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One of the numerous responsibilities the professional truck driver with ELDT Certificate has every day is managing goods properly. The significance of good cargo handling, cargo security, and weight distribution principles will all be covered in this chapter.


The Importance of Proper Cargo Handling


As a professional driver, it is your job to safely and efficiently transport cargo to the customer, making sure it arrives on time and damage-free.


Each year, cargo claims from damaged and lost freight cost the motor carrier industry over $200 million. Proper loading and securement of cargo can go a long way in making sure you don’t contribute to this statistic.


Section 392.9 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) addresses the basic requirements when it comes to inspection of cargo and cargo securement devices and systems.


A commercial motor vehicle may not be operated unless the load is evenly distributed, appropriately fastened, and does not obstruct your vision, according to the rule.


Within 50 miles of the commencement of the voyage, you must inspect the cargo and any load-securing equipment. Throughout the journey, the cargo and load-securing devices must be checked again, and any required changes to the load-securing devices must be made.


Periodic examinations must be made:


  • When you make a change of duty status;


  • After the vehicle has been driven for 3 hours; or


  • After the vehicle has been driven for 150 miles — whichever occurs first.


You are not required to check the cargo on a sealed load that is not to be opened, or if checking the cargo is impractical.


As soon as the goods are placed into your vehicle and up until delivery, you are responsible for it. Follow all relevant laws, including any local and state requirements in the places you're visiting.


Principles and Methods of Cargo Securement


You must take action to secure the cargo while it is being loaded. Moving goods presents a safety risk and is readily damaged. Part 393, Subpart I of the FMCSRs mandates security.


Cargo must be secured in a commercial motor vehicle to prevent it from moving outside of it or inside it. To prevent the cargo from leaking, spilling, blowing, or dropping off the truck, it must be loaded, fitted, and secured.


Cargo securement devices and systems must be designed, installed, and maintained to ensure that the maximum forces acting on the devices or systems do not exceed the working load limit for the devices.


Aggregate working load limit — Any securement system used to restrain the movement of an item or group of items must have an aggregate working load limit that is at least half the weight of the item or group of items.


The aggregate working load limit is the sum of:


  • Half of each connected connection or attachment mechanism's operating load limit, which is utilised to fasten a portion of the cargo item to the vehicle;


  • One-half of the working load limit for each end section of a tiedown that is attached to an anchor point.


Immobilization of cargo — It is necessary to secure or immobilize cargo securely. Cargo security may be achieved using a variety of techniques and tools, including blocking, bracing, dunnage, load-locking bars, tiedown assemblies, and tarps.


Blocking and bracing — Blocking is a method of cargo security in which blocks are firmly affixed to the front, rear, or sides of the cargo to prevent slippage. Blocking is often fastened to the sidewalls or cargo deck. To keep an item immobile, bracing (applying pressure to a piece of cargo to hold it in place) is often utilized between the cargo and the ends or sides of the trailer.


Dunnage — Dunnage is a filler substance used to fill the gaps between the cargo. The load is kept from moving by damage. Materials used as dunnage include wood, cardboard, airbags, additional pallets, bubble wrap, and plastic.


Load locking bars — Bars for locking loads may be employed either vertically or horizontally. The rubber feet on the bars allow them to be secured to the vehicle's walls, ceiling, and floor. The bars are secured against the cargo with a tight fit before being jacked up until they are firmly trapped in place.


Tiedown assemblies — Tiedown assemblies – You may use tie-downs, such as belts, straps, chains, or ropes, to secure your cargo when it is not obstructed or positioned to do so by other means (other cargo, blocking devices, etc.). It must be protected at least by:


  • One tiedown for articles 5 feet or less in length, and 1,100 pounds or less in weight.

  • Two tiedowns if the article is:


  1. Five feet or less in length and more than 1,100 pounds in weight; or
  2. Longer than 5 feet, but less than or equal to 10 feet in length, irrespective of weight.
  3. Two tie-downs if the item is longer than 10 feet, and one additional tiedown for each subsequent 10 feet (or fraction thereof) of the object's length beyond the first 10 feet.


When using tiedowns:

  • To ensure that the tiedown is strong enough to support your load, always verify the rated load limit of the tiedown.

  • Before using, check the tiedowns for signs of wear or weakness.


Don’t use tiedowns that have been knotted or repaired.

  • Lay the tie-downs flat against the weight of the cargo and fasten them to the car using hooks, bolts, rails, rings, or other recognized fasteners. The tie-downs should be close to the weight, but not so close that they endanger it.

  • Whenever possible, all tie-downs and other cargo securement components should be within the rub rails if the trailer you are using has them.

  • Edge protection must be used whenever a tiedown may be subject to damage (abrasion or cutting).

  • After use, store tiedowns in a clean, dry space.


Working load limit charts or the marks on the tie-downs themselves may both be used to calculate a tiedown's working load limit. There are working load limit tables in Section 393.108 of the FMCSRs.


For things including logs, dressed lumber, metal coils, paper rolls, concrete pipe, intermodal containers, heavy equipment, crushed cars, roll-on/roll-off containers, and boulders, Part 393, Subpart I additionally provides commodity-specific cargo securement regulations. Before transporting any of these items, check the rules for any specific needs.


Tarps — You may need to use a tarp if you transport goods in an open cargo area. Tarps stop flying or falling debris from a vehicle, such as sand, gravel, or salt. Additionally, they may be used to shield goods from the elements. Use a tarp only if it completely covers your cargo and is fastened at all fastening points. Check your mirrors periodically while you're driving to make sure the tarp hasn't fallen loose and created a danger for you or other drivers.


Principles of Weight Distribution


Definitions — It is your duty as a qualified driver to ensure that your car is not overweight. You should be familiar with the meanings of the following weight measures.


Gross vehicle weight (GVW) — The total weight of a single vehicle, plus its load.


Gross combination weight (GCW) — The total weight of a powered unit, plus trailer(s), plus load.


Gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) — The value specified by the manufacturer as the loaded weight of a single vehicle.


Gross combination weight rating (GCWR) — The value specified by the manufacturer as the loaded weight of a combination (articulated) motor vehicle.


Axle weight — The amount of gross weight that rests on any one axle.


Tire load — the maximum safe weight that a tire is capable of supporting at a given pressure. Typically, the rating is listed on the tire's side.


Coupling device capacity — Coupling devices are rated for the maxi- mum weight they can pull or carry.


Legal weight limits — Your vehicle must stay within legal limits. Federal requirements outlined in 49 CFR 658.17 are as follows.


A vehicle may only have a maximum gross weight of 20,000 pounds on any one axle, including any axle within a set of axles.


On tandem axles, the maximum gross weight is 34,000 lbs.


To lessen the possibility of damaging highway bridges, this formula restricts the weight of groups of axles. The maximum weight of a vehicle is determined by the number of axles it has and the spacing between them. For any axles that are not more than 96 inches apart, the single- or tandem-axle weight restrictions, however, take precedence over the Bridge Formula limits.


Overloading — Overload - An overloaded vehicle may have trouble steering, stopping, and controlling its speed. A vehicle that is overloaded goes slowly on upgrades and might move too quickly on downgrades. As stopping distances grow, so do the risks associated with overusing the brakes.


Remember that driving at the allowed maximum weight may not be safe if the weather is terrible or if you're in hilly terrain.


Top-heavy loads — The height of a vehicle’s center of gravity is important for safe handling. A high center of gravity (heavy cargo on top or cargo piled too high) makes it easier for your vehicle to tip over. A high center of gravity is also dangerous when in a curve or when you have to swerve to avoid a hazard.


Load your vehicle so the heaviest cargo is on the bottom and the lightest on top. Also, dis- tribute cargo so it’s as low as possible.


Weight balance — Poor weight distribution can make vehicle handling unsafe.


Hard steering and damage to the steering axle and tires may result from too much weight on the steering axle.


The weight on the steering axle may be too low for safe steering due to underloaded front axles (cargo weight is too far to the rear). Poor traction may result from the drive axles carrying too little weight. The driving wheels could rotate effortlessly.


Safe Loading Responsibilities


You are in charge of ensuring that your car is legally and securely loaded. It must adhere to all regulations for weight distribution and cargo security.


Be aware of what and how much you are transporting. Verify that the item and quantity on your vehicle correspond to those on your shipping documents or bill of lading. Any differences should be reported to the shipper and noted on your bill of lading or shipping paperwork. Call your manager if you have any queries regarding receiving the package.


Additionally, examine the cargo's condition and record it. Any damages should be reported to the shipper and noted on the bill of lading or shipping paperwork. Once again, contact your supervisor if you have any concerns regarding receiving the package.


Loading/Unloading Tools


Set the parking brake, switch off the car, tuck the keys in your pocket, and chock the wheels before loading or unloading your car. (Note: If loading or unloading from a pier with a dock lock, you may not need to chock the wheels of the vehicle.) You could utilize the tools listed below while loading or unloading your car.


Forklift — A mechanical tool used to move items is called a forklift. It is propelled by an internal combustion engine or an electric motor. According to OSHA's regulations found in 29 CFR 1910.178, a forklift may only be operated by someone who has completed a training program.


Pallet jacks — When you must move cargo on pallets, you may use a pallet jack. Hand pallet jacks are best for short distances and on low grades.


For higher weights or when you need to transport freight over longer distances, powered pallet jacks are helpful. Only someone who has completed a training program as required by OSHA under 29 CFR 1910.178 is permitted to operate a motorized pallet jack.


Although relatively easy to use, pallet jacks must be used carefully. When using a pallet jack:


  • Always check the pallet jack for any defects that might affect its operation or safe use.

  • Make sure the items on the pallet are properly balanced and secured.

  • Heavier items should be on the bottom with lighter ones on the top.

  • Position the forks well into the pallet before raising the load. If the load is too heavy, take some of the items off.


Two-wheel dolly —A dolly is a straightforward piece of equipment that makes it easier to move heavy objects or tote many things at once. Despite being a simple piece of equipment, if used carelessly, it may crush toes, hurt ankles, strain backs, and harm cargo.


To use a dolly properly:


  • Make sure the load is securely stacked and balanced. If so, tip the load forward slightly and push the “tongue” of the dolly completely under the load.

  • Your vision shouldn't be restricted by the load. Split the load, if you can, and make many journeys if you can't see over and around the goods.

  • Move the burden a short distance to test it. It should be possible to move it without it moving or falling.

  • After you're satisfied you can transfer the load securely, look to see if there are any people or objects in your route.

  • To move the dolly, flex your leg muscles. Use one hand to steer and the other to balance the burden while maintaining a straight back.

  • Do not try to push the dolly too fast.

  • Before lowering the weight, make sure the floor is spotless and level.

  • To lower the burden and place it on the ground, utilize your leg muscles rather than your back.




You have learned about the correct handling of goods, cargo security, and fundamentals of weight distribution in this chapter. All are crucial to delivering a package to its destination quickly and securely.

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