Drop Your Cargo
at its Destination...Not in the Road
By Universal Underwriters Group's
Loss Prevention Department
Danger on the Highway: Bad things happen
when automobiles traveling 60-70 mph hit pieces of steel (like auto
parts or other items in the road). Many of us have watched while
relatively small pieces of rock or debris have hit, cracked or broken
our windshield. Imagine your car colliding with a much larger 12-pound
alternator at over 6,000 feet per second. The results of such a
collision can be devastating.
Once materials are in the roadway only a few things
can happen, and most of those are bad:
The vehicle strikes the part and suffers tire,
front-end damage or possibly crashes;
The driver swerves to miss the debris and involves others in the
A vehicle kicks the part up in the air, and through the windshield
of a second car. A recent incident like this one resulted in a fatality
and in criminal charges being filed against the driver of the vehicle
that dropped the material.
In 1998, the Texas Department of Public Safety
reported 1,041 vehicle accidents involving debris on the road. Over
the next 24 months three people died and one was critically injured
in north Texas when their vehicles were struck by flying debris.
You need to be aware that liability also can result
from these accidents. Federal regulations by the Department of Transportation
specifically hold the driver responsible for the security of their
cargo. The best action is to secure all loads and keep those materials
in the vehicle or trailer.
First things first check and inspect the vehicle:
Whether operating a pickup, heavy-duty truck or towing a trailer,
the power unit is the most important component in the system. If
the towing or hauling vehicle is in unsafe condition then the hazards
are greatly increased. Depending on the vehicle, federal safety
standards may require a thorough pre- and post-trip inspection.
Even when not required by law it makes good sense to ensure your
equipment is safe and in good operating condition. These inspections
include, but are not limited to:
Lights-brake, turn signals; headlights-clean, operational;
brakes-pedal firm; engine oil level; spare tire; horn; accident
reporting kit; truck bed/trailer free of debris; tires-good condition,
pressure; brake fluid full, no leaks noted; transmission fluid;
windshield washer fluid; emergency equipment-flares, reflectors;
windshield wipers; seat belts; and cargo nets/tiedowns installed,
in proper condition for use.
Keep it under control and off the road: The
entire loading process is critical, from "pre-load inspection" through
a "final load check." Taking shortcuts in this process can lead
to major problems later. Take time to make your load safe and secure.
Know and understand the limitations of the vehicle and trailer.
Do not load more than it can safely carry. Consider weight, volume
and center of gravity. Although the load you are considering may
fall within the vehicle's capacity, it still would not be safe to
transport if you stack it 10-feet high. Other considerations:
Inspect the trailer or truck bed prior to using
it. Look closely at tires, the integrity of the frame, holes in
the truck bed, rails, gates and cargo security devices (serviceable
Inspect anchor points used to secure load to ensure they are reliable.
Ensure you have sufficient nets, straps, tarps or chains to secure
Palletize or containerize as much as possible to decrease the
possibility of cargo flying out.
Cover the load with cargo nets, web harnesses or other load security
How you drive makes a difference: Safe driving
habits will not only help prevent conventional vehicle accidents,
but also will keep cargo secure. Erratic driving or violent or sudden
movements in any direction can shift or eject cargo. High speed
driving is dangerous because the lift generated by the wind flowing
over the vehicle can pick up even heavy items and push them out
of the cargo area. Beware of rough road surfaces, potholes, bumps
and other debris on the roadway that can bounce items out of the
vehicle or off the trailer. Slow and steady is the right way to
Bottom line $: The bottom line is that
materials falling off your vehicles can cost your business money
in many different ways. Loss of profit on stock or inventory destroyed
or damaged in this manner. The human cost of serious vehicle accidents
involving roadway debris is paramount. The public relations damage
to your company's reputation by seeing your vehicle on the evening
news can not be calculated. Throw in possible criminal charges against
your driver/company. It is sound business, risk management, and
safety practice to secure your cargo properly.
Gerry Cecil is the National Account Executive
for the Special Account Services division of Universal Underwriters
Group. For more information about how Universal Underwriters Group,
Special Account Services can help your automotive recycling business
needs call 800-840-8842, ext. 4845, visit www.uuic.com/specaccts/ara.asp
or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.