Not properly securing your load, especially when hauling construction equipment, can have dire consequences. According to a recent three-year study put out by the American Automobile Association, more than 200,000 crashes were the result of loose cargo or debris falling from vehicles, and that these events led to more than 39,000 injured and 500 fatalities.
Here is a checklist for safe hauling to ensure that your load arrives in the same condition as when it was loaded.
Choosing the Right Trailer
Choosing the right trailer for the load is very important. Not only does it have to have the capacity to haul your load, it also to meet stringent and varied government regulations.
“When a customer isn’t sure which trailer to choose, we help them understand what their concentrated load will be and what their center of gravity will be. With this—also taking into consideration length, width and height, we help the customer determine what trailer is needed,” says Greg Smith, vice president, marketing and business development, Fontaine Heavy-Haul, the heavy haul trailer division of trailer manufacturer Fontaine Commercial Trailer.
“If you’re concerned about gross vehicle weight, sometimes choosing a lighter weight trailer can keep you below 80,000 pounds,” says Pete Trimble, Corporate Safety & Claims Director, Keen Transport, Inc. “If you’re concerned with height, you can select a step deck or a lowboy to lower your load or an I-Beam trailer to get even lower, so your total height stays under 13 feet, six inches and you avoid the extra costs of needing a pilot car with a high pole to ensure safe clearance.” Keen Transport hauls primarily construction equipment.
DOT Rules, Regulations and Restrictions
Where are you hauling? Each State Department of Transportation (DOT) has their own rules.
“The lack of uniformity in oversized overweight permits is one of the greatest challenges to heavy haul companies,” says Trimble. “Drivers have to secure their load according to the most restrictive requirement on a route.”
Depending on the state, regulations regarding gross vehicle weight, bridge restrictions, the number of axles needed, and maybe even how far the trailer’s axles are in relation to each other or to the truck’s kingpin. In some states, depending on your configuration, you can’t drive at night.
“All the DOTs choose weight restrictions believing them to be best practices,” says Steven Todd, Vice President, Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association. I often think that many restrictions were chosen by throwing a dart. This dart landed closest to 200,000 pounds, so that’s the limit. Another DOT throws a dart near 150,000 pounds; that’s their limit.”
If your load exceeds any length, width, height or weight requirements, you will need to apply for an oversized/overweight permit.
Once you know the regulations and have any needed permits, map out the best possible route. Try to avoid toll roads, heavily trafficked highways, roads undergoing construction, and routes that present others types of delays or interruptions.
Measuring Your Load
Since a lot of regulation governs haulage, it is important to always measure your loads. Don’t assume you know the dimensions of what you’re shipping,” says Trimble. “Drivers should always measure, measure, measure—not only the length and the width but also the height to ensure that it is within legal limits and/or the over dimensional permit limits. Even if you have hauled the same model machine before, these machines are like automobiles; they can customized with different features, such as different tire or track options, which can make the machine taller or wider.”
Securing Your Load
Terrible things can happen to property and people if loads are not secured properly. Take the time to do it right and to make sure your drivers are properly trained.
“A large portion of the loads our trucks haul are loaded out of the facility, and our company spends a lot of time on load securement during driver orientation, so our drivers have a thorough knowledge of federal regulations, as well as company standards,” says Trimble. “Also, all loads get inspected by a manager for greater guarantee that loads are secured properly.”
It is also important to know your tie down options and how to use them properly. “Trailers typically have a couple of different tie down options,” says Andy Mceachern, Senior Vice President, Peerless—a highly specialized trailer and chassis designer and manufacturer. “Our trailers designed for hauling heavy equipment come equipped with either the C-shape tie down or a combination outrigger tie down, which allows for transport of wider loads by creating a wider deck.
Below are 10 tips for securing your load.
- Inspect the equipment’s securement points for wear and damage.
- Determine where the equipment will be placed on the trailer that allows for optimal weight distribution and proper securement.
- Ensure the machine is clean of excess dirt, debris or other materials before loading the machine.
- Inspect tie downs for damage or wear.
- Follow the instructions supplied by the manufacturer for securing the equipment.
- Use direct tie downs.
- Use chains versus other tie-down materials.
- When possible, attach tie downs as close as possible to the front and rear of the equipment.
- Use chocks, cradles, and wedges when appropriate.
- When hauling equipment with articulating capabilities, take necessary steps to prevent articulation while en route.
Getting to Your Destination Safely
After your load is secure, safe driving practices will get the load to the destination safely. Check your load throughout the trip to ensure it remains secured until destination.
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