Back in the day, when Andy Blair served as a Department of Transportation (DOT) officer, he used the North American Standard Out of Service Criteria book to write tickets and place trucks out of service (OOS) during roadside inspections.

Now, he’s urging fleets and their drivers use the book as a tool to help keep their trucks in service during inspection season – especially where cargo securement is concerned.

You see, the annual 72-hour Roadcheck inspection blitz overseen by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance's (CVSA) occurs June 6 through 8 this year and will focus on cargo securement. And the aforementioned “OOS book” Blair referenced contains information on load securement that carriers – especially commodity specific haulers – and their drivers need to know.

“If you are a commodity specific hauler, then you have some very specific rules that apply to you,” he explained. “If you don't follow these rules, you could very well find your truck being placed OOS.”

Specific rules cover logs, dressed lumber, metal coils, paper rolls, concrete pipe, intermodal containers, light vehicles, heavy vehicles and equipment, flattened or crushed vehicles, roll off containers, hazardous materials or “hazmat” loads, plus large boulders.

If none of these categories apply, then a motor carrier or owner-operator falls under the general freight rules, Blair pointed out.

“This Roadcheck is coming; everybody knows what it’s going to be about,” he stressed. “This year’s focus is on load securement, so now is the time for people to be aware of the regulations.”

Here are a few more tips Blair shared with Fleet Owner ahead of the 2017 Roadcheck inspection blitz:

  • Know your Working Load Limit. That limit requires that you use enough weight rated tie downs to equal at least half the weight of the load. So you have to know the length of the object, the weight of the object and whether or not it falls into one of the commodity specific areas. Whichever requires the most number of tie downs is the one to go with. If you have a 20,000-lb. object, you have to have a working chain that is half the actual working weight of the load.
  • Use one more tie down than required. “Just in case one of the tie downs is bad, you won't be OOS of you don't go below the minimum amount of required tie downs,” Blair said. “You will be shut down if you don't have enough. Inspect your tie downs every trip. A tie down is only as strong as its weakest point.”
  • Pay attention to your pre-trip. Besides the basic vehicle inspection – lights, tires, wheel, mirrors, basic trailer inspection – when it comes to the load itself, enforcement will depend on what the load is. If it falls into any special categories, the driver needs to check whatever load securement devices he or she uses.
  • Check the whole chain. “Part of the inspection would be checking in the chain for damaged links, cracks and breaks that they have every tie down and chain down,” Blair noted. “The end of the chain will have a hook or ratchet, make sure that’s not damaged. [Loads] put a lot of pressure on these chains and overtime; it can cause things to damage and crack. Drivers have to check these; they are part of the regular vehicle inspection.
  • Synthetic straps are prone to getting ripped and torn. “Check for any wear or tear on synthetic straps. They don’t get better with age. They’re going to get worse,” he stressed. “When I see a truck with synthetic straps, I always look through them [searching] for cuts and abrasions. When it looks like it has seen better days, I take them off and cut them off so they can’t be reused. I don’t see near as many issues with chains. If I had to pick a truck out on the road, it would be a flatbed with synthetic straps tying down whatever it’s hauling.”
  • Use the 10-ft. rule. The general rule is you need at least one tie down for every 10 ft. of what you’re hauling. “Not more than 10 ft. I will literally get out my tape measure and if it exceeds 10 ft., that’s an OOS right there,” Blair said. “Most drivers always carry extra chain or straps. If a driver gets stopped and they determine that a tie-down device is legally no good, sometimes officers will allow them to replace strap with another one handy. But if the guy doesn’t have any extras, he’s sitting. The 10-ft. rule is frequently violated.”
  • Motor carriers need to train their drivers. It’s the motor carrier’s responsibility to make sure the driver knows what he or she is doing, Blair emphasized, especially when it comes to cargo securement. “[Carriers] should do training to make sure their drivers know the rules and load securement training. Any company who doesn’t do that is doing themselves a disservice,” he pointed out. “There should be a little bit of formal training. At the end of the day, I’m the officer, and if I say you’re OOS, you’re not leaving until it’s fixed. Load securement violations mean you’re sitting until it’s done right.”

“Some of these guys [drivers] are dependent on someone in a building securing their load,” he added. “They don’t bother checking load securement and they leave."

But once you leave the yard, it’s your baby, Blair warned. “The officers are going to be trained and ready,” he added. “The question is, are your drivers going to be trained and ready for this?”

For any further questions, please email Andy Blair at dotinspector@gmail.com.