Securing Trailer Cargo

Securing Trailer Cargo For Safety

Unsecured or poorly secured trailer cargo is fairly common on the road. We all see painting vans with a half dozen ladders on the roof, a mattress on top of the car or a carpet hanging out the back doors. Often the body rubs the wheels due to being overloaded. By all means if you want to be pulled over, attract attention to yourself by being this guy. Anyone can be pulled over for being unsafe but the more obvious you are about doing a great job securing your cargo, the less likely you are to get pulled over.

 

Calculating Working Load Requirements

One of the most interesting aspects of securing cargo is calculating the number of straps and the working limit of each. This is covered in the video below but the general rule of thumb is that the straps have to be rated for 50% of the load weight. For example, you have an 8,000 lbs backhoe, your straps or chains need to be rated for 4,000 lbs. You need one in the front and one in the rear. If the cargo is over 10,000 lbs, you must strap all four corners for a working load limit of 50% or higher.

One thing that I learned, and not until watching the video for the second time, is critically important. If your strap loops around the equipment, the strap rating is cut in half. Why? The video doesn’t say but it likely has to do with how the strap was tested and that angles on the equipment may cut into the strap under extreme loads.

What looks to be a smooth rounded edge may decrease the strap strength by 40% when 2,000 lbs of pressure is applied. Consequently if you have to have 4,000 lbs in straps and each strap is rated for 2,000 lbs, if you wrap around the equipment and do not use the hooks, your straps are considered to be only 50% of the listed 2,000 lbs working load. To compensate you will need four 2,000 lbs straps which are considered 1,000 lbs each to get the 4,000 total, or 50% of the 8,000 lbs.

 

Securing Accessories Or Implements On Your Equipment

Often times trailer cargo includes equipment with a boom, grapple, mower or other implements that attach to the equipment. Implements require a separate conversation to ensure they are also secured. There are two ways to secure an implement.

  1. Utilize a factory locking mechanism
  2. Use straps or chains

A factory locking mechanism includes a pin or spring loaded locking handle that keeps the implement in place. These generally are designed for transporting the equipment with the implement attached. As a rule of thumb, if in doubt strap it down. Additionally, if a DOT officer can easily see you have taken the extra steps to secure your load, he/she will likely opt to pull over the truck next to you that did not take great care to be safe.

 

Securing Trailer Cargo Checklist

  • The better it looks, the less likely you are to get stopped. If it looks good, odds are you already did a good job.
  • Straps or chains are sufficient
  • Under 10,000 lbs, 1 strap in front and 1 in the rear
  • Over 10,001 lbs, strap the 4 corners
  • Secure cargo if it will impact the vehicle handling during an emergency maneuver or routine driving
  • Leave the load rating labels on the straps
  • Teach your drivers how to calculate the needed straps or chains based on cargo weight
  • Secure to immovable components, like the frame, not a brush grill
  • When in doubt, add more straps
  • Don’t overload the axles and tire max working load

Check the rules and regulations in the state you operate in and FMCSA for complete details.

 

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How To Properly Connect A Trailer

Properly Connecting a Trailer

 

The importance of training employees to safely connect a trailer is undeniable. Still, many small service businesses use trailers and take for granted that employees know the law and how to properly connect trailers and cargo. There are several small but important things to train yours drivers to do, such as crossing the chains to avoid being put out of service. Just because you are under 10,001 lbs, it does not mean you do not have to follow State DOT and FMCSA law as a commercial entity.

Trailers pulled by pickup trucks are the dominant configuration for small and large fleet operators outside the trucking industry. Moving a piece of equipment such as a skid steer, lawn equipment or debris likely makes up 90% of the small fleet towing. In this blog we discussing the typical pickup truck and trailer using a ball hitch with a GVW of less than 10,001 lbs.

Accountability for Proper Trailer Connection

It is important to explain to drivers they are responsible for following the law. To hold them accountable you must train them to the standards of the law and test their comprehension. This enables you to transfer responsibility to the driver should he or she get a ticket or be placed out of service. It is also important that your insurance carrier be aware of your training program and overall safety program, including what you do with telematics.

Most important is keeping your employees and other drivers safe. Faulty connections or worn parts can lead to dangerous situations. A trailer coming off the truck at 70 mph can easily cause a rollover, serious injury and fatalities. Something as simple as the trailer tongue coupler not being all the way down and locked on the ball can lead to a major issue.

Trailer Connection Failures

In a personal situation I trusted someone else to attach the trailer to my F-250. Within a 1/4 mile the trailer came off the ball and began to slam around. Fortunately we were going slowly in a residential area and a speed bump caused the separation. The trailer began to slam around as the chains held. The chains didn’t stop the trailer from swinging left and right and slamming into the truck. At that slow speed there was only minor damage. Since then I have learned to always double check since it is my truck, my insurance and my liability as the owner and driver.

In a commercial fleet any damage will result in a lawsuit from the other party and likely one from your employee as well. This topic should be covered annually and for new hires. Get ahead of the issues and proactively train. For consistency, create and maintain a company training library where you create outlines for your staff to use to lead training. One of the best and most consistent training organization is the National Safety Council. Check out their website for good ideas and examples of how training can be documented and executed.

 

Trailer Connection Checklist

  • Ensure trailer connections are tight and secure
  • Look for worn chains, wires and connectors
  • Cross the chains and keep them off the road
  • Check the breakaway braking cable & secure it separate from the chain
  • Ensure the load matches the truck, ball, hitch and receiver
  • Properly inflate tires, replace worn tires, and spec the tires to the trailer max GVW
  • Check all lights and safety equipment
  • Properly secure cargo. Over secure when in doubt. Chains are not required.
  • Properly mark commercial vehicles and carry the needed paperwork
  • Carry approved triangles and a fire extinguisher
  • Ensure the driver is trained and knowledgeable in connecting a trailer

 

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Trailer Load Balancing

Trailer Load Balancing For Safety

Trailer load balancing is important to understand because it is crucial to achieving a properly loaded trailer. We have all seen an overloaded trailer rolling down the highway at some point. Tree trucks, roofing materials, carpets, rock or tile and large boats all come to mind for unsafe trailer loading. Always remember, balance will make a huge difference in vehicle safety and stability and the end result is a safer, more comfortable ride.

 

Be safer by training employees to ensure properly loaded trailers.

Unbalanced loads are listed as the #3 towing risk according to the popular website How Stuff Works. The #1 towing risk cited is swaying. Sway primarily happens because of poor trailer load balance, so if you plan to tow, learn what you need to know about trailer load balance before you load.

 

Trailer load balance with Sherp

Fleetistics Sherp Properly Loaded on Trailer

 

This dramatic video shows the importance of properly trailer load balancing. The effect of placing the majority of the load behind the trailer axle can dramatically impact handling. One might think that putting the load forward of the trailer tires would spread the load between the trailer and the truck but the impact on steering handling is a dangerous consequence.

 

The video is great continuing education content and is only a few minutes long. It is a real eye opener to the impact of improper loading. At the same time you can review trailer inspections, tongue weight, DOT regulations and maintenance.

 

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