Strap it down! Securing Loads on the Back of Flatbed Vehicles

Strap it down! Securing Loads on the Back of Flatbed Vehicles

Ian Hatherly

The securing of loads should be a top priority for builders merchants. Effectively securing loads prevents goods from falling onto roads, causing danger to other road users and long traffic delays. Properly secured loads removes the risk of goods falling at their destination during unloading, eliminates the risk of vehicles tipping or swerving through unbalanced loading and ensures that goods arrive at their destination undamaged, with your reputation intact! 

Unsafe loads on vehicles injure more than 1,200 people a year and cost UK businesses millions of pounds in damaged goods. (Source: LINK)

Over a decade of advising merchants on health and safety has taught us that the risk is very real. We have witnessed the damage caused to passing cars from timber falling from the bed of a builders merchant vehicle in transit. We are also aware of Driver Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) checks on builders merchant vehicles; which have resulted in prohibition notices being served on vehicles with unsecured loads, and fixed penalty notices being issued to drivers. 

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Who is responsible?

The driver isn’t the only person responsible for the safety of the vehicle and its load. It is also important to bear in mind that, as an employer, you have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, to ensure the health, safety and welfare of your employees and anyone else affected by your work activities. You also have a duty to risk assess work activities under the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Disturbing as it is, as an employer, you could face criminal prosecution if an accident is caused by an improperly secured load.

Advice for Drivers

Guidance is issued by the DVSA Load Securing: Vehicle Operator Guidance’ and the Health and Safety Executive.

  1. All loads on all vehicles must be strapped or otherwise secured to prevent the load from moving during transit. 
  2. Where provided, only internal lashing points should be used. Any loads on vehicles with internal lashing points should not be secured using the rope hooks on the chassis by the sideboards. 
  3. Loads on vehicles without internal lashing points should be secured by attaching ratchet straps securely to the chassis (not the rope hooks). Care should be taken to ensure that the load is evenly spread and that straps secure the load. 
  4. The sideboards on vehicles are not structural and should not be relied on to secure a load during transit. 
  5. Drivers of vehicles are responsible for securing their loads and could be subject to a fixed penalty notice by the DVSA, if found in charge of a vehicle with an unsecured load. 
  6. Drivers should ensure that the grab attachments are strapped down when they are not over a pack or pallet or when the vehicle is empty. 
  7. Rope hooks should not be used to secure ratchet straps, as they are not load bearing.
  8. Wherever possible, the materials should be stacked across the load bed of the vehicle, below the height of the sideboards. Where this isn't possible, due to configuration of load and mix of materials to be transported, the ‘unstable products’ must be stacked evenly across the other goods on the vehicle (not unevenly or to one side), thus reducing the potential height of the load and enabling the straps to be securely fastened across all of the materials (not just the top layer). 
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Essential Driver Checks

Make sure:

  • Loads cannot slide or topple forwards or backwards. 
  • Loads cannot slide or topple off the side. 
  • The load is stable. 
  • The load securing equipment is in good condition. 
  • There is nothing loose that can fall off the load or the bed of the vehicle. 
  • That the vehicle does not pose a danger due to its load security or stability. 
Frequency of Driver Checks

Drivers should check the load and straps: 

  1. Before driving a vehicle, particularly if a load is loaded by someone else e.g. yard staff.
  2. Two miles after setting off, or as soon after this as is safe to do so (in accordance with Department of Transport guidance), and 
  3. Periodically during their shift, particularly during poor weather conditions and after any sudden braking or movement in the load.

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