On Feb. 1 at around 4:50 p.m., a step-deck trailer pulled by Charles E. Brake Transport was involved in an incident where its load of engineered steel beams rammed through the cab of the truck. The driver escaped with minor injuries in an incident that could have ended his life.
The crash happened in North Annville Township, Pennsylvania, off Route 934 & Harrison Drive. Photos taken by the Annville Cleona Fire Department show the damage caused to the truck and trailer by the beams.
What caught the eye of truckers and other commenters was the number of straps shown hanging off the side of the trailer. Only five straps are shown laying on the ground after rescue crews worked to free the driver.
This caused a great discussion on the post through multiple platforms. For those that did not catch on, flatbeds that haul steel beams and other tall-stacked freight often hang strap reels on both sides of the trailer.
How to keep tall freight from tipping over
If you have all the straps on one side of the trailer, the freight is pulled in that direction. Odd-shaped freight, like crates of various dimensions, can start to lean and shift the center of gravity of the trailer. This causes the trailer to become unstable and prone to rollovers from sudden movements and sharp turns.
By using straps on both sides of the trailer, you center the torsion the straps cause, stabilizing the load. So four straps on one side would mean that eight straps in total should have been used.
Also, the load should have been belly strapped in sections. That means as one bundle of material is loaded, it is strapped separately, or in taller freight, strapped through the load in some fashion to hold it in place.
Chains on steel, the great debate continues…
Another debated topic concerning the post was the usage of chains on engineered steel. Most shippers and receivers ban the use of chains, as the pressure caused by binders could damage the metal.
Many of the comments regarding the use of straps say the pressure of the strap against the edge of the metal can cause it to chafe and fray, a violation of federal regulations. Another point was the lack of the ability of the straps to grip the steel and prevent forward or rearward movement in a hard stop.
One of the commenters said he always used chains but also included thick rubber mats as a form of corner protector to prevent the chain from biting the beams. He had done this for more than 20 years and rarely had an issue with clients refusing to let him haul in this fashion.
Another way to stop forward movement is the use of a headache rack or X-chaining the front of the freight. From the pictures shown, one has to wonder if the pallet was used as a platform to help level the front of the beams or as a form of blocker to keep the beams from moving forward.
Drivers and freight companies should be using this incident as a learning tool to help themselves remember the best practices for hauling steel beams and other materials that can shift easily in transit. Taking the time to make absolutely sure the freight cannot shift might mean the difference between a successfully delivered load or the consequences of a fatal incident.
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