Tied down: Cargo securement tips to lower CSA scores

By Jack Roberts on

load securementA freshly-minted driver who recently had graduated from a CDL school came by to chat with his instructors and let them know how things were going. He’d just gotten hired by a big fleet, and the instructor asked him how he liked his job so far. “I love it,” the driver replied. “I only work about 15 minutes a day, tying down my load. The rest of the time, I just drive.”

The driver’s attitude was instructive. Cargo securement demands repetitive attention to detail, patience and consistency – traits that are rare among all humans, but for truck drivers, extremely critical to safety. Properly securing a load always has been vital for a successful fleet operation – and in today’s Compliance Safety Accountability environment, even more so.

Maverick’s load securement consists of a week on hands-on exercises at the company’s training facility – and if they’re hauling glass, another week on top of that.

Maverick’s load securement consists of a week on hands-on exercises at the company’s training facility – and if they’re hauling glass, another week on top of that.

Dan Doran, president of Cincinnati-based Ace Doran Hauling and Rigging, says that while his fleet hasn’t seen an increase in inspections or violations since CSA was implemented, his shop and drivers did prepare beforehand to limit their exposure on the road.

“We educated our contractors as to the importance of inspecting their tools when it comes to chains and straps and blocking components,” Doran says. “It used to be that if it was a strong chain with hooks on both ends, it was good enough to go. Now straps are being looked at as the inspector goes by them on the road or as they go through a scale to see if they can find a reason to pull them over and go over the truck a little more closely.”

Good load securement is critical, and not only because law enforcement is keeping a closer watch. Customers entrust a fleet to transport its products safely and have them arrive in good condition. Add potential litigation resulting from property damage or injury into the mix, and the stakes are raised even higher. And since proper load securement takes time, it also affects a fleet’s bottom line – even before the load is under way.

 “Tarping a secured load can take up to two hours for a driver and sometimes more, depending upon the weather,” says Roland Lockard, operations manager with UltraTarp. Often, drivers don’t get paid additional money for tarping secured loads for shippers and receivers, Lockard says.

CSA’s microscope

Under CSA, violations for improperly secured cargo negatively impact both a fleet and a driver. If a citation is issued, it now is entered into the fleet’s Vehicle Maintenance BASIC (Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Category). Admittedly, there are several violations for which a driver is not responsible – including aspects of the law that assigns responsibility to either the shipper or the fleet – but if the ticketing officer determines that the infraction is one the driver could have rectified, a separate violation will be entered into that driver’s personal database.

Maverick’s load securement consists of a week on hands-on exercises at the company’s training facility – and if they’re hauling glass, another week on top of that.

Maverick’s load securement consists of a week on hands-on exercises at the company’s training facility – and if they’re hauling glass, another week on top of that.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration made additional changes in December after four months of study. It did away with the Cargo-Related BASIC and replaced it with the Hazmat BASIC, moving improper securement violations into the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC. 

The severity weights of many securement violations was reduced then, too. 

As law enforcement attention on cargo securement increases, all fleets are reviewing their securement procedures. As a carrier with a large flatbed operation, Maverick finds itself under a more intense spotlight than fleets hauling box trailers.

“We’re definitely seeing more flatbed inspections as CSA kicks in,” Newell says. “I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – it’s to be expected.” That’s why Maverick monitors its drivers and how their CSA scores are faring within its fleet. “Both (fleet and driver) scores are important,” he says.

Under CSA, cargo securement includes a wide array of inspection points and potential violations. Beyond simple unsecured loads, failing to flag a load properly or marking hazardous materials improperly can result in a violation. Similarly, a driver transporting hazardous materials can expect to be ticketed for failing to have improper emergency information on hand when it is requested.

Flatbed operations bear the brunt of cargo-related CSA concerns simply because of the visibility of their loads and securement devices, but reefer and van operations don’t have it any easier. CSA also specifies that cargo inside a van trailer must be secured against movement in all four directions. As with a flatbed operation, if the driver fails to secure the load with straps or load bars across the back of a load that does not reach the back doors, he will end up with a ticket.

“Drivers bear the brunt unless it is a sealed load and the driver is doing a drop and hook,” says Bob Dissinger, director of U.S. sales for Kinedyne. If the trailer is loaded but not sealed, the driver should open the trailer doors on the trailer and check to see it is secured properly, Dissinger says. On flatbeds, he should check all cargo securement devices to ensure the proper amount and tightening, he says.

Keeping up to date

Continuing education is the most important factor in fending off CSA hits. “You really need to monitor and keep up to date on cargo securement rules and regulations,” Dissenger says. These laws change regularly at federal, state and local levels.

Flatbed operations bear the brunt of cargo-related CSA concerns simply because of the visibility of their loads and securement devices.

Flatbed operations bear the brunt of cargo-related CSA concerns simply because of the visibility of their loads and securement devices.

Dissenger says fleets also must conduct regular safety training for drivers and anyone else loading and securing a trailer. “At Kinedyne, we tell our customers to be aware that not all safety-related securement products are the same,” he says. A lower price tag often translates into lower product quality, consistency and life expectancy, he says.

Newell directs Maverick’s cargo securement training programs and describes them as extensive and intensive, relying heavily on a systematic approach to education and procedures. Basic orientation last five days, and if the driver will be working in Maverick’s flatbed division, load securement consists of another week on hands-on exercises at the company’s training facility – and if they’re hauling glass, another week on top of that.

Maverick’s training also is ongoing. The fleet films its own in-house safety videos – some as short as 15-second reminders of proper safety procedures – that are beamed out to trucks on the road for drivers to watch at their convenience.

“It’s been very beneficial for us,” Newell says. “I think our drivers like the fact that they have that information handy if they need it.”

 More research

Maverick’s commitment to load securement goes even deeper. “Everything that we haul is closely examined before it ever gets loaded onto a trailer,” Newell says. This starts early in the sales process: When a Maverick salesman closes a deal, one of the check-off boxes on his list is to contact the company’s safety department and initiate a process for assessing proper load securement.

“We start with the basics and look at the securement of the load and make sure we can handle it with our existing equipment and systems,” Newell says. “If not, we come up with alternatives to make it safe.”

Maverick’s sales team works closely with the safety department, including the driver training aspect. If the customer has a new unfamiliar load, Newell’s team will obtain pictures of it – or even send someone to the customer’s location to inspect the load firsthand and figure out how to transport it safely.

“Load securement is more important than ever because everyone – fleets and drivers – are focused on their CSA scores,” Newell says. “You have to try to control it.”

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts is executive editor for CCJ and equipment editor for its sister magazine Overdrive. Roberts joined Randall-Reilly in 1995 as associate editor of Equipment World magazine and began covering both heavy-duty and light trucks in 1996. In 2006 he was the founding editor of Total Landscape Care before joining CCJ's staff in 2008.

10 comments
Hawgwild
Hawgwild

bad pic maverick .... all straps and chains should be inside bump rail !!!! in my 35 yrs of flatbed trucking sometimes you can not put it inside the rail but in that pic you can.. Get it right if you are using this for others.. plus just hooking the strap to the rail can cause failure in the event of roll over or wreak, myself I wrap mine and DOT Will not ding you for that ..GET IT RIGHT!!!

pcliff
pcliff

looking at your pic of the coils bound wt straps, i see the straps running outside the rub rail, i thought all chains and straps are to be inside the rail?

kellyfrey
kellyfrey

We have seen flatbed drivers using apps like @bigroadinc  take pictures or video with their smartphones of some of the challenging loads they have to tarp and secure and getting real time feedback from other drivers or operations to make sure they do it the best way.  Involving others and getting feedback from your direct manager can be a way to protect yourself and the company before the DOT man pulls you over and looks for something wrong.

DOTDoctor
DOTDoctor

"Often, drivers don’t get paid additional money for tarping secured loads for shippers and receivers, Lockard says."  My comment to this is that is the company's fault.  When billing out or bidding a load; as the co. rep, you need to write in tarping and securing costs.  Drivers should be guaranteed payment for this service irregardless of the customer.  If the company fails to bill; that is on the company. It should fall upon the driver.  Same for FSC.  All these accessorial pay should be standard across the board not on "if the customer pays" basis.  If the driver did the work....pay him.  PERIOD!  I think Maverick has a great plan in place with their week long training.  More companies should adapt this policy instead of the "push 'em through" routine.  Van drivers and curtain side drivers with metal or lumber type loads need securement training as well.  Same goes for beer loads and even soda.  Freight shifts, trailers turn over; people get hurt and even killed.  Freight flies off a moving vehicle and there is injury, death and property damage.  We need to train our drivers and not just assume they how know to handle every type of freight out there.

LynnWard1
LynnWard1

 @Hawgwild 

 

That picture is not of a Maverick load...all of our straps are red...I know the pic says it Maverick, but its not one of ours because we don't have any yellow straps...you might see one that a driver has had to replace on the road, but as soon as they get to a terminal that strap will be replaced with a genuine Maverick strap...so...a whole load tied down with yellow straps, its not on of ours.

BarryBurtonJr
BarryBurtonJr

 @pcliff At a recent safety meeting I was told that they removed that law about being inside the rub rail. Still a good idea tho. That's how I do mine...unless it's smashed in.

 

cbordeaux
cbordeaux

 @pcliff I would hope that trailer is set up as a training tool showing how NOT to secure the load .those straps should also have a wear guard protecting the nylon webbing from rubbing on the wooden spool.  Secondly, the straps have the chance of sliding off the edge of the round spool. I wouldn't load them laying down. 

nlights
nlights

 @DOTDoctor

 Try telling that to a broker that you want extra pay for tarping and securement .. not to mention fuel surcharge, they will all tell you that its figured into the rate. thats one of the biggest prolems is the broker

DOTDoctor
DOTDoctor

 @BarryBurtonJr  @pcliff I was paying attention this last week during my travels, while at truck stops and any chance of interaction with flatbed freight; 90% were strapped outside the rub rail.  Either we need a serious retraining as a profession or a re-reading of the rules.  Either way; I do agree it is safer for the straps to run inside the rails.  Was interesting that so many were not.  Worse, in my opinion, were the ones with no consistency.  Some straps were in while others were outside.

DOTDoctor
DOTDoctor

 @nlights I concur.  Somehow, as a collective, we all need to find a way to make that policy change.  I oversee a drayage operation and broker out the excess freight that my driver's can't move.  I make sure everyone gets their fair share.  It is just good business practices. It gives me a base of reliable carriers that return for more business because I don't try to under cut them.  We all make some money instead of anyone of us taking the lion's share.  I know plenty out there that do not operate this way.  There has to be a way to change this.  There also has to be a way to change how shippers and receivers "handle" truckers and more importantly their time.  Companies need to learn to say "NO" instead of being afraid of offending a customer.  It is time they stop offending their drivers.  There has a middle ground we can all meet upon.  At some point, this has to realized and a move made to find that "place".  It is time for rate visibility and not "all in" statements.  If we want drivers to act like professionals; we must treat them like it first.

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