The Load Restraint Guide has been developed by the National Transport Council. It gives information on the best way for heavy vehicle drivers to make sure their loads are restrained properly. The guide is more than just a suggestion. The Road Transport Regulations in more than one state specifically say that it is used to determine whether a load is safely restrained or not. In NSW, the Road Transport Act 2013 says that if you do not load according to the Load Restraint Guide, the load is considered unsafe, and could incur a hefty fine.
Restraint refers to the method that is used to make sure that loads stay in control when they are being transported. The main reason restraint is so important is to ensure the safety of other road users. Restraint stops loads from falling off, protruding, or making the vehicle unstable.
In general, there are four different methods for restraining loads on a vehicle. Three of them belong to a group called Direct Restraint. They are containment, blocking, and attaching. The fourth method is tie-down restraint.
Loads that are put inside the body of a vehicle use containment as a restraint method. Tipper bins (combined with a tarp over the top) hold loads like soil, gravel or grain. Bus drivers use containment when stowing luggage in the luggage bins underneath. Tankers are used to contain liquids like petrol or powders such as cooking flour. All of these are examples of containment.
‘Blocking’ is putting something in the way of a moving load. The headboard at the front of a truck can be used to stop the load moving forward. Gates can be used to block the movement of a load sideways. It is important to note that blocking cannot be considered a sufficient method of restraint. It must always be used in conjunction with other methods to ensure maximum safety.
The third type of direct restraint is called ‘attaching’ and involves attaching the load directly to the vehicle. Two examples are shipping container twist locks and chains attached directly to the load stop it from moving. This form of restraint is often used for machinery on flatbed trucks.
‘Tie down restraint’ is putting force downwards on the load to stop it moving or sliding. Because of this, the heavier the load the tighter the restraints need to be. This type of restraint is different than the others because it doesn’t just rely on the strength of the headboard, chains or other parts of the system. It relies on how much force is pushing down on the load to stop it moving in other directions. The force is created by making the restraints tight. The tighter the restraints are, the better restrained the load is. How tight the restraints are depends on the load binder, which is the most important part of the tie down restraint system.
Two commonly used materials used for tie-down restraint and attachment are webbing straps and transport chain. There are Australian Standards that cover their manufacture and use. Drivers that use either of these should be aware of the condition that they need to be in and how to use them correctly. Damaged or unsuitable equipment creates a risk of the load not being restrained correctly and falling off.
Webbing straps have different widths and different load binders. Australian Standards (AS) 4380 cover the use of webbing cargo restraints. Every webbing strap should have an Australian Standards blue tag on it, with important information on it such as the Lashing Capacity. However, lashing capacity is only helpful for direct restraint. For tie down restraint it is important to understand that if the handle on the load binder is pushed up to tighten, it is less effective than if the handle is pulled down to tighten. Being able to use your body weight makes the straps much tighter, so the restraints are more effective.
Transport chain restraints are covered by Australian Standard 4344. The Standard covers things like the lashing capacity of the chain and the markings that must be on them. In general, chains are stronger than webbing straps. But again no matter how strong the chains are, if you are relying on tie down restraint, they must be tight. Ratchet load binders are very effective at tightening transport chains and are safer to use than conventional lever dogs.
There are other methods for tying down and attaching loads. Sometimes rope is used as a form of lashing.
Rope is very unreliable as a form of restraint. It also doesn't create much tension. No matter how hard a driver pulls on the rope, it is never anywhere near as tight as webbing straps or chains. As a result of this, most companies do not permit the use of ropes as a means of restraint.
Calculating restraint can be very confusing for many drivers. The Load Restraint Guide has tables that help to know what types of restraints to use and how many you need. However, there are a couple of questions that can help you narrow down what the requirements are.
1- What type of restraint am I using? At times, loads will require a combination of restraints. For example it is common to have a load against the headboard and use blocking, then use tie down restraint as well. Knowing which types of restraint you are using is critical when it comes to calculating the correct amount of restraint.
2- How much does the load weigh? In order to know how much restraint a load requires you need to know how much it weighs. Your transport operator should give you documents that tell you. Sometimes there are labels or markings that can give you the weight.
What is the friction coefficient for the vehicle and load? The friction coefficient will help you decide how much tie down restraint you need. Another way to think of friction coefficient is how easily something will slide. A steel drum roller will slide very easily on a steel flatbed truck. There isn't much friction. This means that the friction coefficient is low. However, rubber matting between the steel drum roller and the truck will make it harder for the roller to slide. This creates a high friction coefficient. The higher the friction, the lower the amount of tie down restraint required to stop it moving.
The angle in which the lashing sits makes a big difference to how effective they are. The more vertical the lashing is, the more effective it is. When dealing with palletised goods, often the lashing goes almost vertically up from the coaming rail. This is very effective because the force is pulling straight down. However, a narrower load that isn't very high, will create much lower angles meaning the amount of tension pulling down is much lower.
Again, it is important to note that the Load Restraint Guide should be where you get specific information about vehicles loads and restraints.
Lashing capacity is a measure of how strong the strap or chain is. When using attachment as direct restraint, you will need to know what the lashing capacity of the straps or chains are. 50mm webbing straps that comply with AS4380 have a lashing capacity of 2,500kg. An 8mm transport chain that is compliant with AS4344 has a lashing capacity of 3,800kg.
However, it is very important to understand that using a 50mm webbing strap on a 2,500kg load may not be enough. It depends on the type of restraint method that you are using and how it is attached. You should always refer directly to the Load Restraint Guide to ensure that you are complying with vehicle load and restraint requirements.
Even when the load is secured to the vehicle, there are things that can go wrong. Loads that are loose can move. Tankers with liquids in them and stock trucks with livestock can move once they are loaded into the vehicle.
In 2018, there were changes made to National Heavy Vehicle law. Some changes that were made include making it clear what transport operators need to do as part of their requirements.
Operators must have systems in place to ensure loads are restrained correctly. An essential part of any system is educating people to follow the system. Driver's should always ask their managers or operators how to safely restrain their load.
Driver's should be given training and inductions in all of the equipment and processes that they need to follow.
Good Load Restraint leads to three things:
These things make the work of truck drivers safer for everyone.
If you are interested in heavy vehicles, call Intertrain now 1300 222 776 on to learn more about heavy vehicle driving and ways in which you can become a truck driver. Alternatively, you can visit www.intertrain.edu.au and read more!