Drivers who do not properly secure the load in their truck endanger themselves and their fellow passengers in road traffic. In 2016, spot checks by shipping insurers and the police showed that in about 70% of trucks travelling on Germany’s roads the cargo is not properly secured or is not secured at all.
Incorrectly secured cargo is a risk factor
From the television you will be familiar with the pictures of trucks shedding their loads on the motorway. The resulting traffic jams are the least of the problems – it can be significantly worse for the cars following the truck. But even for the truck driver himself, the risk is high. Heavy items in the cargo, which are not properly secured, are thrown forward like bullets during heavy braking, i.e. in the direction of the cab. In addition, when changing lanes, they can cause the truck to overturn if it tilts too hard.
The load must be secured by law
The way in which you secure the load as prescribed by the law is detailed in §§ 22, 23 (1) of the road traffic regulations. Both the load and all necessary equipment must be stowed and secured in such a way that they cannot fall over, roll about, slide or fall down during emergency braking or sudden evasive manoeuvres. The vehicle and the cargo load must not be more than 4 m high and not wider than 2.55 m. Exceptions are agriculture and forestry products. If you have loaded these, the height is allowed to exceed 4 m. A maximum of 3 m applies for the width in this case. For refrigerated vehicles it is 2.60 m.
Up to a height of 2.50 m, the load must not protrude over the front of the vehicle. Otherwise, an overhang of 50 cm to the front is allowed. At the rear, the load may protrude over the vehicle by 1.50 m, if the total length of the vehicle and its load is not more than 20.75 m. If you are driving less than 100 km, the cargo may protrude over the vehicle by up to 3 m, as long as it does not exceed 20.75 m in total length. As soon as the load protrudes more than 1 m above the rear reflectors of the truck, however, it must always be marked with a suitable bright red marking. This can be a flag with dimensions of at least 30 by 30 cm, an equally large sign or an equally high cylindrical body, which has a diameter of at least 35 cm. You attach these safety devices at a height of less than 1.50 m.
The load must not protrude over the sides of the truck by more than 40 cm. For safety purposes, you then attach a white reflector at the front and a red one at the back to this at a height of less than 1.50 m.
The clients are obligated to provide
Some clients tell you in advance how their cargo has to be properly secured so that it reaches its destination without risk and undamaged. This allows the commissioned haulier to make the necessary arrangements and send the driver with the right equipment. Unfortunately, far too few clients do this, partly out of ignorance, partly because they themselves lack the appropriate information. If you want to be on the safe side as a truck driver or if your employer is training their employees accordingly, you can download helpful brochures from the Federal Association for Road Haulage Logistics and Disposal. They contain numerous practical tips for reliably securing different types of loads.
Some basic rules you should always heed
- Before you load new goods into the truck, you should sweep it out. If there are residues of the old load in it, the new load is not safe and can slip or tip faster.
- If possible, you should load the truck so that the load cannot slip or tip over because it has no room left to move. This does not work if the load is very heavy or too small.
- If the load does not fill up the truck, fill the free space to the cab with pallets, for example. Make sure that the load is placed on a non-slip mat. Both measures ensure that the load is not thrown forward too hard when braking.
- When loading with multiple items of cargo, do not leave any space between the items – when tightly packed together, the goods support each other and the risk of sliding does not increase.
- If the load can fall over, secure it with edge gliders and lash it down tightly.
- Check your lashing straps and chains. They must not be faulty, as partly broken points easily tear under the load during transport.
- Some types of cargo cannot be lashed down. In such cases, the haulier needs a vehicle that is certified for its body stability. If they do not have this, they must reject the order.
Summary: Securing of loads in your best interest
As a truck driver, you must ensure that the load is properly secured. According to VDI 2700 standards “Securing of Loads on Road Vehicles”, the loader, driver and owner are equally responsible for the securing of the load. This means that you can be held liable in the event of an accident, if this was partly down to the load being inadequately secured. Apart from this threat of financial penalties, you also protect your own physical integrity and that of other road users if you properly secure your cargo.