Definitely loaded well
No matter where on Europe’s roads police officers are when they inspect how well loads are secured on heavy-duty and light commercial vehicles, including vans, it’s not unusual for them to report serious shortcomings. The cause is often tight deadlines, but there is also a certain amount of carelessness on the part of those involved. Again and again, for example, officers encounter an attitude that a heavy load is kept secure by its own weight alone – a fallacy that is behind enormous amounts of personal injury and property damage. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, around 1,000 accidents involving personal injury are caused every year by poorly secured loads in Germany alone. “We know from experience that trade businesses and private moving companies in particular, which transport such items as washing machines and furniture in delivery vans, often secure their loads inadequately,” comments Uwe Hagemann, departmental head of accident analytics at DEKRA Bielefeld.
A crash test conducted by DEKRA at the Road Safety Center in Bielefeld showed just how dramatic the consequences of an unsecured load can be in a rear-end collision. The test simulated a scenario in which an inexpertly loaded van crashed into the tail end of a line of congested traffic at 58 km/h. “This kind of thing happens all the time, even in urban areas,” as Uwe Hagemann points out. The accident analyst believes that one reason for this is the risk of drivers being distracted by things such as their smartphones, which has been on the rise for years.
During the crash, items including a washing machine, a printer, some tires and a long scaffolding pole piled up inside the van. As expected, after the impact, nothing was in the place in which it had started. The washing machine, which had been placed on the floor, destroyed the passenger seat and its mount and pushed them up against the dashboard, while the unsecured scaffolding pole buried itself like a missile in the convertible at the back of the traffic jam. The consequences would have been fatal, as the driver and passenger of the van would most likely have been killed, while the driver of the car in front would have suffered serious injuries at the very least.
“Every van driver should be fully aware of the forces acting on the vehicle and its load in corners, during braking and in the event of an accident,” stresses Jens König, head of accident analytics and accident research at DEKRA Automobil GmbH. That’s why expert organizations such as DEKRA have for years been offering special seminars on how to secure loads as a preventative measure. These also show what securing equipment and tools are available, such as lashing straps, chains, anti-slip mats and inflatable padding.
PS: The driver is not the only one responsible for ensuring that loads are secured sensibly. The owner of the van and the person who loads it have obligations as well, and must ensure that suitable equipment is provided and, if applicable, inspect how the cargo is secured once loading is complete. Otherwise, they could be held responsible for damage and made personally liable.