Cargo safety: What are the rules for securing commodities during transit?
If you’re in the trucking business, you need to become familiar with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration [FMCSA] cargo safety standards. The agency based these standards on the North American Cargo Securement Standard Model Regulations and designed them to reduce accidents caused by shifting or falling cargo. You must follow them when carrying any type of commodity, except items such as liquids, gravel, grain, sand, and gases that lack structure.
How the rules apply
You can rest easy about the cost of following FMCSA cargo safety guidelines. They don’t require you to spend tons of money replacing your current equipment. Instead, they discuss how to use securing devices and how many restraints are needed to sufficiently secure cargo. You must take responsibility for following these rules to ensure your safety and that of everyone else on the road.
The strength of your restraint system
According to the guidelines, your restraint system must withstand the force resulting from three separate decelerations and accelerations:
0.8 g deceleration in the forward direction
0.5 g acceleration in the rear direction
0.5 g acceleration in a lateral direction
The FMCSA doesn’t require tests proving that your equipment can withstand these forces. Instead, it’s understood that if you follow the guidelines and secure your cargo with adequate dunnage or dunnage bags, shoring bars, tiedowns, etc., your securement system should be able to handle the listed acceleration and deceleration.
But if you don’t follow the cargo safety regulations, you could hurt yourself or others and become vulnerable to lawsuits.
Tiedowns: Before each trip, ensure your tiedowns are tight and secure so they don’t get loose during transit. You must also put them inboard of the rub rails when you can and make the cargo itself can’t damage the tiedowns.
Also, remember to use the correct number of tiedowns for the weight of your cargo. According to the guidelines, you should use:
One tiedown for articles 5 feet or less in length and 1,100 pounds or less
Two tiedowns for articles 5 feet or less in length and more than 1,100 pounds
Two tiedowns for articles greater than 5 feet but less than 10 feet in length, regardless of weight
Two tiedowns for articles greater than 10 feet and one additional tiedown for every 10 feet of length, or fraction thereof, beyond the first 10 feet
Placement and Restraint: Use cradles, chocks, and wedges to prevent items from rolling, and make sure those devices don’t shift along with the cargo.
Specific Requirements: The FMCSA has issued requirements for cargo safety such as logs, dressed lumber, metal coils, paper rolls, concrete pipe, intermodal containers, automobiles, light trucks and vans, heavy vehicles/equipment/machinery, flattened/crushed vehicles, roll-on/roll-off containers, and large boulders. Always check the regulations or talk to your supervisor before transporting them.
Taking it seriously
Shifting cargo can easily cause you to lose control of a truck and cause a serious accident. That’s why companies take FMCSA regulations seriously. So, learn the cargo safety rules, follow them, and check your securing devices often for cuts, cracks, and other signs of wear and tear. A loose load is a danger to everyone.
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