Every trucker is fully aware of the legal and ethical responsibility to ensure cargo is properly controlled. Cargo control is arguably the most important facet of trucking, with the possible exception of the overall concept of safe driving. A truck driver who does not securely control cargo from start to finish risks his/her own safety, the safety of others, and the cargo he/she is carrying.

What most people do not know is that cargo control is not as easy as it sounds. Even a load as seemingly harmless as crates full of tomatoes require special attention to keep them in place during transit. If they are not secured the right way, those crates could fly off the trailer and crash to the ground with a gust of wind or a turn taken too quickly.

For the truck driver, it’s all about matching cargo control equipment and strategies to the load at hand. Moreover, there are plenty of variables that have to be considered. Here are the big three, according to American Trucker’s Tim Brady:

1. Trailer Configuration

Cargo control is the legal responsibility of truck drivers regardless of the trailers they tow. Dry van, reefer, and tanker drivers have it a bit easier because their loads are fully contained. Flatbed truckers are in a different position. Their trailer configurations are a big factor.

A driver first has to assess the load as it relates to his or her trailer. Is the driver working with a straight flatbed or a step-deck? And if a step-deck, how many decks are there? After that, the driver has to look at anchor points, posts and stakes, and the bulkhead (if applicable).

Trailer configuration plays a key role in determining how a load is secured. Some jobs are unique enough that they require particular configurations. Truck drivers have to know that.

2. Blocking and Bracing

Before a driver begins tying down a load, he or she must consider blocking and bracing. Federal and state laws require blocking and bracing in certain configurations. Even when not mandated, doing so may still be a wise idea. According to Ohio-based Mytee Products, it is up to the truck driver to make sure blocks and braces are used properly.

3. Cargo Control Equipment

The third of the big three is the equipment a driver actually uses to tie down a load. For example, a load of heavy concrete sewer pipes is likely going to be blocked and then secured by chains. The driver must select the right number of chains, position them in the right locations, and tighten them down well enough to hold the load in place without damaging it.

Truck drivers also use tiedown straps made of webbing material. They utilize edge protectors to prevent different pieces of the load from contacting others, as well as protecting tarps against rips and tears. Tarps have to be deployed over many loads to protect the cargo underneath from road debris, the elements, animals, etc.

Every Possible Scenario

If all this sounds complicated, it is. But there is still more to consider. As Mytee Products explains, all the previously mentioned things have to be considered in light of every possible scenario a driver might encounter. The driver has to think about the roads he/she will be driving on. He/she has to think about weather, traffic patterns, construction, etc.

Driving a truck is not as simple as shifting gears and pressing the gas pedal. There is a lot that goes into doing it safely, including all the effort that goes into cargo control.