In a modern warehouse in Aurora, Ohio, employees of Mytee Products work to fill orders from truck drivers looking to purchase things like tarps, chains, and webbing tie-down straps. They know every order they fill represents something a truck driver will use to secure cargo. They also know that good cargo control practices minimize the effects of accidents.
Federal regulations are very clear as to how truck drivers are to secure their cargo. The regulations apply to every kind of trailer including open decks, tankers, refrigerated vans, and dry vans. Even open-top trailers and dump trucks are covered by the regulations.
Those regulations may seem excessive and onerous to truck drivers, but they serve a valuable purpose. That purpose was on full display when a truck carrying 40 tons of honey overturned on an Indiana highway in mid-May 2019. The honey was contained within a dry goods van.
Honey in the Road
According to police reports, the truck in question was traveling down Interstate 80/94 near Hammond when an axle malfunctioned. The malfunction caused the truck to turn on its side, essentially blocking all lanes of the highway for hours. Honey also spilled onto the roadway as a result.
What’s surprising is that the trailer was loaded with 13 containers of honey but only four of those containers leaked. So while there was enough honey in the road for the police to call it a “sticky situation”, things could have been much worse. Imagine the magnitude of the spill had all 13 containers broken open.
As it was, the interstate was closed for several hours while emergency workers cleaned up the mess. They also had to deal with leaking diesel fuel along with the usual rubberneckers slowing down traffic in the oncoming lanes. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured or killed in the crash.
All Cargo Must Be Immobile
We typically think of cargo control for trucks as having to do with open-deck trailers only. This is understandable, given that open-deck trailers do not feature the walls and ceilings that make cargo control easier for dry and refrigerated vans. However, that does not change the regulatory requirements. All cargo must be immobile during transit regardless of trailer type.
In the case of the trailer in Indiana, those 13 containers of honey would have been fully secured within the trailer. If the driver complied with federal and state regulations – and we assume that this was the case – the containers would have been secured in such a way as to prevent movement in any direction.
The Tools of the Trade
Truck drivers have a variety of tools they can use to immobilize cargo. In a dry or refrigerated van, load bars and e-track systems work best. Drivers working with open-deck trailers have to be a bit more creative. They use chains, webbing straps, and ratchets to tie down cargo securely.
Where necessary, blocks are used to prevent cargo from rolling forward or rearward. If an open-deck trailer has a bulkhead affixed to the front, fewer tie-downs are required. A bulkhead is simply a metal plate bolted or welded to the frame of the trailer to prevent any forward movement of the cargo.
Despite turning on its side, the truck in Indiana only lost a small portion of its load. What could have been disastrous had all 13 containers of honey spilled was minor in comparison. Though no one knows for sure, it is a safe bet that good cargo control practices minimized the effects of this accident. They will minimize the effects of any accident.