Secure Your Load
Follow these 10 safety checks below to keep cargo from going airborne in your truck.
In 2004, Maria Federici was driving on Interstate 405 in Washington state when an entertainment center flew out of an open trailer and smashed through her windshield.
“The driver actually had it (the entertainment center) tied,” says Robin Abel, Federici’s mother. “He accelerated on the freeway and the force of air made the entertainment center fly out.”
Federici was blinded by the accident. Since then, Abel has become a determined advocate for secured loads. Because of her efforts, “Maria’s Law” went into effect in Washington in 2005, making it a crime to fail to secure a load.
When aerodynamics takes over, the unsecured items in a truck or trailer effectively become weapons, which is why it’s vital that cargo doesn’t go airborne.
Captain Rob Huss of the Washington State Patrol believes there’s a misconception that most loss of load comes from large trucks.
“Although material does become dislodged from these vehicles, there are also pickup trucks and flatbeds that are hauling similar debris, and [those drivers] are not necessarily being as in tune as the truck drivers are,” Huss says.
Fortunately, Huss has found that commercial drivers understand how to move cargo safely. “The great majority fully embraces their responsibilities and is in tune with the laws set by federal motor vehicle safety standards,” he says.
Click here for a photo gallery of unsecured cargo on trucks and actual spilled loads on roadways.
In the interest of educating drivers, Bob Dissinger, director of sales at Kinedyne Corp., makers of cargo control equipment, spoke to Business Fleet about how to make cargo secure.
“That’s probably the greatest fallacy with people who assume they don’t need any cargo control because they’re only going a short distance or they won’t be going at high speeds,” Dissinger says. “You see it all the time.”
Here’s what you can do to keep your cargo under control.
Bungee cords are not recommended to tie down objects in the back of a truck; nor is rope, which is generally not rated for weight. Photo courtesy of Cargo Transportation Safety Organization.
1. Don’t use rope or bungee cords.
“Bungee cords are not rated at all for any kind of tie down,” Dissinger says. “They are good for securing tarps, but I would not trust a bungee or tarp tie to secure any kind of product in the back of a pickup or even a small flatbed.”
Because rope is generally not rated for weight, he added, it’s hard to know whether or not rope will do the job.
2. Use ratchet straps and cargo nets.
Ratchet straps allow drivers to achieve the amount of torque needed to secure the load. They’re rated for a particular working load limit, which is one-third of their breaking strength. Dissinger recommends using straps with a cumulative load limit equal to half the weight of the load. Therefore, tie downs for a 500-pound item should have a working load limit of at least 250 pounds.
Securing cargo is not expensive: light-duty tie downs cost $15 or less, a jacking cargo bar for a pickup truck is about $40, and a strong cargo net costs $150 to $200.
3. Make sure items don’t slide.
Tie downs, cargo bars and cargo nets will work to keep things from moving around, and they can be helped by rubber mats. Sandbags can be used for weighting down light items, but remember that sandbags can be a hazard if not secured themselves.
4. Always use two or more tie downs.
Even if one tie down will do the job, Dissinger recommends using at least two to ensure the straps have sufficient control over the cargo. “If you have an extra strap, throw it on,” he says. “It’s not going to take much more time to do it and they’re not expensive.”
5. Check the weight ratings on your anchor points.
Many pickup trucks come with various anchor points for attaching straps, but if they’re not included, there are aftermarket D rings or tie-down anchor points for pickup trucks. If you add them, make sure their weight ratings are appropriate for the cargo you’re carrying.