September 2021Vol. 29, No. 3

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Cargo securement strategies ensure safety

Photo of uncrossed trailer chains with text: Good or not so good? Always cross trailer safety chains!

Photo: Brian Barott

Heavy truck cargo can become dangerous if not secured properly. A Minnesota LTAP training event detailed the latest cargo securement strategies and outlined how drivers can use them to ensure safety.

Brian Barott, an equipment training specialist with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, described careful cargo securement as a form of defensive driving. He presented photos of truck cabs crushed by improperly secured loads and a video of cargo falling off its trailer as the truck rounds a corner.

Understanding vehicle dynamics, Barott said, is critical for safe and effective cargo securement. The overall goal is to ensure that nothing on the trailer—even the tie-downs being used—can move in any direction.

photo of excavator with boards tied to tracks and text: Type of securement shown? DIRECT Could this be better secured? YES

Avoid securement devices hooked to tracks (device can move
on track, pad, or cleat). Look for manufacturer tie-down hook
points. Tie-down system (chains) should be crossed
when equipment is as wide or wider than the trailer.
Also, must have 80% of the track or tire supported
by trailer decking. Photo: Brian Barott

“If you tip it over,” Barott said, “the cargo should stay with the trailer.”

Barott’s presentation largely focused on cargo loads at or over 10,000 pounds. According to state and federal regulations, the tie-downs (or combination of tie-downs) holding the cargo in the forward, rearward, and lateral directions should each be able to carry at least 50 percent of the cargo’s weight.

Tie-downs—both straps and chains—are generally rated for the weight they can support with a “working load limit,” measured in pounds of force. The overall “aggregate” working load limit of the entire tie-down system must meet or exceed half the weight of the cargo, Barott said.

close-up of the left rear tie-down system with text: Type of securement shown? DIRECT Could this be better secured? YES

This is a close-up of the left rear tie-down system.
It is incorrectly assembled—the chains can move.
Provide separate hooks on both ends of the chain
and bring the extra chain toward the center, at the binder.
Photo: Brian Barott

Tie-downs can be attached to the cargo in one of two ways—directly or indirectly:

  1. Direct securement attaches directly to the cargo itself, as in the case of a bulldozer chained to a flatbed—all tracked and rubber tire equip­ment. Direct tie-downs are also required to meet downward-force requirements; when set at the proper angle, they should support a minimum of 20 percent of the cargo’s weight.
  2. Indirect securement goes over the top of the cargo and keeps it in place using downward force, as in the case of a load of logs, lumber, or guardrail.

Generally, direct securement is more effective if kept at a low angle (close to being as flush with the flatbed as possible), and indirect securement is more effective if kept at a high angle. Tie-downs should never be knotted or twisted, Barott added, and they should run straight from the cargo to the flatbed with no sideloading.

Barott also recommended checking the cargo securement after the first 50 miles of driving and again after three hours or 150 miles (whichever occurs first).

Overall, Barott said, the key is to always think in terms of safety. State and federal regulations should be followed, but they might not account for every scenario faced by a truck driver, and “technically legal” might not always translate to “safe.”

photo of chains tied over a Bobcat trailer with text: Type of securement shown? DIRECT Could this be better secured? YES

Both chains in the tie-downs are twisted. In the left tiedown
system, the D-ring is incorrectly assembled so the
chain can move back and forth. To correct this load:
Uncross the two tie-down systems so the hooks fit the
manufacturer’s hook points better. Photo: Brian Barott

“Don’t say, ‘Ah, that’s good enough,’ because the minute you tell me that, I’d be going back to look at what you did,” he said.

The Minnesota Roadway Maintenance Training and Demo Day was sponsored by Minnesota LTAP, MnDOT, the Minnesota Local Road Research Board, and the Federal Highway Administration. The event was held in May in an online format, and the recording is available for viewing.

—Sophie Koch, MnLTAP freelancer

Watch the Video

The cargo securement training is available for free viewing.