Load Securement: What You Need to Know
The basics of load securement and transport.
When heavy vehicles transport cargo on the highways, a properly secured load is essential for ensuring that the trip goes according to plan. Inadequately secured loads can shift, dislodge, fall, reduce the driver's visibility, block the vehicle's lights, or compromise the stability of the vehicle - any of which can spell disaster. Depending on the incident and the cargo, the consequence could be damage to property, harm to the environment, injury, or fatality.
The Load Securement System
A load securement system includes:
- The vehicle structure, including:
- Stake posts
- Anchor points
- Securing devices, such as:
- Wire ropes
- Grab hooks
- Friction mats
- Blocking and bracing equipment
The operation and maintenance of the load securement system and its related equipment are the responsibility of both the carrier and the driver. The equipment needed to secure the load must be in good working order with no obvious signs of damage or weakness.
The load securement system must have the capacity to safely hold the specified weight of the load - not only while stationary but also when the vehicle brakes, accelarates, turns, or climbs.
Regulations for Load Securement
Compliance with federal cargo securement regulations is required for all commercial motor vehicles, and violations can have serious consequences under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program. The CSA program scores carriers and drivers on seven Behavior Analysis Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) and identifies poor safety performers who are subject to interventions by FMCSA.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations’ (FMCSR) cargo securement rules apply to any commercial vehicle carrying a heavy piece of equipment or cargo. Broadly speaking, a commercial vehicle carrying cargo must be secured on or within the vehicle by structures of adequate strength, including dunnage, dunnage bags, shoring bars, or a combination of those.
According to the FMCSR, the cargo securement system must be capable of withstanding:
- 80% of the cargo weight when decelerating in the forward direction
- 50% of the cargo weight when accelerating rearward
- 50% of the cargo weight when accelerating during turns and lane changes or braking during turns
- 20% of the cargo weight when travelling over bumps or cresting a hill
The North American Cargo Securement Standard is a cooperative project of Canada and the United States. It is jointly administered by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) and the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA). Compliance with the standards for load securement in North America is checked at random stops by commercial vehicle inspectors. The standard applies to:
- Vehicles transporting cargo on a highway within a state or province
- Vehicles that exceed a registered gross vehicle weight of 4,500 kilograms
- Cargo transported by an intermodal container
Preparing Cargo for Safe Transportation
A load is deemed secure if the cargo is secured correctly and its weight is distributed evenly. This includes tailgate, tarpaulin, cargo securing equipment, spare tire, and all the other equipment used for operating the vehicle. The cargo must not obscure the driver’s view or interfere with movement of the driver’s arms or legs.
It should not prevent the driver's free and ready access to accessories required for emergencies or prevent the driver’s exit from the cab. The securement equipment must be able to prevent load shift or falling when subjected to acceleration, deceleration, or lateral or upward forces.
Some rules and considerations can be followed to ensure the cargo reaches its destination:
- Understand securement requirements and devices
- Know the exact weight and dimensions of the cargo and the capacity of the truck or trailer
- Determine if an oversized/overweight permit is required
- Inspect the entire vehicle, its structure, and anchor points
- Develop a securement system that will properly distribute weight and withstand the force requirements
- Follow the Department of Transportation (DOT) tie-down requirements
- Ensure loaded equipment will be contained, immobilized, or secured
- Confirm that the loaded cargo will not interfere with vehicle operation
Consequences of Incorrect Load Securement
Failure to secure cargo can have serious repercussions, including:
- Loss of the life of the driver, other drivers, passengers, or pedestrians
- Total or partial loss of load or damage to cargo
- Destruction or damage to the vehicle or other vehicles
- Destruction of highway or personal property
- Citations or fines to the driver, carrier, or both
- The vehicle being taken out of service, resulting in loss of business
If commercial vehicle cargo is deemed insecure or securement equipment is absent or not in working order, truck inspectors can:
- Fine the driver or carrier
- Take the vehicle or driver out of service until cargo securement equipment or procedures are corrected
- Permanently remove the vehicle from service
- Suspend the carrier’s license to operate cargo vehicles
Awareness and Training for Drivers and Carriers
The North American Cargo Securement Standard and other commercial vehicle safety organizations run awareness campaigns, including courses and workshops. They also provide informative materials, have information websites, and organize public awareness events. This is done in an effort to increase road safety and increase the knowledge of drivers and carriers regarding their cargo securement responsibilities.
Each year in June, the International Roadcheck takes place. It's a three-day truck inspection marathon in which CVSA-certified inspectors carry out compliance, enforcement, and educational initiatives. They inspect vehicles, and penalize or place vehicles and drivers out of service if they identify safety violations, including load securement breaches.