Risk: How to pick up your game on loading safety

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In the day-to-day running of a busy van fleet, the subject of safe loading is frequently overlooked and sometimes even ignored.

But stowing cargo correctly and safely is paramount and failure to do so can lead to serious consequences.

Firstly, a driver could be injured or even killed by loads flying forward during a heavy braking manoeuvre if no bulkhead is fitted.

Even if you avoid the worst case scenario, you may lose a van while it is being repaired and a valuable member of staff while they recover. They may also sue the company for damages.

If you operate flatbed trucks, loading is even more important, as loose loads could fly off and hit passing pedestrians.

For delivery drivers, there are also possibilities for disaster. Picking up boxes that are too heavy could cause back injury or a driver could slip and fall while carrying boxes from van to client.

Licence-checking, driver training, tyre management and scheduling tend to be uppermost in van fleet operators’ minds – loading needs to be up there, too.

The Freight Transport Association offers a lot of advice to fleets that want to know more about the subject and has commissioned a study into loading by the Transport Research Laboratory.

Mark Cartwright, head of LCVs at the FTA, said: “With respect to kilometres travelled, LCVs have a reasonably good accident record.

However, incidents do occur in which cargo directly causes or contributes to the injuries of LCV occupants in an accident.

“Better management and specification of cargo restraints can help to mitigate the risks posed by cargo in an accident, but in order to apply appropriate remedial actions it is important to understand the full extent of the risks.

“In an accident, inadequately restrained cargo has the potential to cause serious and fatal injuries.

"The principal risk concerns the possibility of the cargo striking the vehicle occupants, but in the situation where cargo is carried on the top or side of an LCV, there is a possibility that the cargo could become detached and strike the occupants of other road vehicles or strike vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians or cyclists.”

Another concern in frontal accidents is if the cargo overloads the seat backs, crushing the occupants sat in the front of the vehicle.

“This can also push the occupants forward within the vehicle, increasing the likelihood of them striking hazardous structures in the occupant compartment area such as the dashboard or A-pillar,” adds Cartwright.

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