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Dry Van Cargo Securement: Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

The CVSA Roadcheck 2017 is scheduled for June 6th through June 8th, and the focus this year will be cargo securement. When most people think about cargo securement, their thoughts turn to flatbed trailers because they get the bulk of these types of violations.

But the regulations also apply to covered van loads. For too many drivers, this means, “out of sight, out of mind.” Preventing your cargo from shifting and remaining secure during transit is just as important in a dry van or reefer trailer. 

You can use online truck driver training like PRO-TREAD to improve your drivers skills. Start training drivers on cargo securement as soon as new hires begin their new driver orientation. Unlike keeping a truck between the lines, cargo securement is a technical piece of knowledge that requires education and practice.


What the Cargo Securement Regulations Say

The regulations that cover all cargo-carrying commercial motor vehicles can be found under 49 CFR 390.5. Under the general rules, all cargo must be secured on or within the vehicle by structures of adequate strength, dunnage or airbags to fill the space between the cargo and the wall of the vehicle.

The regulations also specify that the securement must withstand the forces of 0.8g in the forward direction and 0.5g in the left, right and rearward directions.


Translating Government-Speak To English

These numbers are the average force that a vehicle with ABS braking can apply when coming to an emergency stop in ideal road conditions and the sideways force generated in a freeway on or off ramp or the speed generated in reverse and coming to an emergency stop.

What exactly are 0.8g and 0.5g?. Well basically speaking, the securement must be able to withstand 80 percent of the cargo’s weight for 0.8g in the forward direction and 50 percent of the cargo’s weight in the other directions.

For the average load on a van trailer that is palletized on regular pallets, weighing 30 to 40 thousand pounds, evenly loaded front to back in the trailer, with no spaces between the front or the sides of the walls and all the way to the doors, no other securement is required.


Blocking and Bracing for Cargo Securement

But what do you do if you have a space in your trailer? You need to make sure that the cargo does not move, by using blocking and bracing, dunnage, airbags, friction mats, load straps, load bars or any other means necessary to fill that space to prevent the cargo from moving.

Why is it important to fill the space and prevent the cargo from moving? First of all, if the cargo is moving around, it will most likely get damaged during transit. That, in turn, will most likely be refused by the customer.

The second reason is safety. Have you ever tried to push something that is quite heavy? If you are standing next to the object and just try pushing, it can be very hard to get that object moving, but if you take a run-up and use your momentum to get the object moving, it is much easier to get the object moving. The same concept applies with your cargo. If it has room to move, it gains momentum and is much hard to stop moving. This movement could have an impact on the stability of the vehicle, which could lead to loss of control or a rollover.


Balancing the Load

Now let’s look at another example. You have a load of machined steel components. They are in 12, 4ft X 4ft steel bins and weight 42,000lbs. If you load all 12 bins in the front of your trailer, up against the bulkhead, with two 2 bins side by side, you will have too much weight in the front of the trailer and overload your drive axles.

You have a couple of options.

  • 6 bins at the nose of the trailer and 6 bins near the rear of the trailer
  • 12 bins in single file down the middle of the trailer.
(You will also have to check the weight limits and tandem settings for the States that you will be driving through to make your delivery. This may also dictate which option you use to load the cargo.)

Option 1: The E-Brace — It’s Hammer Time

If you choose the first option, you will need to find a way to stop the 6 bins at the rear or the trailer from sliding forward, the first time that you apply the brakes. Using seasoned hardwood, nail two pieces of 2x4 lengths of lumber into the trailer floor, in front of the first two bins. The lumber needs to be tight up against the first two bins at the rear and because these bins are of considerable weight, it would be recommended to use an “E” brace to secure these bins. An ‘E” brace is a piece of 2x4 lumber, but with three additional pieces at a 90 degree angle also nailed to the trailer floor in the shape of the letter E to provide additional resistance against movement.

You will also need lumber braces, nailed to the trailer floor behind the 6 bins at the nose of the trailer and the 6 bins at the rear of the trailer to prevent any rearward movement. The side walls of the trailer should prevent any sideways movement, as long as there are no gaps between the bins and the trailer walls.


Option 2: Stopping Side-to-Side Movement

The second option is to load the bins down the middle of the trailer, with the bulkhead at the front of the trailer securing the first bin and then loading the remaining 11 bins one after another. The 12th bin, at the rear, would also require a 2x4 piece of lumber nailed to the trailer floor and 3 additional pieces to form an “E” brace. This should prevent any front to back movement, but you will now have to do something to prevent side to side movement.

As the bins are placed in the middle of the trailer, there will be a 2ft space either side of the bin, that will need to need to be filled to prevent sideways movement. Using empty pallets or other containers could be used to fill the space if they are available or use lumber and “E” braces nailed to the floor to prevent the bins from moving sideways. There are also other devices that may be available from the shipper or provided by the carrier to help restrain cargo.


Common Problems: Weak Bracing

Be wary of devices that are not suitable for this particular load example. For instance, cardboard void fillers to fill any unwanted space would not work for bins that could weigh up to 3500 lbs each. The same would apply for air bags, as they would not be effective on these bins. (They can be, however, perfectly acceptable for lighter or taller freight.)

There is no end of products that could be loaded into a van or reefer trailer, all shapes, sizes, and weights. It is the driver’s responsibility to load and secure those products to prevent movement while in transit. Just because the trailer doors are closed and they are out of sight once loaded, they should not be out of mind.

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