Driver Training:Handling and Documenting Cargo

Your driver will learn basic cargo security/cargo theft prevention procedures in this unit.

What Will Happen in This Unit?

This unit consists of online lessons and optional lab lessons.

The importance of Proper Cargo Handling

Principals of Weight Distribution

Cargo Securement: Fundamentals

Load securing, also known as cargo securing, is the securing of cargo for transportation. It has been estimated that up to 25% of accidents involving trucks can be attributable to inadequate cargo securing. Cargo that is improperly secured can cause severe accidents and lead to the loss of cargo, the loss of lives, the loss of vehicles, or cause environmental hazards.

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Cargo Handling Responsibilities

As a driver you may be called on to load or unload your vehicle. Even if you aren't, you are responsible to see that the vehicle is not overloaded, that the weight of the cargo is properly distributed and that the cargo is properly secured.

There are three key reasons why you have that responsibility.

First: You are responsible for the condition of the cargo. If it isn't loaded and secured properly, it could be damaged or lost enroute.

Second: You have an obligation to public safety. The law says that you can't operate an overloaded vehicle or one on which the weight of the cargo is unsafely distributed. These state laws are meant to protect state roads and bridges and to protect the public. An overloaded vehicle is hard to handle and dangerous to drive. It takes longer to stop in an emergency which could be fatal. And if the cargo is not properly secured on an open van, it could fall onto the road and be a serious danger to other drivers.

Third: You are responsible for the condition of the vehicle that you drive. Too much cargo weight or poorly distributed weight can damage suspensions, tires, and put a great strain on the transmission.

Proper cargo handling and loading is not only important for the vehicles safe handling, but to the life of its components.

Cargo Securement: Dressed Lumber

The requirements for dressed lumber and similar building materials section apply to certain products when they are transported as bundles on flatbed and open vehicles.

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Cargo Handling Principles

Cargo handling and freight hauling is a complex business today. Different kinds of cargo require different kinds of trailers and different kinds of loading and securing equipment and techniques. You will have to learn those special techniques from the carrier who hires you. For example, if you are hired to haul tankers, you must be trained on the special techniques for loading, inspecting and driving those tankers.

Even though there are as many loading and securing techniques to learn about as there are types of cargo, there are some basic principles that apply to all types of cargo. These principals are discussed briefly below.

Loading Freight On a Trailer

It's your responsibility to see that the cargo you deliver is not damaged. Much of that damage can occur when cargo is loaded onto the trailer. Each type of cargo has its own rules for safe handling and loading. You will have to learn those precautions when you handle different loads such as food, crated items, batteries, rugs, steel piping, cattle and so on. For most of those items, you can usually find a booklet of instructions that will aid you in safe handling and loading, and any conscientious carrier will train you on how to handle the kind of cargo they wants you to deliver. While it is impossible to give you every rule for dealing with all the different kinds of cargo, there are some general rules that you should know. Most of these are a matter of common sense.

Make Sure the Trailer Is Safe Before You Start

Cargo can be damaged by hazards in the trailer itself. Make sure the inside of the cargo carrying space is clean and free from bolts, nails, or metal edges which could damage cargo. And if there are holes in the floor, roof or walls, the cargo could be damaged by water.

Make Sure the Cargo is Packed Correctly

Do not accept wet or leaking cargo or cargo that is improperly packaged. Wet or leaking cargo is already damaged and could damage other cargo. Improperly packaged cargo could damage other cargo or the trailer enroute. Be alert for these conditions or situations:

Problem-Solving Discussion: Seven Situations

Lab Lesson: Techniques for Loading, Securing and Unloading Cargo (This is an optional lesson).

Types of Equipment to Move Cargo

Student Problem-Solving Exercises

Outline of Lab Lessons

Lab Lesson Demonstration of Cargo Securement (This is an optional lesson)

In this lesson you will practice tying down and covering cargo on a loaded trailer. You will start with a trailer that is completely loaded except for one or two pieces of cargo. The class will inspect the load and discuss the distribution of weight. Under the instructor's supervision you will then load the remaining cargo, tie it down and secure the tarpaulin.

Lab Lesson: Observation of Cargo Handling Operation (This is an optional lesson)

This lesson consists of a field trip to a local freight terminal or similar operation to give you a firsthand look at actual cargo handling operations. Among the things you may observe are, shipping papers and their use, loading and unloading of cargo and the operation of cargo handling equipment. Your instructor may elect to omit this lesson if suitable facilities and sufficient time cannot be found to include it.

Cargo Securement

Cargo needs to be secured to prevent shifting or damage. Shifting cargo not only gets damaged, but makes your vehicle dangerous to handle. Federal Motor Carrier Service Regulations 393.100 through 106 gives all the requirements for securing cargo against shifting. You will need to refer to those regulations along with training by your carrier to be able to do a good job. Some of the basic things you should know are listed below.

Blocking is usually pieces of wood or lumber which are placed or nailed to the front or side of cargo to prevent it from shifting. Wheeled items and heavy machinery must be blocked.

Bracing: is the front and side structures used to keep the entire cargo from morn shifting.

Dunnage is material used to protect or support freight. For example, inflatable cargo dunnage made of nylon can be used to fill damage causing space inside a trailer.

Cargo Tie down

Besides being properly blocked and braced and protected by dunnage, cargo needs to be properly secured by ropes, straps or chain. This applies to cargo inside closed trailers as well as cargo on open vans. While cargo on open trailers is obviously secured so it won't fall off, cargo inside a van has to be secured to prevent it from shifting around.


You must know the strength and type of rope before you use it. Never use ordinary rope to tie down a cargo and always inspect rope as it can be affected by moisture and can rot. Rope is used to tie down cotton bales and similar loads and as added tie down for other cargo secured by straps or chains. You have to know how to tie a knot to use rope to secure cargo. A common truckers know is illustrated later in this material.


Straps are made of synthetic material such as nylon, so they are not subject to rotting. Straps are tightened by tensioning devices such as buckles, winches or ratchets. They can be used on a variety of ways from bracing loads in a closed van to tying down heavy loads on an open trailer. They are subject to chafing and must be inspected. Straps are rated by the amount of the Toad they can hold, from 500 to 10,000 pounds. You must make sure that the strap used to secure a load is rated strong enough to carry the load.


Chains are the strongest tie down device and are used to tie down heavy loads such as steel machinery, steel piping and number. Chains should not be used on loads they will damage, such as cardboard cartons or crates. Like straps, chains are rated by strength. And while very strong, you need to check for broken or bent links when you use chain. Also, chains are subject to corrosion and must be covered when not in use.

Chain Binder Safety Tips

Edge Protectors

A piece of rubber between a strap and the sharp edged cargo it is holding down protects the strap. Similarly, a piece of rubber between a chain and cargo it is holding down protects the cargo from damage by the chain.

Cargo Covering

There are two reasons to cover cargo on an open trailer--to protect the cargo from the weather and to protect the public from falling cargo. Steel and other metal cargo is highly corrosive and if it is not covered, it will be ruined by wet weather. If you are the driver who makes that mistakes you are the one who takes the heat.

There is a wide variety of lightweight special tarps to prevent different cargos. You need to make sure you use the right kind of tarp. For examples special tarps are used for steel hauling and for covering other machinery that is easily corrected.

There are some basic things you should know about cargo covering and using tarps.

You are responsible for covering the cargo.

Inspect the covering before you use it. A ripped or leaking tarp offers little protection.

Put the tarp on securely

Using Cargo Handling Equipment

Cargo is handled by hand or with mechanical equipment. The first rule in cargo handling is-- do not handle the cargo roughly, you can be out of a job really quick if you get in the habit of carelessly dropping or damaging cargo. It costs your boss a lot of money when cargo is lost or damaged.

Handling cargo means using cargo handling equipment. You have to know what equipment to use and how to use it safely. Again, this often means getting more training before you attempt to use any equipment. We've listed some of the basic equipment below followed by a few tips for handling hand trucks, forklifts and pallet jacks safely.

Safety Tips for Cargo Handling Equipment

Those tools are put at your disposal to make your job easier and safer, and they will certainly do this if used correctly.

Two-wheel hand truck

Get trucks square with object to be loaded.

Rock object slightly forward and slip lip of trucks under. (DO NOT put lip all the way under for then you cannot get object balanced on trucks.)

Block bottom of trucks by putting foot on wheel or axle, whichever is most comfortable. (DO NOT let wheel roll and twist ankle.)

Grasp top of object with one hand and pull back on handle of truck with the other, at the same time push bottom of trucks away from you with foot. AVOID JERKY MOTIONS.

Balance the load on the wheels and roll truck by pushing--DO NOT PULL.

To unload, hold top of load and straighten wheelers easy, allow load to roll slightly forward, and pull wheelers.

Barrel trucks

Put the lips against bottom of drum and with wheelers pushed forward put hook securely over lip of drum.

Place foot on the bracket just above the middle of the axle and holding bottom of wheelers pull back slowly until barrel is balanced over the axle.

To unload, set wheelers and barrel up and push against handles of wheelers.

This will force lips out from under drum.

Level Dolly (Johnson Bar)

Pipe rollers


Use the same principle here as on the lever dolly.

To make the handling of barrels easy and safe, you have been furnished with barrel wheelers which we have discussed previously, but which we shall discuss again today.

You can grasp the lip of the drum nearest you, block the bottom of the drum with your foot, then pull slowly (don't jerk) and when you get started good you can twist it so that it will roll off.

Using Forklifts or Other Mechanical Equipment

Student Driver Training Toolbox


The course below is from the catalog. View the other courses in the online library.

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