Load Securement – Things I Have Learned So Far…

I get a lot of questions on load securement.  I can sum up my perspective on it very simply… More is better.  More than is necessary is best.  Redundancy is a good thing.

And nobody knows everything about securing anything.  Every load is different and requires you to think about how and where it might want to move.

Now, I take some kidding when the guy hotshots see me securing a load since I definitely overdo it, but that’s OK with me as long as nothing moves when I’m finished no matter what.   I have had the personal experience of having a strap break on a load in the mountains in a construction zone.  Although I was worried about the end of the strap getting wrapped up around the axle if I didn’t get a wide enough spot to stop quickly to change it out for a new strap, I wasn’t as much worried about losing my load as I had extra straps on to start with.

Which is sure proof that some paranoia can be a productive and good thing…

The idea that something could go a walkin’ off of my truck or trailer and the potentially deadly and chaotic result is just too much for me to wrap my brain around, so I spend a lot of time making sure that will not happen.

For you novices out there, or want-to-be potential hotshotters, here is a crash course in basic securement equipment…

This is a standard 2″ ratchet strap.  These are rated for just over 3,000 lbs.

Note that I use little knobby ended bungees to tie up my strap tails.  There’s not much that is less funny than to look back in your mirror and see those long tails flapping in the wind… not to mention the ticket you will get if a Trooper sees them before you do.

Some guys use electrical tape, some use zip-ties, and some guys just tie knots in them.  It’s a matter of what works for you.

There are a lot of guys out there with trailer mounted straps.  I haven’t messed with them as the regular ones have been working just fine for me.

This oddball looking item is a ratchet binder…  I’m no fan of these  instruments of torture and apparently I’m genetically incapable of using them correctly, but for those who can make them work, they are safer (so they say) than standard lever binders (or what we call “boomers” here in the southern part of the country.)   There was a rumor recently that Colorado was requiring them, but that has been debunked and I’m glad it was.

My personal preference is for good old fashioned boomers.  Below is a typical lever binder or boomer and chain.  To use these, you also have to own something like the bar in the second shot… although a lot of guys just have an un-fancified piece of pipe that actually works just fine.

And you have to learn how to use them correctly, or you can easily lose some teeth or get hurt pretty badly if one snaps open and hits you.  This is where a combination of good technique and leverage can be your friend.   I’ve proven that even a skinny old gal like me can tie just about anything down really, really well, without male help, so strength is nice, but technique is even better.

The basic idea behind any securement puzzle is to prevent any movement of whatever it is that you’re hauling during transit.  That means your load needs to stay put even if you have to brake hard, or dodge some obstacle.  The best way to think about it is to prevent both side to side movement and front to back movement.

If you put anything round on a flat surface it will obviously roll with gravity toward the low side.  To combat that fact of physics, we use chocks to prevent any roll.  A chock can be as simple as a couple of stacked 6″ long chunks of 2×4 nailed down to your dunnage on either side of the round item to lock it in position, or it can be as fancy as a store-bought graduated chock made for specialty hauling.

Once the round item is chocked in place, then it can be strapped, over-wrapped and locked in.  Here’s an example of what I mean…  note the chocking you can see alongside the long pipe and the over-wrapping.  If you have sudden forward or backward movement and the pipe is over-wrapped, the strap will tighten up and lock it in.

You might be sharp-eyed enough to note that my strap ends are tucked against the rub rail and not bungeed in this pic.  I used that method for a while, until I figured out that it fails too often for my liking.

But in a pinch, if you have to do it that way, it can be useful.  You really have to check those ends in your mirrors every few seconds as you go along though, which you should be doing as you drive anyway.  This method is useless at night when the trailer becomes invisible in your mirrors, I should point out though.

This was my most challenging chaining job so far.  The stacks you see (these are the things that go on top of gas wells)  were just painted before they went on my trailer and they wouldn’t load them laying down like they normally do.  I had to figure out how to keep them in place standing up.

I guess I did alright, they made it all the way to south Texas without moving or loosening up, and my load passed a roadside inspection to boot.   If you look closely, you can see I use heavy gauge commercial bungees to wrap around the lever on my boomers.  Some folks actually wire them closed.  I prefer the bungees mainly because it’s easier for me to adjust chains (that often loosen up in the first few miles of bouncing down the road) and get the levers wrapped back up without having to carry wire cutters or wire with me.

One trick I’ve learned is to carry extra boomers too.  Once in a while you get a pesky chain that will not tighten up with just one boomer on one side.  The best way I’ve found to get it really tight and keep it that way is to put a boomer on the opposite side of the chain and pull out any little bit of slack.  When you’re talking half a link of slack, that seems to work really well.

The round tanks on the back were actually more of a pain in the neck.  I had to stop and adjust and re-strap them as they wanted to walk around back there.  I finally got aggravated and put cross tension on them with extra straps to stop them from inching around and they were fine after that.

A lot of hotshotting means paying attention to whatever is on your truck or trailer, adapting, and learning as you go.  I learned that these things needed over and under wrapping to start with to pull them toward each other in the center of the trailer and end their tendency to scoot around.

One of my rules is to stop with any load and check how it’s riding after about 10 minutes of leaving the yard.  A lot of problems that might get bad if left longer than that can be caught early and fixed.

What you can see in this picture is that I wrap my straps around my rub rails.  I was told by one DOT officer that they prefer (not require) the straps to be inside of the rails, but it’s a trade-off safety-wise either way.

The way my trailer is built, if I hook to the underside of the trailer frame and run the strap inside of the rub rail, and a strap breaks, it’s hook and ratchet ends are going to fall into the roadway and hit whatever is coming up behind me.  If I wrap around the rub-rail and it breaks, at least the heavy hook end isn’t going into traffic.  The strap will just flap around telling me to immediately stop and replace it.

Either way you look at it, having the straps under the rails can cut them against the trailer edge if you get broadsided, having them over can cut them against the rub rail if you get broadsided.

In my opinion, having them wrapped around can keep something on the trailer that might otherwise break loose if the hook end of the strap is dislodged by the trailer being bent.  So I guess it may boil down to personal preference on how you decide to hook them.

As far as basics in securement go, the general rule is two straps or chains minimum on any item, (I know, some of you guys throw on one strap and scoot on down the road) but the DOT requires one strap or chain at either end and additional ones at no more than 10′ intervals.  Obviously I over secure items, which I think is just insurance.

However… you do have to use decent equipment.  I check my straps every time I roll them up for cuts, holes, or any other defects.  If you get inspected and have 4 good straps but throw on a 5th strap with a cut in it, you can fail your inspection on the grounds of defective equipment.

The same goes for chains and boomers, check them often and discard broken or damaged ones from your truck.  Use them around the hacienda if you want to, but don’t use them on the road.

I suppose the final part of this post should be how to get the most life out of those 2″ straps.  I make a habit of taking them apart after every use, inspecting, and rolling them, then keep them stacked in my toolbox out of the weather.  Keeping them dry and out of the sun is probably the best possible way to get more life out of them.  I stow the ratchet ends apart from the straps and inspect them as well for sticking, broken parts, or slippage.

If I get cuts or holes or fraying on the free end, I don’t have any problem shortening them with a good sharp pair of scissors and melting the cut edge to seal it.  These shorter straps you end up with are very useful on smaller loads.

And,… this is important… when using straps on anything sharp, jagged, or that might snag or cut the strap, put something substantial between your strap and whatever it is that might cut it.   I have used everything from old 4″ big truck strap scraps, to squares of rubber, to store-bought corner protectors.  The point is, protect the straps from any edges and you will save yourself some misery.  And extend the life of those straps which are not cheap, by the way.

Which reminds me… when using chains, use the same concept to protect the item you’re chaining.  Those rubber pads work really well to protect painted surfaces from getting eaten up by your chains and will make your shippers and receivers happy too.

The bottom line in securement is that your best tool is the one between your ears, and you should use it every time you tie anything down.

Look over every load, figure out the necessary amount of straps or chains for the weight of the load, figure your weakest link (you have to count the least amount of weight any one component of your securement will handle as the maximum for that combination as in boomers and chains) and be sure you have enough straps or chains tying down your item to keep it on your trailer no matter what.

Also be sure you have more than the absolute minimum required by law, and be sure you have some redundancy built in just in case one of your straps or chains fails while in transit.

Don’t feel bad if you have to stop and make adjustments, that’s normal.  Loads can shift and walk around despite your best efforts until you see what is going on and figure out how to stop it.  But if anything is moving, definitely stop immediately in a safe place and fix it.  Don’t give it any chance to get worse, because it will.

After all, it’s not just a matter of minding the law, it’s a matter of keeping your load on your truck or trailer and off of unsuspecting motorists around and behind you.

It’s really all about safety, and I think, courtesy to the other folks out there on the road with you.


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