Tim Schewe

Drivesmart column: Gravity is not load security

Anything inside your vehicle that is not tied down in some manner can become a hazard

By Tim Schewe

Three incidents this week prompt me to remind everyone about load security. Two boats have taken unexpected cruises along the pavement and a falling ladder caused a minor injury collision when the driver following along behind attempted to avoid the sudden obstacle in front of her. All of these incidents were cases of improper load security.

It seems that many people think that gravity will hold everything onto the vehicle and that they will be able to drive to their destination without worry. These drivers are a source of endless amusement to the staff at one large local business. Staff there told me about a customer who brushed off their suggestion of tie downs and lost his new fridge out of the back of his pickup before he was out of sight of the loading dock. Like the other incidents, this was an expensive lesson.

In general, any load that is not contained by the vehicle carrying it must be secured to the vehicle in some manner. This can mean rope, cable or straps for larger objects or a tarp for items like mulch, sand or gravel.

The tie downs must be of sufficient strength to restrain the load and in the case of long objects, a minimum number of tie downs is required.

In addition to tie downs, dunnage may be required. Dunnage could take the form of plastic wrap or lumber to help the tie downs secure a stack of smaller items.

A good reference for anyone wanting to know how to secure loads properly is Project Load Security, a booklet available free at any weigh scale. The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators also publishes an illustrated guide called the Driver’s Handbook on Load Security.

At this point you might be tempted to think that this is an issue for drivers of pickup trucks and large commercial vehicles. After all, the things that you carry in your car or van are all contained, aren’t they?

In a crash, or even during sudden heavy braking, anything inside your vehicle that is not tied down in some manner can become a hazard as it follows Newton’s laws of motion. Seatbacks are not meant to restrain cargo and it is unwise for you to assume that they do.

A common example of dangerous external cargo is a pickup load full of firewood. How strong do you think the rear glass in the cab is?

What happens if you are caught with an unsecured load? The officer’s first step will be a verbal or written order to immediately park your vehicle until the load is properly secured.

That may be followed up with a violation ticket as well. Fines begin at $173 for drivers of cars and motorcycles. Drivers of pickup trucks, vans intended for delivery, business vehicles and other commercial vehicles are liable to $288 and carriers who permit load security violations pay $460.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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