By Mindi Zissman
Six ways to make load securement easier for the driver.
If a precast concrete product moves or falls off a flatbed, there are no positive outcomes. That’s why load securement is a central part of the delivery process.
“You can’t beat physics,” said Steve Bojan, vice president of fleet risk services at HUB International. “Because of the nature of the precast product, if it moves on the trailer, it has the potential to be a catastrophic loss. Beyond that, the cost of resetting the product on the trailer is huge – it’s going to take cranes and forklifts. You’re not just going to have some guys pushing it back into place.”
Precast concrete manufacturers typically do their own securement, with each driver responsible for securing independent loads. On occasion, though, the company may contract its product delivery to a transportation specialist. When doing so, Bojan recommends checking the company’s references to ensure the business is reputable and experienced with large, heavy loads.
The following risk management tips are critical to ensuring successful truck load securement across any precast concrete delivery fleet:
- Make securement easy for drivers. Have straps permanently attached to trucks and trailers so drivers don’t have to look for cargo securement equipment. Have 4-inch straps, chains and binders already on each truck that can be configured based on the type and size of each load. Remember to inspect flatbeds, chains and straps routinely to ensure they are in good working condition.
- Protect the product on the flatbed. While many flatbed decks have wooden inserts, steel- or aluminum-deck flatbeds should use some type of dunnage/buffer between the deck and product. This can minimize the chance of movement and potential damage to the precast concrete product. Before securing products to the vehicle, a rubber membrane or wooden boards should be placed between the deck and precast product. Similarly, when using chains and straps, don’t forget edge protection for the product so the likelihood of corner damage is minimized.
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration securement rules reign supreme. According to the FMCSA Driver’s Handbook on Cargo Securement, a securement system must withstand a minimum amount of force in each direction. The securement system must withstand a minimum of 50% of the cargo weight in the rearward and sideways directions, 80% of the cargo weight in the forward direction and 20% of the cargo weight upwards. For example, a 10,000-pound load would need a securement system that would resist at least 5,000 pounds rearward and sideways, 80,000 pounds forward and 2,000 pounds upward.1
- Label and tag cargo securement limits. A driver should be aware of the weight of the cargo to determine how many straps are needed for proper securement. For example, if a strap has a 10,000-pound limit, and the product only weighs 6,000 pounds, only one strap is needed. However, products more than 5 feet in length need two tiedowns and one additional tiedown for each additional 10 feet of length. There are exceptions to these requirements when it comes to precast concrete, so transporters should always consult the applicable requirements. Because of the unique nature of trucking concrete pipe, the FMCSA has published special provisions exclusive to reinforced concrete pipe that can be found in the CFR 49 Chapter 3, Part 393.124.2
- Create a system of checks and balances. Truck drivers should be instructed to contact dispatch when they need help securing products. Include cargo securement topics in regular driver’s meetings, and provide tips on how to do it safely. Loads must be inspected for proper securement and the inspection documented prior to leaving the plant premises.
- Consider local and state regulations governing oversized and overweight travel. If a load is oversized – typically over 8 feet, 6 inches in width – states may require the use of additional equipment during transport like temporary flashing lights, flags or banners on the front and rear of the truck indicating a wide, overweight or oversize load. Depending on the local jurisdiction, road permits for overweight and oversized loads or an escort could be required.
Many precast concrete products come in odd shapes and sizes. All products are heavy and must be transported with care. They could be oversized or overweight, which can make load securement increasingly difficult.
Doing it correctly and safely each time requires attention to detail, the appropriate equipment for the job and a continuous focus on safety.
“It has to be done right the first time,” said Bojan. “You’re not going to have another chance to do it right.”
Mindi Zissman is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has covered the AEC industry, commercial liability and health care for more than 15 years.