More from: cargo control

Could You Use a Cargo Control Cheat Sheet?

Our position as a supplier of cargo control equipment to the trucking industry affords us the opportunity to hear a lot of stories. Some of those stories involve roadside inspections that pit truck drivers against police officers and DOT inspectors in a battle of wills. It’s funny, but we have never gotten the impression that inspectors are purposely trying to make the lives of truck drivers miserable.

In our regular perusal of trucking industry news, we ran across a CDL Life article featuring a cargo control cheat sheet developed by an Indiana state trooper. It reminded us that there are police officers who genuinely want to help truckers avoid violations. The trooper who put out the cheat sheet seems to be one of them.

Our question to you is this: could you use the cheat sheet? Being that we are not truck drivers ourselves, we cannot answer the question for you. But even with our limited knowledge, the cheat sheet looks like it could be very useful.

Working Load Limits Chart

At the top of the cheat sheet is a chart that acts as a handy reference for working load limits (WLLs). The chart is based on standard sized chains from grades 30 through 100. These would be chains used to tie down coil, heavy equipment, and the like. Below that chart is a second, smaller chart with references to webbing straps.

We assume that truckers could use both these charts as a quick reference to determine whether they are using enough tie-downs or not. We realize that federal law requires a certain number of tie-downs based on the weight of a particular load. Drivers are also required to deploy those tie-downs in such a way as to prevent all forward and lateral movement.

To work out the math, the cheat sheet includes a handy table that a driver can fill out by hand. This facilitates doing the math necessary to make sure he or she gets it right. The chart accounts for:

•Operating weight
•Chain WLL
•Number of chains
•WLL percentages
•Current WLL load
•WLL still needed.

We imagine that using this table would offer a clear visual representation of what is actually going on. We can see how it might be helpful to those truckers trying to understand the tie-downs they need to maintain compliance.

Cargo Control Checklist

Underneath the WLL information is a checklist that asks drivers five basic questions. Those questions are as follows:

•Have you covered 50% of the weight of the load?
•Have you covered the length of the load?
•Have you determined if there is a specific commodity item?
•Are there any edge protection violations?
•Is the load prevented from shifting during transport?

We do not claim to know what all that means, but we trust truckers do. If there are any questions, the trooper who put the cheat sheet together went to the trouble of including the specific regulations pertaining to all five questions. There is no reason any trucker should use this checklist as intended and still get it wrong.

Kudos to the Indiana state trooper who did the work in preparing this cargo control cheat sheet. We hope it turns out to be a very useful tool to flatbed truckers. Heaven knows they could use as much help as they can get to maintain cargo control compliance.

For our part, we are here to supply truckers with the chains, straps, binders, and any other equipment they need to secure their cargo for transit. We offer high-quality products at great prices.


Why Vehicle Inspectors Practice What They Do

Truck drivers across North America were subject to the annual Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) Roadcheck inspections back in June (2018). You know exactly what we are talking about if you drive a truck for a living. But did you know that inspectors actually practice what they do? They do it to be better at what they do, though some practice in order to compete.

There’s a lot more that goes into truck inspections than meets the eye. In terms of cargo control, truck drivers are all-too-familiar with inspectors checking everything from the number of tie-downs to the actual physical condition of webbing straps and chains. They check hooks, winches, anchor points, bungee straps, and even whether truck tarps are secured well enough to keep them in place.

Inspectors also check the physical condition of the trucks they are looking at. They check everything from tires to breaks and operating lights. And of course, don’t forget hours of service rules and the new ELD mandate. They are looking for anything that could pose a danger on the road – no matter how minor.

Training to Compete

A large number of truck inspectors gathered in Columbus, Ohio this past summer to participate in the CVSA’s North American Inspectors Championship. According to news reports, there were more than four dozen inspectors representing the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, all competing by way of a written test and hands-on demonstrations.

They were competing alongside truckers involved in the National Truck Driving Championships. While truckers were practicing everything from cargo control to turning and backing, inspectors were practicing all the steps that go into doing what they do. When it was time for the competition to commence, both drivers and inspectors hoped to be at the tops of their game.

A truck driver uses chains and straps to securely tie down a load. Drivers practice load tie-down in order to increase their efficiency in the real world of work. The more efficient they are at cargo control, the more time they have to keep the wheels rolling. It is just common sense.

Inspectors are in a similar situation. They practice the skills necessary to conduct complete inspections that are simultaneously efficient. The more trucks they can get in and out of inspection stations, the more they can look at in a given day. This keeps the trucks moving and the roads safe.

Knowing the Regulations and Physics

For both trucker and inspector, the key to success is knowing the regulations and physics of cargo control. Federal law, at least in the U.S. and Canada, is very specific in detailing how truck drivers are supposed to secure cargo to their trailers. One look at the FMCSA’s trucker handbook says it all.

Truckers need to be familiar with the rules so that they maintain compliance. They also need to be familiar with physics. Why? So that they can deploy their cargo control materials in the right way. No webbing strap or chain will do its job if it is not deployed properly.

As for inspectors, they need to have that same knowledge of regulations and physics. It is their job to make sure truckers are complying. If they don’t know what’s going on, they cannot possibly do their jobs.

Truck drivers, you now know that those inspectors you deal with all the time practice what they do. They not only practice to compete, but also to make sure they always operate at the highest possible level. It’s probably not a good idea to put them to the test. They know what they’re doing.

 


That Moment You Realize You’re Missing Tire Chains

You are planning a trip through California and Nevada via Interstate 80. You set out early in the morning on your first day with nothing but beautiful blue skies out the windshield. By the time you hit the road on day two, things changed. You’re approaching the Donner Pass in the middle of a snowstorm. Suddenly it occurs to you that you have no tire chains. It’s going to be a rough ride.

Driving a truck during the winter definitely has its challenges. Simply put, everything is harder during the winter. It is harder to accelerate, brake, and make your turns. It’s harder to cover your cargo with truck tarps. It is harder to stay warm. It’s even harder to maintain a certain level of safety. And yet seasoned truckers know that being proactive during the months leading up to winter can be a big help.

Getting your hands on a good set of tire chains is part of being proactive. Don’t wait until you’re faced with that first heavy snowstorm at the Donner Pass to figure out you don’t have chains on board. And by all means, don’t depend on chain banks. You’re not getting paid when the wheels aren’t moving. If you are having to wait for chains because a chain bank is empty, you’re losing money.

Snow Comes without Warning

Seasoned truckers also know that mountain snowstorms often come without warning. You may have a few days’ notice of a storm forecasters say will travel across the plains states. But there are times when ferocious mountain storms rear up in a matter of hours. A driver may leave a shipping yard fully expecting to have manageable weather all the way to his destination, only to find himself staring down old man winter at the base of a mountain.

How quickly can debilitating snowstorms blowup? Ask some of the truckers who attempted to pass through the Bow Valley section of the Trans-Canada Highway during the first few days of October. Nearly 2 feet of snow fell over a two-day span, stranding up to 300 motorists for 15 hours. The whole highway was shut down due to car accidents and jackknifed tractor trailers.

Any trucker who lost control of his or her vehicle lost both the time it took to recover the truck and the time spent waiting for the road to reopen. Tire chains obviously wouldn’t have stopped officials from closing the road, but they probably would have prevented some of those tractor-trailers from jackknifing and ending up in a ditch.

Know State Chain Laws

The fact is that there are some regions of the U.S. truckers shouldn’t even think about traveling through without chains on board. A good set of tire chains could mean the difference between keeping your truck on the road and having to call for a tow to pull you out of a ditch. Considering how much money it costs to remain idle, investing in tire chains seems completely reasonable.

We also encourage truck drivers to know the chain laws in the various states they travel through. For example, Colorado mandates chains be carried on trucks traveling along I-70 between mile markers 133 and 259. Drivers can be charged upwards of $500 for not using chains when required.

Tire chains can be a hassle to deploy. However, they serve a vital purpose that’s pretty tough to ignore that first time you realize you should have used chains but didn’t. Don’t be caught in a position of not having tire chains. Get your chains now, before that first big snowstorm leaves you stranded.

 


Truck Tarps: Cargo Protection vs. Cargo Control

Here at Mytee Products, we sell all kinds of truck tarps. We have steel and lumber tarps for the most common flatbed jobs. We also have smoke tarps, machinery tarps, and even mesh tarps that can be used for a lot of different applications. The secret is choosing the right tarp for the job at hand.

Note that the various tarps we sell have a multitude of uses. All our tarps can be divided into one of two categories: cargo protection and cargo control. Despite what you may have heard, they are not the same thing. Trying to use a tarp as a cargo control tool when it is not intended to be used as such can lead to big problems.

Tarps and Cargo Control

The federal government along with all 50 states have regulations in place requiring every motorist, regardless of the vehicle being driven, to properly secure any cargo that could otherwise dislodge and fall from the vehicle. This obviously applies to truck drivers. Flatbed truckers are required by law to secure not only their loads, but also any equipment and supplies they normally carry on their trailers for work use.

Cargo must be controlled by appropriate means. Let’s say you’re hauling a load of pipe, for example. The pipe has to be secured in place using webbing straps. In most cases, wooden frames are used to stack multiple layers of pipes while preventing them from shifting. It would be unsafe and illegal to attempt to secure a load of pipe using tarps alone.

On the other hand, let’s say you are driving a dump truck full of crushed stone. The dump itself contains the stone on four sides. You would deploy a tarp over the top to keep any of the material from flying off during transport. In this case, your tarp is being used as a cargo control tool.

lumTarps and Cargo Protection

The line of distinction between cargo control and protection might be a fine one, but it is an important one to the flatbed trucker. Getting back to that load of pipe for a minute, it is already secured with wooden blocks and straps. So why the tarp? To protect the pipe from the elements and road debris.

It is not uncommon for shippers to demand loads be covered by tarps during transport. They have a lot of money invested in the products they are shipping, and they expect those products to be protected. That’s why we sell so many kinds of tarps. Steel, lumber, and smoke tarps are not intended as cargo control tools. They are made for cargo protection.

Trucking and Mesh Tarps

One last thing we want to address in this post is the use of mesh tarps in trucking. Mesh tarps are typically used for providing shade and privacy, but they are also invaluable for certain kinds of loads. That same dump truck driver who uses a blue utility tarp to keep aggregate in place might choose a lighter mesh tarp instead.

Mesh tarps are also ideal for transporting roll-off dumpsters and yard waste. Keep in mind that waste haulers also have to prevent their loads from dislodging and flying off during transport. Yet because they have nothing valuable to protect, they can use lighter and more easily deployed mesh tarps rather than having to use their heavier counterparts.

Every tarp we sell has a purpose. We stock so many because we have come to realize that truckers like choices. The more variety we can offer, the better we are able to help truckers do their jobs.


The 9 Components of the FMCSA Cargo Securement System

It is common for truck drivers new to the flatbed game to wonder whether the use of bulkheads is required by law or not. In short, it’s not. But there is a lot more to cargo control than that. The federal government lays out a very strict set of rules defining how cargo is to be secured and controlled. Bulkhead deployment is just one small part.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) publishes its rules in a document known as the Driver’s Handbook on Cargo Securement. It can be downloaded from the agency’s website free of charge. Section 2 of the rules describes the ‘Components of the Securement System’ as defined by the FMCSA. There are nine components to consider:

1. Floors

The assumption here is that the floors referred to in the rules relate to the decking on a trailer. Dry vans, reefers, and straight flatbeds have a single level and, as such, completely flat decks. Step deck trailers are a different matter. You can have two or three different levels depending on design. At any rate, floors play a crucial part in cargo control by providing a certain amount of friction wherever the load comes in contact with flooring.

2. Walls

This component only comes into play for flatbed truckers when side kits are used. A side kit offers temporary walls that can help contain cargo that would otherwise be difficult to control. Obviously, dry goods vans and reefer trailers have the benefit of full enclosure.

3. Decks

This can apply to either the multiple decks of a step-deck trailer or the dual decks of an auto hauler. Decks are similar to floors in terms of their usefulness for cargo control.

4. Tiedown Anchor Points

Tiedown anchor points available for securing cargo are perhaps the most critical component of a cargo control system. Truckers use those anchor points with chains, webbing straps, and bungees. In a dry van or reefer setting, tiedown points are usually mounted on the walls.

5. Headboards

A headboard is the equivalent of a bulkhead on a straight truck – flatbed or box. It prevents the cab of the truck from being breached by shifting cargo in the event such cargo moves forward.

6. Bulkheads

The bulkhead is that forward barrier on the front of a flatbed trailer. In the absence of a bulkhead, flatbed operators have to use extra straps to keep cargo from moving.

7. Stakes

Stakes are anchor points attached to the floor of a trailer or straight truck. They can be used in a number of ways with straps, chains, and blocks.

8. Posts

Posts protrude from a flatbed trailer frame along its perimeter. Posts are an important part of the side kit in that they provide both stability for walls and extra anchor points for cargo control.

9. Anchor Points

The term ‘anchor points’ is more of a generic term encompassing every kind of anchor point on a truck or trailer. Cargo is connected to anchor points by way of chains and straps. The more anchor points, the better.

All of this is probably elementary to you if you are an experienced truck driver. However, a helpful reminder every now and again is not a bad thing. In the arena of cargo control, knowing what you’re doing means all the difference in the world to both safety and legal compliance.

We recommend you download the FMCSA rulebook and keep it handy. You never know when you might have a cargo control question that doesn’t have a quick and easy answer.