Problems relating to the securing of loads

Jun 2018

The Human Factor

In trucks, dangers also lurk under tarpaulins and in loading areas because poorly secured or unsecured loads cause numerous accidents every year, many with severe consequences. According to official statistics, in 2016 “an inadequately secured load or vehicle accessories” was cited as the reason for 179 accidents resulting in personal injury and 360 accidents resulting in serious material damage involving goods transport vehicles in Germany. But it is important when interpreting these figures to bear in mind the number of unreported cases.

Inadequately secured loads are not just a concern for road safety though, because accidents often also affect the truck drivers themselves as well as other people in and on the truck performing their duties. Since properly secured loads are extremely important for ensuring occupational safety, the relevant German Social Accident Insurance Institution addressed this subject in the context of accident prevention many years ago. In 1980, they published a brochure entitled “Ladungssicherung auf Fahrzeugen” (Load securing in vehicles), a manual for businesses, resource managers, driving and loading personnel that was one of the first standard references in this field. This helped to improve load securing standards in Germany in subsequent years. Nowadays, there are many comprehensive manuals on load securing available.

With the publication in 2007 of the “Praxisratgebers Ladungssicherung” (Practical guide to load securing), DEKRA played an important role in providing professionals with an overview of the key regulations that apply to them and, in particular, helping these professionals to understand and implement these rules. In addition, experienced trainers at DEKRA offer special training sessions to show shipping agents and drivers how goods are shipped safely and how to avoid accidents. Training courses are also organized for management executives – and not without reason. Just a quick glance at the Straßenverkehrs-Zulassungs- Ordnung (StVZO – German Road Traffic Licensing Regulations) is enough to see the huge level of responsibility that vehicle owners face. The regulation states in section 31, para. 2: “The owner must not order or permit the operation [of the vehicle], if he knows or should know that … the vehicle, …the load or passenger occupancy is contrary to the regulations or that roadworthiness of the vehicle, the load or passenger occupancy suffers.” And the accompanying operating regulation states: “If a vehicle or a load does not comply with the regulations, inquiries shall always be made into whether the owner as well as the driver is at fault.” In accordance with section 412 of the German Commercial Code, the consignor or the loader, as the case may be, is also responsible for securing the load.

The training courses cover a range of information including the physical fundamentals of load securing, the forces that are exerted on the load in different traffic situations and with different types of use as well as the principles of load securing and how they are applied. The choice of vehicle is also addressed. Before a vehicle is loaded, it must be clear which vehicle type is most suitable for the respective transport, taking into account the type, weight, height of the center of gravity, dimensions and goods packaging. The various materials for securing loads are also covered in detail, with trainees instructed on the operating principles and how to handle materials such as lashing straps, shoring beams, nets, tarpaulins, air cushions, anti-slip mats and wire ropes. In addition, freight forwarders, haulers, consignors, loaders and drivers are instructed concerning the potential consequences of violations under traffic regulations or criminal law.

The certification of vehicle bodies and parts conducted by DEKRA in accordance with the applicable European and national standards and other regulations has been the basis for load securing in road freight traffic for a number of years now.

The certification process involves developing, in close cooperation with the customer from the transport industry, load securing measures that are economical and appropriate and comply with the relevant regulations. The effectiveness of measures demonstrated in static or dynamic tests is documented by the DEKRA load securing seal.

It is a fact that Germany and German freight forwarders are recognized role models in this sector today. When traveling through the rest of Europe, however, you do not have to go far to see that the load securing has still not been properly addressed in some countries. This is resulting in new challenges for transcontinental goods transportation. No compromises can be made when it comes to safety – in particular, competition must not be distorted through cost advantages gained as a result of load securing that is either not performed properly or not even performed at all.

Checks at the roadside and at border crossings are therefore necessary. It is essential that these checks are performed in a standardized manner in order to avoid unnecessary uncertainty and delays, which would ultimately have a negative impact on people’s acceptance of load securing in practice. The strategic objective must be to establish and implement harmonized load securing measures throughout the European Economic Area. In the future, this will take place primarily on the basis of Directive 2014/47/EU with regard to the technical roadside inspection of the roadworthiness and operational safety of commercial vehicles circulating in the European Union.

Accident prevention measures in vehicle fleets

An important point with regard to the human factor should be kept in mind: Preventive risk management should be at the very top of the agenda in every commercial vehicle fleet. The implementation of targeted measures helps to avoid problems right from the outset, thereby considerably increasing the safety and economic efficiency of the vehicle fleet. Accidents may ultimately endanger the health or even life of an employee or third party and also entail high consequential costs for the company, which are not covered by insurance. In the event of multiple losses or single major losses, this can cost a huge amount and may even have criminal consequences. In extreme cases, the existence of the entire company can be at stake. On top of this, every accident has a negative impact on a company’s image.

In this context, it is extremely important to implement measures that are adapted precisely in line with requirements and to resolve the problem areas in the vehicle fleet. With standard solutions and standard training sessions, however, little can be achieved. The first step therefore involves identifying damage areas before implementing measures for improvement, which may be in the form of theoretical and practical training sessions for drivers or driver safety training.

To be effective over the long term, the measures must not be seen as a one-time occurrence – rather, risk management is an ongoing process. Another critical point is actively involving decision- makers in risk management. Management executives in particular must be made aware of the company’s damage situation and set a good example. Ultimately, the driver is just one element of the overall structure of each vehicle fleet. Regular controlling is just as important for checking the effectiveness of the implemented measures.

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