Truck Topics

This Pro Knows – Secure That Load!

By Jeff Jensen, Editor
Posted Jun 17th 2006 8:15AM

loaded-freight.jpgAs any professional driver knows, his freight has to be secured in the correct manner in the cargo box or trailer, and in the correct manner unless he wants to play a little game I used to play with my ride-along helpers when I was a reckless young man driving a box truck for a warehousing company. 

We never bothered with the niceties of securing our freight in the cargo box; we thought it was more interesting to try to guess what fell off the "stack in the back", and "Name That


When the value of some damaged freight was deducted from my pay, I soon learned that proper loading and lashing of cargo makes for a more stable vehicle, and a safer and easier ride not just for the other traffic, but for the drivers themselves.  No more Name That Thump!

The problem with cargo box securement, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently ruled, is not that cargo restraining devices are ineffective. The problem is that drivers use them incorrectly or don't use enough of them.

When it comes to loading and securing cargo, the main thing is to know the weight and other characteristics of the freight.

Then, know the size and working load limit of each tie-down.

The experts tell us that tie-down materials are rated using a safety factor of three.  They explain that you simply find out the total weight of the load to be secured, then make sure you install enough tie-downs.

freight-securment.jpgYou have enough when the sum of all their working load limit ratings equals one half the cargos weight (that's the applicable rule in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regs). Doing the math this way will be a big help in operating safely and passing roadside inspections.

"Don't be afraid to put E-track in your truck," says straight truck owner-operator Carroll Bean.  "Don't cut corners on that, it's very beneficial to have E-track at floor level.  Don't be afraid to put as many as five rows of the track on the walls, from the floor and every foot and a half up the walls.  I have four rows on the front of the box."

Some guidelines 

*Gravity is not a load securement device.  Just because your cargo is heavy doesn't mean it'll stay in place. It might take more energy to get it moving, but once it does, look out.  Make a panic stop with an unsecured load of bricks and this will illustrate the point.  Tie everything down, no matter how heavy it is.

*Know the cargo weight and ratings of your tie-downs, calculate carefully on paper or with a calculator, and then use enough tie-downs to satisfy the rule.

*Take time occasionally to do a thorough inspection of your straps, Lay each item out and go over every inch to make sure it all looks good.

*Watch how your straps wrap around the cargo.  Watch for strapping going around sharp corners or over sharp edges that can cut or at least weaken it.

*There's no hard and fast rule as to what type of tie-down to use when hauling a certain cargo. In general, it doesn't matter if you use a few or many straps, as long as the working load limits add up to half the cargo weight.

Expediter Gene Dunlap carries 7 load locks, 10 ratchet straps, and 2 plain straps to secure his freight and a stack of packing blankets to protect it. He says, "To carry 55-gallon drums, I put a load lock in front of the barrel and then put a strap right behind the drum and a little bit ahead of the back of the drum, take the strap forward over the load lock and anchor it between the side of the box and the load lock.  This works for one drum or three or four on a pallet."

Dunlap says he would like to have an additional row of e-tracking on the side of the box, one on the bottom, one at the top of the kick plate, then two rows spaced farther up the walls.  He adds that he would like yet another row of tracking set into the floor, for those loads that sit too low for the bottom wall track.

He recalls a load of two jet engines mounted in racks that the shipper secured in his truck by nailing 2"x4" blocks in front of the cargo.  "I don't like anyone putting nails in my wood floor," he says, "but these engines were valued at $2 million dollars each, so I didn't say much about it.” He adds, "A load is more likely to shift forward than backwards, so if I put something behind the load, that's to keep it from tipping over.  And, it keeps the DOT happy."

*Keep in mind that there is also a rule requiring one tie-down for each 10-foot length of most flat materials loaded along the length of a trailer, and every 8 feet for metal cargoes of this type.

*Shippers sometimes specify how you should tie their cargo down to ensure protection. Follow their orders.

There are exceptions to the freight securement guidelines that depend on the weight of the cargo and the space it takes up. If you're carrying something light like boxes of ping pong balls and the freight nearly fills the cargo box so it cannot shift, you won't need to tie it down. The applicable regulations actually state that cargo that's properly contained by bulkheads or walls need not be restrained.

For safety's sake (and to comply with the law), stop and inspect the placement, tension and effectiveness of your cargo control devices after the first 25 miles into your trip.

Then recheck and adjust them as needed every three hours or 150 miles. For his cargo control needs, straight truck owner-operator Larry Steinfeld carries four of the square load bars and six round ones.  His equipment includes a come along and a length of chain for pulling the skids to the rear.  He uses three rows of e-track in the box along with eleven ratchet straps and, "a couple of real heavy ones for use on a flatbed."

Some of the most common load securement devices or systems are:

Load Locks or Cargo Bars are among the most common restraints because they're inexpensive and versatile. Most consist of two metal tubes that telescope to adjust overall length and a lever-operated ratchet for small adjustments and locking the device into position.

Tracking consists of metal strips riveted to trailer walls. The strips have holes punched through them. Various restraints lock into the holes to create very strong cargo securement that can be strength rated to satisfy inspectors.

Tracking comes in three types, defined by the shape of the holes: F, round holes, is the weakest; A rectangular holes, is medium strength; E, the strongest, is I-shaped holes, oddly enough.   Downside: If not embedded, can decrease interior width up to 11.5 inches.

Load Straps are cheap, lightweight, easy to stow and versatile, as they come with hooks or E, A or F track fittings at the ends. They can be strength rated up to thousands of pounds.

Simple cam buckles are tightened by pulling on the loose end; stronger ratchet buckles are tightened with a lever that turns a ratcheted spool; and overcenter buckles, the strongest, are secured by two locking levers that fold over the center of the buckle.  Caution:  If you overly tighten the straps on sharp edges without edge protectors, freight can be damaged.

Shoring Bars consist of two telescoping metal tubes with F track fittings on the ends. They can be strength-rated: round tubes to about 500 lbs. and square tubes to about 1,000 lbs.

Shoring Beams consist of two telescoping, rectangular tubes made of very heavy gauge steel or aluminum with fittings at each end that are usually designed to lock into E tracking. They can be strength rated up to several thousand pounds of freight. Several shoring beams working together can be rated up to several tons.

Track-Mounted D Rings are versatile, inexpensive, light, easily stored, portable tie-down points that can be strength rated. They consist of an F, A or E track fitting and a D ring joined by a few inches of strap. By attaching the fitting to the track, drivers create a secure tie-down point for straps or chains.

Bull Rings, or floor-mounted pan fittings, can be strength rated up to several thousand pounds.

Friction Mats are inexpensive, light and made of specialized rubber sold in 3-foot squares or in bulk on spools. Placed on cargo box or trailer floors beneath heavy freight, mats create high friction between freight and floor, thus stabilizing the freight.  Caution:  Mats won't stop freight from tipping.

Chock Blocks are wood blocks or wedges that are secured to the trailer floor, usually with nails, around freight to keep it from sliding. They are usually used with other restraints to prevent tipping.  Drawbacks: They must be removed after each load, the box floor eventually gets riddled with holes, and leftover nails are a menace.


"Know the Ropes"

Andy Haraldson

Carrol Bean tells us, "I've done something that many people don't do; it's an extra expense but I've found that it's really made a big difference when I'm hauling high-value freight and I want to ensure that the freight is not damaged.  I've got 34 floor rings in my truck and carry 40 ratchet straps of various lengths."

"I have three rows of floor rings with the rings spaced two feet apart. When we haul hospital equipment for example, there may be switches, dials and other protrusions that preclude strapping it to a wall, it has to sit in the middle of the floor." 

He concludes, "Don't be afraid to put plenty of securement devices in the box unless you're only going to carry dry freight like durable automotive parts."

Equipment suppliers  (800) 332-0614  (800) 848-6057  (800) 233-5138  (800) 728-5623  

Alp Industries, Inc.

1229 West Lincoln Hwy.

Coatesville PA 19320


Ancra Cargo Systems Div.

2685 Circleport Dr.

Erlanger KY 41018


ITW CargoSafe

PO Box 69

Mt. Pleasant TN 38474


Kinedyne Corp.

3701 Greenway Circle

Lawrence KS 66046


Logistick, Inc.

19880 State Line Rd.

South Bend IN 46637


Re-act Inc.

103 Sach Street

Dayton OH 45403


Save-A-Load, Inc.

327A West Tremont Ave.

Charlotte NC 28203



Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations





Review CVSA inspection criteria, under Safe Loading/Tiedowns Load Securement.

For a small fee, The Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association offers an excellent booklet entitled Steel Cargo Securement & Protection on Motor Vehicles.  Although the booklet focuses on metal securement, it offers an excellent review of all the basic regulations and illustrates acceptable tie-down techniques.

For more information, contact the following:

Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance

Tel. (301) 564-1623

Fax: (301) 564-0588

J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc.

Tel. (800) 327-6868

Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association

Tel. (703) 698-0291

Web Sling & Tie Down Association

Tel. (410) 931-8100

Fax: (410) 931-8111