The other day I was travelling on the highway, and I happened to pass a vehicle parked on the shoulder, that had been carrying a load of wooden planks. There were several men scrambling all over the vehicle, attempting to gather planks that had fallen off, so that they could re-secure them to the truck. It was obvious that the planks had not been secured properly when the journey began, which caused them to fall off at some point. This was obviously a safety concern, and I could not help but think that they were lucky that their unstable load had not injured anyone.
Accidents due to improperly secured cargo can make up as much as two thirds of all road accidents in certain jurisdictions. Proper load securement is especially necessary in North America, as trucks commonly share roads with other vehicles. One study in the US found that within a 4-year period, load securement violations were the cause of 200,000 accidents. These accidents led to 500 deaths and 39,000 injuries.
An example of a severe case of improper cargo securement occurred in September of 2019, when a vehicle driving in Alberta was stopped by police. The vehicle was carrying three pieces of heavy farming machinery in a precarious manner and was on its way to a scrapyard. The vehicle was stopped, because of reports that its cargo was hitting overpasses and signs, and the driver was fined $2000. This scenario could have resulted in a devastating accident and the driver was certainly not practicing safe cargo securement. The issue was not so much with the type of load that was being carried, but the way in which the machinery was being transported. It is also possible that the vehicle being used was not the correct one for the job, or the machinery should have been moved separately instead of all together.
Appropriate cargo securement should be a priority for any individual or corporation. Not only will it prevent potential injury or property damage, it can also negate delays, loss of resources and legal issues. To uphold safe and effective cargo securement, jurisdictions in Canada follow the National Safety Code (NSC) Standard 10 rules.
What is the National Safety Code Standard 10?
The NSC Standard 10 is a document pertaining to proper cargo securement, which is broken down into four parts.
These parts have to do with the following:
- Part 1: General Provisions
- Part 2: Specific Securement Requirements by Cargo Type
- Part 3: Default Working Load Limits
- Part 4: Manufacturing Standards
Part 1 largely begins by describing the types of vehicles that the Standard applies to, and what the inspection expectations are in reference to those vehicles. It then goes on to describe performance benchmarks and possible exemptions. Lastly, it provides a list of acceptable tie-downs and front-end structures that can be present on vehicles carrying cargo.
Part 2, which is supposed to be referenced alongside Part 1, describes all the types of cargo that are usually secured to vehicles.
- Dressed Lumber
- Metal Coils
- Paper Rolls
- Concrete Pipes
- Intermodal Containers
- Vehicles (as cargo)
- Roll-on/Roll-off Containers
- Hook Lift Containers
Part 3 of the Standard contains an entry that was deleted in September of 2010.
Part 4 contains a swathe of measurements for recommendations and requirements related to various manufacturing standards.
Why is it important to follow the NSC Standard 10?
By following the rules and guidelines outlined in the Standard, individuals and corporations can be assured that they are following safe and effective cargo securement practices in every Canadian jurisdiction that they enter.
Furthermore, individuals who are educated in the rules of the Standard can be certain whether their employer is asking them to secure cargo in the necessary fashion. It is important that the Standard is regularly referenced, as modifications are commonly made to it every year or two. By referencing the Standard regularly, individuals will be aware of any new additions, or the removal of certain rules.
What happens when the NSC Standard 10 is not adhered to?
Individuals or corporations that do not follow the Standard can expect to run into complications at some point. These can include accidents that jeopardize safety as well as legal concerns. Improperly secured cargo is a leading reason for many road accidents. Cargo of any sort that becomes unsecured and falls onto a road becomes a risk to any surrounding vehicle. Heavier loads are typically dangerous on just about any road, and act like deadly projectiles. Even seemingly innocent loads, such as cargo that is very light, can be very dangerous. This becomes exacerbated when vehicles are moving at very fast speeds, like on a freeway. Lighter loads that do not cause a car to immediately crash on impact or damage a vehicle can still cause drivers to lose vision or become distracted.
On top of any safety issues, improper load securement will also bring with it a suite of legal complications.
Those at fault will typically include:
- Any driver that failed to properly inspect their secured load
- Any company that employed individuals who did not follow the appropriate guidelines
- Any third parties that were specifically responsible for loading and securing cargo to the vehicle
Legal consequences will usually consist of payment for any damages that other vehicles receive because of improper cargo securement. Furthermore, if anyone is injured because the cargo was improperly secured, then any guilty parties will also be liable for medical expenses. If any deaths occur, then those guilty parties could even be looking at criminal charges.
What are some common reasons for improperly secured cargo that would result in viable claims for damages?
There are multiple variables that could account for the improper securement of cargo.
The primary reasons are:
- Doors not being locked (on vehicles with doors)
- Cargo not loaded properly
- Cargo is not balanced
- Defective restraints (these can fall victim to wear and tear)
- Restraints missing
- Routine maintenance not being conducted
How well should cargo be secured?
Cargo should always be secured so that it does not:
- Blow off
- Fall off
- Fall through the vehicle
- Become dislodged
- Shift in such a way that the vehicle becomes unstable or movement-impaired
What is normally used to secure cargo?
Cargo is usually held down by employing a broad range of securing devices.
- Synthetic webbing
- Rope (Wire/Manila/Synthetic)
- Steel Strapping
- Clamps and latches
- Front-end structure
- Grab hooks
- Stake pockets
- Webbing ratchet
- Friction mat
As a driver, how can I take measures to ensure that my cargo is being secured in a safe fashion?
In the spirit of practicing safe securement methods, here are some things to watch out for as a driver when carrying cargo.
- Can you see clearly ahead, to the left, and to the right?
- Can you freely move your arms and legs?
- Can you reach everything that you would need in an emergency?
- Can everyone in the vehicle, including yourself, easily exit?
If you ever answer “No” to any of these questions, then do not leave with cargo, as safety might be at risk. More information on the correct methods and safest ways to secure cargo can be found in the Cargo Securement Driver’s Handbook. This is a great resource for drivers or anyone else interested in cargo securement.
How can I learn about safe and effective cargo securement practices?
The best way to learn how to properly secure loads to vehicles is first to educate yourself, and then to practice what you have learned. If you need a place to get started, this cargo load securement flatbed course will teach you all that you need to know. By following the lessons in the course, you can easily get a handle on a great amount of knowledge in just 90 minutes. Hop on your computer or pull out your mobile device and get your certificate of completion right now!