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Flatbed and Cargo Safety Depends on Securement

Proper Training of Drivers is Essential, Experts Say

When it comes to cargo securement, a flatbed is often like a stage that all the world — or nearby drivers — can see. Making sure flatbed cargo is secured for transit goes beyond meeting applicable regulations, which cannot cover every contingency, experts contend.

“[Flatbeds] are very visible,” said Kerri Wirachowsky, director of roadside inspection programs for the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, of cargo securement problems. “They’re easily identifiable by inspectors either at a scale or on patrol.”

Wirachowsky and other experts agree that cargo securement requires skill, knowledge and creativity.

“The biggest challenge is the variety of products and the unique securement needs for each one of them,” said Kimberly Maes, president of the flatbed and specialized group of Roehl Transport. “Lumber is very different than coils. Depending on the position of the coils you need to do something different.” Maes contrasted the demands of securing machinery versus tubing, and said, “There’s just a whole lot of different types of materials and products that you can haul on the back of a standard flatbed.”

The key to cargo securement is to use more than the number of tie-downs prescribed by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations, experts including CVSA’s Wirachowsky said. “If you’re tying down to the minimum requirements — for instance, you need five tie-downs and you put on five, none of them can tear, none of them can be loose — nothing can happen, all day. Put on six or seven and now one can go loose and you won’t be out of service.” The driver will still incur a violation, she noted.

For a driver or shipper wondering whether another tie-down is needed, “The answer is yes,” Wirachowsky said. “Adding another tie-down is the right answer every time.”

In May, the CVSA conducted its annual 72-hour International Roadcheck, an inspection and enforcement initiative in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. More than 59,400 commercial motor vehicles were inspected in the three countries, and 81% of them did not have any out-of-service violations. CVSA highlights certain aspects of the roadside inspection for each year’s Roadcheck. Cargo securement was one aspect that received extra attention during the May 16-18 event, which was announced in advance. The number of cargo securement out-of-service violations that inspectors found in the U.S. was 1,969 or 12.4% of all out-of-service violations found during Roadcheck.

By regulation, drivers are supposed to stop and check their load, making sure that binders haven’t loosened because of vibration, bouncing and jostling that occur as a matter of course in transit.


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