Cargo Handling & Securement

DOT studies show that unsecured cargo carries a high propensity to cause commercial motor vehicle crashes. Load characteristics such as size, weight and the nature of load (liquid, dry freight, bulk, vehicle in tow, passenger, over-dimensional, etc.) vary by-fleet and greatly alter and affect the vehicle handling and stability.

A driver’s ability to safely transport a specific type of cargo can only be accurately determined through means of a road test. Relying solely on a driver’s past experience to assess this critical safety factor can lead to disaster. It is outside the scope of this document to address every type of cargo and therefore it is highly recommended that drivers undergo function-specific cargo safety assessment along with periodic refresher training relative to the type of freight they transport. This should be true for both Hazmat and non-Hazmat drivers.

Drivers need to incorporate situational awareness as a regular safety habit. Even slight loading and operational changes may affect safety. For example, other motorists base the majority of their driving decisions and maneuvers on what they see (or don’t see). They will perceive and react differently to the exact same flatbed, drop-deck or lowboy trailer, based on whether it is loaded or unloaded. As previoulsy mentioned, truck and trailer stability also vary depending upon whether it is loaded or unloaded.

Many overturns can be attributed to shifting cargo. A trailer in motion sets up a floor vibration of 3-5 cycles per second. This vibration can actually cause an unsecured load to "float" and move inside the trailer. Substantial movement to one side of the trailer can cause a shift in the center of gravity and cause overturns at normal speeds. Use dunnage or other securement devices to prevent load shift while the vehicle is in operation. Drivers are required to inspect the load before transporting it unless the trailer is sealed. It is the driver’s responsibility to insure that the load is properly secured before leaving the dock or shipper. This responsibility includes re-securement after partial unloads. Accidents that result from load shift due to improper securement are PREVENTABLE.

Effective January 2013, with the exception of Hazardous Materials violations, cargo related BASIC severity levels count towards the motor carrier and driver Vehicle Maintenance score, the motor carrier overall SMS rating and subsequent intervention status. Hazmat related severity levels on roadside cargo inspections are posted in SMS under the motor carrier and driver Hazardous Materials (HM) Compliance BASIC detail screen and are a determinant in deciding which vehicles to inspect.

Improper Load Securement violations carry a high severity level of 7 (10 for HAZMAT violations)