent accidents and injuries on the road. Many accidents involving cargo occur due to inadequate securement or improper handling by drivers.

To ensure the safety of goods, drivers, and other motorists on the road, it is crucial for trucking companies to provide proper training to drivers on cargo securement. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has set regulations and guidelines on cargo securement that must be followed by all trucking companies.

However, these guidelines are only effective if drivers are properly trained and understand the importance of cargo securement. Experts in the industry emphasize the significance of educating drivers on the proper techniques and equipment for securing cargo, as well as the dangers of improper securement. 

In this blog post, we will explore the importance of cargo securement and the role of proper driver training in ensuring flatbed and cargo safety.

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What is a Flatbed? 

The proper securement of cargo on a flatbed truck is crucial, as it is on display for all to see, including nearby drivers. Simply meeting regulatory standards is not enough, as unforeseeable circumstances can arise during transport. Experts stress the importance of going above and beyond to ensure the safe and reliable transit of flatbed cargo. Heavy loads and heavy cargo vessels have proper method of transport. 

Cargo securement issues are easily identified by inspectors due to the high visibility of flatbed trucks. According to Kerri Wirachowsky, the director of roadside inspection programs for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, these flatbeds are easily noticeable by inspectors whether they are at a weigh station or on a routine patrol. This makes it easier to address any potential problems with cargo securement and ensure the safety of all road users.

The consensus among experts, including Wirachowsky, is that the task of cargo securement mandates a combination of proficiency, understanding, and inventiveness.

According to Kimberly Maes, the president of the flatbed and specialized group of Roehl Transport, one of the biggest challenges in the transportation industry is the diverse range of products and their unique securement needs. For instance, securing lumber differs significantly from securing coils, as the position of the coils requires a different approach. Moreover, the securement needs for machinery vary greatly from those of tubing. The transportation of different types of materials and products on a standard flatbed poses a significant challenge due to the varying requirements for each item.

Insight From Transport Companies

Roehl Transport is a prominent for-hire carrier based in Marshfield, Wis., and has been ranked No. 73 on a transport editorial's Top 100 list of the largest carriers in North America.

To ensure secure transportation of cargo, experts advise using more tie-downs than the minimum requirements set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This approach reduces the risk of any tie-downs becoming loose or tearing, which could lead to a violation for the driver. Loose items or raw materials especially for oversized loads and heavier loads should be monitored. As a result, it is recommended to use six or seven tie-downs instead of the minimum five to avoid any potential issues.

Wirachowsky advised that any driver or shipper unsure whether an additional tie-down is needed should err on the side of caution and use one. This recommendation holds true regardless of the situation.

The International Roadcheck

Recently, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) carried out the International Roadcheck, a 72-hour event focused on inspection and enforcement across Canada, Mexico, and the United States. This year, more than 59,400 commercial motor vehicles underwent inspection, with 81% of them passing without any out-of-service violations.

While the CVSA highlights different areas of focus for each Roadcheck, cargo securement received particular attention during May's event, which was widely publicized. It was discovered that cargo securement violations constituted 1,969 or 12.4% of all out-of-service violations found in the U.S. during the Roadcheck period.

It is a necessary requirement for drivers to bring their vehicles to a halt and thoroughly inspect their cargo, taking into account the possibility of binders becoming loose due to the natural vibrations, bouncing, and jostling that typically occur during transportation. This step is crucial to ensure the safety and security of the load as well as the surrounding environment.

The Importance of Inspecting Cargo

In accordance with FMCSA regulations, Wirachowsky emphasized the importance of inspecting cargo and ensuring that all devices used to secure it are properly in place within the first 50 miles of a trip. This inspection must include making any necessary adjustments to the types of cargo or load securement devices, such as adding more securement devices, to prevent any shifting or falling of the cargo during transportation on the commercial motor vehicle.

By adhering to these guidelines, drivers can help ensure the safety of themselves, their cargo, and other drivers on the road.

According to Wirachowsky, flatbed drivers adhere to a regulation requiring them to inspect their binders, such as straps and chains, when they are pulled over at the side of the road or at a truck stop. This inspection involves re-checking the binders to ensure compliance with the designated "working load limit" (WLL), which specifies the number of straps or chains required for proper utilization. As explained by Maes of Roehl Transport, the determination of WLL is a complex process that goes beyond what most people might assume.

Roehl's flatbed and specialty group has a fleet of over 500 tractors. To ensure that their drivers have a thorough understanding and appreciation for the importance of securing cargo, newly hired drivers undergo a five-day hands-on securement class.

During the training, they get the chance to disassemble and reassemble cargo loads and witness the process in real time. This approach helps the company maintain the highest standards of cargo security.

Maes acknowledged that driver turnover is a consistent factor in the trucking industry, leading to an ongoing need for carriers to provide training. To ensure safe transportation of goods, the experience level of drivers is taken into consideration. They are asked to take pictures of their loads and securement, which are then reviewed by their leaders for double-checking. In case of any discrepancies, the leaders guide the drivers through the process.

Ensuring the safety of drivers should be the top priority for every organization. Although we can invest extensively in driver training, we understand that some may choose to move on to other opportunities. Nevertheless, we remain committed to safeguarding their well-being, as well as that of other motorists and pedestrians. This investment is not just about maximizing profits, but also about upholding our responsibility to the community.

The FMCSA Regulations Impacting Flatbed

The safe transportation of cargo is a critical aspect of the trucking industry, and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Parts 392 and 393 provide guidelines on cargo securement. As per these regulations, a Drivers Handbook on Cargo Securement has been created by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The handbook classifies various commodities and sets standards for the proper securement of approximately twelve different types of loads. These loads include logs, dressed lumber, metal coils, paper rolls, concrete pipe, heavy vehicles, equipment, and machinery, as well as flattened or crushed vehicles. Ralph Abato, who is the president and managing director of Doleco USA, a manufacturer, highlights the importance of proper cargo securement by mentioning the FMCSA regulations that are present in the Drivers Handbook on Cargo Securement.

How to Source Securing Solutions

Doleco USA is a well-known manufacturer of load-securing solutions such as cables, slings, and a unique textile "chain" that was introduced to the U.S. market over three years ago.

Recently, Abato, an experienced professional who has held various positions with the Web Sling and Tie Down Association, emphasized the importance of understanding a cargo's weight in relation to the performance criteria of tie-down assemblies. These assemblies include a variety of materials such as chains, wire rope, steel strapping, synthetic webbing, and cordage. Accurately knowing a cargo's weight is essential for determining the breaking strength and working load limit of the tie-down assembly. This information is critical for ensuring the safety and security of cargo during transportation.

To ensure the secure transportation of a load, it is essential that the combined ratings of straps or chains equal at least one-half the total weight of the load. For instance, if the load weighs 80,000 pounds, the Working Load Limit (WLL) of all the tie-downs together must be at least 40,000 pounds. It is important to note that the WLL on the tie-downs must be clearly legible to ensure they are safe to use, as stated by Abato. This requirement helps to ensure that the tie-downs are capable of bearing the weight of the load and prevent any accidents or damages during transportation.

According to Wirachowsky, it is not always the driver who secures the load, but it is their responsibility to inspect it before embarking on the trip. If the load is found to be non-compliant, the driver cannot proceed with it. This is because the driver and motor carrier are held responsible once the trip commences.

According to Thomas Bray, a senior industry business adviser at J.J. Keller & Associates, there is a concerning mindset among some drivers that is characterized by the belief that it is safe to travel at low speeds. This attitude, which he refers to as the “I’m-only-going-20-miles mindset,” can lead to dangerous situations on the road. Bray's warning highlights the importance of maintaining a safe speed while driving, regardless of the distance being covered. It is crucial to remember that even short trips can be unpredictable and require a high level of vigilance to avoid accidents.

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The Process of Transporting Materials Matters

The process of transporting materials from a lumber mill or steel mill can be precarious and requires careful attention from drivers. It is important to note that distance is not the only factor that determines the safety of the load. The key to avoiding spills and mishaps is ensuring that the flatbed load remains secured on the flatbed trailer.

Unfortunately, some drivers may take shortcuts that compromise the safety of the load. It is crucial to be vigilant from the moment the vehicle begins moving, as the possibility of risk is present throughout the entire journey.

According to Jesse Krum, who holds the position of transportation projects manager at Bay Crane, a company situated in Long Island City, New York, that is renowned for its expertise in relocating bulky items like girders, track, and aircraft, the formula for securing loads remains consistent irrespective of the size of the cargo. Krum further asserted that the distance covered during transportation is not a significant factor since the fundamental principles involved in load securement remain unaltered.

Bay Crane, according to Krum, has resorted to using custom binders for certain specialty jobs. Standard chains and binders are typically used, but more of them are required to cover the correct working load limit. Due to the varying nature of each trip, drivers must be creative when it comes to securing loads in different ways. Krum suggests that this creativity usually involves following the guidelines closely and then taking additional safety precautions to ensure that the load is secure.

In Conclusion

Properly securing cargo on a flatbed trailer is not only a legal requirement but also a safety issue. The use of appropriate tie-down devices and techniques can help prevent accidents and injuries caused by shifting or falling cargo.

As we have seen, there are various factors to consider when selecting the right securement method, including the type of cargo, the weight and dimensions of the load, and the transportation environment.

By following expert tips and guidelines, shippers and carriers can ensure flatbed and cargo safety while also complying with regulations and protecting their business reputation.

Aim for road safety. Aim for a successful transport. Follow securement rules and regulations to avoid future legal issues.

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