As an owner, manager or driver, you are responsible for the load on your trailer. It's as simple as that.
"It's your responsibility to tie down your load properly, securely and legally," says Jim Ladner, national sales manager, Landoll Trailers. "When you transport equipment, you accept the responsibility for any accident that may occur on your site, at a customer's site or on a public highway."
Yet, there can be many factors that distract you from properly securing a load. Maybe it's raining, it's cold or you're only moving that excavator a few miles down the road. But while you may be anxious to get done in a hurry, you are responsible for the lives and safety of the people in the immediate area, says John DeGeorge, national sales manager, Eager Beaver Trailers. "So slow down and take the time to load equipment safely," he says.
Know the limits
Securement specifics will be different for each piece of equipment you haul. But in general, there are certain factors to consider to safely and legally tie down equipment.
For starters, you need to know the load rating of the trailer and the weight of the equipment you're moving. The load rating can be found on the trailer identification plate or in the operator's manual. Equipment weight can be obtained by running it over a certified scale or referencing the owner's manual.
This information is needed to ensure you fall under the legal load limit, which is 80,000 lbs. in most states. Heavier loads, as well as those that are physically oversized (over-dimensional loads), will require specialized trailers and permits.
It's also needed to ensure you don't overload the trailer or any of its individual axles, which can cause a number of problems. Overloading the trailer can cause tire damage, as well as premature axle and bearing failure. Plus, it can seriously affect acceleration, braking and handling. Overloading the axles can result in heavy fines for carrying too much weight. State and local regulations can be more restrictive than those at the federal level, so make sure you know the rules and regulations for all the areas into which you're traveling.
"The best way to avoid overloading a trailer is to use a trailer with a capacity that is more than the weight of your equipment plus the weight of the trailer," says Shane Zeppelin, marketing manager at Towmaster Trailers. "If you're close to the maximum trailer capacity with your equipment, get the next heavier capacity trailer to make sure you stay under the rated GVWR."
The Federal Motor Carrier Regulations' Aggregate Working Load Limit also uses equipment weight to identify the number of tie downs needed, as well as their capacity. The basic requirement is that tie downs must have a combined strength equal to at least 50% of the load being secured.
For example, if you're hauling a 20,000-lb. backhoe-loader, you need chains that can support a minimum of 10,000 lbs. A 3/8-in. grade 70 chain has a rated capacity of 6,600 lbs. Because this would be divided by two according to the load limit calculation, you would need four 3/8-in. chains to properly secure the machine. If you're hauling a 40,000-lb. excavator, you would need to either add more chains or upgrade to 1/2-in. chain for greater capacity.
Inspect chains before each use and remove from service any with cracked, stretched or fatigued links. Also make sure any tie-down points, binders, hooks and clevis pins meet capacity regulations. "A chain that can handle 6,600 lbs. means nothing if the binder can only accommodate 3,300 lbs.," says DeGeorge.
To keep the system strong during the entire transport process, you should periodically pull over to check the load. Chains and straps have a tendency to shift and stretch, so it's a good practice to stop a short distance down the road, pull over and reinspect all of the straps and chains. Retighten them if necessary, then reinspect them every time you stop for a break.