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How to Secure Load on Flatbed

If you are responsible for transporting a load of any kind on the public highway, you need to ensure that you secure it properly. After all, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that there were more than 200,000 crashes over a three-year period due to debris that may have fallen from a flatbed trailer or other vehicle.

Most people understand the need to secure such a load, and they have a rough idea of how to do so. Still, there is a lot to consider, and it may be necessary to make some calculations before you set off on any journey.

How to Secure a Flatbed Load Through Careful Calculation

To begin with, always be aware of your facts and figures. If you are hauling a load on a commercial basis, you will probably have a bill of lading from the shipper, and this will need to have accurate weights and dimensions. You need to refer to these figures individually and collectively to make sure you secure the load with the most appropriate equipment.

Start off by calculating the working load limit for your flatbed trailer, so you can deduct the weight of the trailer and determine your maximum load capacity. You will then need to figure out your tiedown equipment’s capability – the chains or straps and any fastening rings. Here, you need to know the working load limit for the equipment as well, so you can do some additional calculations. Broadly speaking, you need to make sure that the chains, straps, or rings that you use will, in combination, have a working load limit that is greater than the working load limit of whatever you are carrying.

Of course, transportable goods or equipment can come in all shapes and sizes. You may need to secure a motorcycle or car on one trip or have to secure a shipping container on another. Each one of these tasks may require a different approach. In the case of a container, somebody else has done most of the calculations for you. After all, engineers have designed each container to fit easily onto a conventional flatbed trailer using special locking mechanisms.

How to Secure Loads on Flatbed Trailers: Different Categories

How to Secure a Shipping Container

While it is possible to secure a relatively small load to the back of a flatbed using conventional methods, some types of load are simply too large for straps or chains. So, in the case of a shipping container, you should use a standardized industry approach with twist locks.

Across the world, most companies use twist locks that conform to the International Standards Organization (ISO) rules. They are relatively simple to activate. So long as you take your time, you can be sure that your container will remain in place.

Each twist lock has two separate parts – the female and male connectors. These locks will retain their integrity even in the event of a sizeable accident. And, once engaged, they will be far more effective than a chain or a strap.

There are different types of twist locks. The base of the lock is typically bolted to the surface of the flatbed before you introduce the container. Holes in the underside of the container will then slot on top of the “male” part of the mechanism. You should then shift the lever into the locking position.

You can also find a different type of twist lock if you need to stack one container on top of the other. If you intend to ship many containers using your flatbed, you can buy a modified lock mechanism that, once installed, sits flush with the surface. This will make it easy to load and unload. You can use additional twist lock connectors to secure two containers side-by-side or nose to tail.

When you inspect the underside of a container, you will see how well it has been designed. You will find various slot holes in the corner of each container, and these may face in different directions. Some sections have overpins to help with centering, but all are designed to accurately position the container on your flatbed trailer.

How to Secure a Car

The best way to secure a car on a flatbed trailer is to use ratchet straps. These are also known as tiedown straps and are made from flexible and durable material, designed to cope with a considerable amount of strain. Usually, they will be made from polyester, nylon, leather, or coated polymers, and they will have a set of hooks at each end. A cleverly designed ratcheting mechanism will allow you to tighten the straps once the car is in place.

You need to become familiar with every set of ratchet straps that you use. Each set will have a label, showing you its working load limit and break strength. You can then calculate the maximum load for each ratchet strap before you start your work.

When you want to secure a car to your flatbed trailer, use specially designed wheel or axle straps. In this case, you will “lasso” the strap around the tire, pulling downwards so that the strap is securely in place. You will then thread one end of the strap through the ratchet mechanism, before cranking the handle several times to take up the slack. The other end of the strap should then be attached to the D-ring on the flatbed. You can then tighten the straps using the ratchet mechanism. When you have done this properly, the strap should squeeze into the side of each tire to a degree. Always make sure that the strap is otherwise free and does not come into contact with the body of the car itself.

If you need to use an axle strap for a larger vehicle, attach this to the rear axle on one side of the differential casing. Once again, connect the other end to the D-ring before tightening. Then, repeat the process on the opposite side of the differential casing and tie this particular strap down to the D-ring on the other side of the trailer.

You will need to take care when you attach and tighten the straps. Otherwise, they may encounter brake fluid lines, cables, and other mechanical parts. You should always stop to check (and potentially adjust) your straps after driving for 10 or 15 minutes, as it is not unusual for the straps to stretch when you first take to the road.

How to Secure a Motorcycle

When you first load the motorcycle onto the flatbed, you should keep it in the middle and as far to the front as possible. Again, use ratchet tiedowns here. But you will need to be careful to do this properly as the bike is, of course, quite top-heavy.

Make sure that the bike is standing as upright as possible with its weight evenly distributed. Choose your tiedown points carefully and remember that some bike parts are not suitable and could break when under pressure. In most cases, you can choose to tie down the bike with a four-point approach. But if the machine is larger or heavier, you can choose up to eight.

When you use a four-point tiedown, ensure you attach two straps to the front and two to the rear, with a 45° angle to a D-ring on each corner of the trailer. This will maximize the load distribution and should always keep the bike upright.

Once you have attached the straps and tightened using the ratchet mechanism, ensure the bike is held firmly but with a small degree of slack. You will find that this will compress the suspension forks to a degree. Here, you need to find the sweet spot where the machine is secure, but you avoid a phenomenon known as “shock loading.” This situation can occur if the vehicle hits an undulation in the road, causing the bike suspension to compress. If it is not correctly loaded when you tie down, it will both compress and release a lot more. Eventually, this could cause the straps to work loose during a long journey, and, in the worst-case scenario, they might even break. As you work, always ensure that you avoid damage to brake rotors, lines, or cables when you attach and tighten each strap.

How to Secure a Forklift Truck

If you need to transport a forklift truck to a remote worksite, it is best to load the machine backward, with the weight towards the front of the trailer from a stability and performance point of view. After all, most of the weight is found in the counterbalance that swivels behind the driver’s seat during operation. You will also push the center of gravity towards the front of the trailer (and consequently the middle of the rig) during transportation.

This type of configuration is a lot safer as the forks will now point towards the rear. In the event of an accident, there is less danger of the machine moving forward and the forks penetrating the driver’s cab.

Place the machine in the center of the flatbed trailer and ensure that the tines are in the recessed position and tilted forward. You need to disconnect the fuel feed and battery terminal to be as safe as possible.

Most experts advise you to place wooden chucks behind each wheel of the forklift. You should then fasten these blocks in place to the trailer’s base using anchoring points or bolts.

Secure the nylon straps or chains at each corner of the machine using the anchor points designed for the purpose. Attach the other ends of each strap or chain to the D-ring on each corner of the flatbed trailer. Ensure that you ratchet any straps carefully. And, always make sure that the straps in question are meant for this type and category of load.

If your flatbed trailer is not connected to the tractor or towing vehicle, you will need to place a nose jack underneath the front of the trailer before you begin work. Otherwise, there is a danger that the entire trailer will tip forward as the counterbalance is by far the heaviest part of the machine.

Getting in Touch with Logity Dispatch

After you have learned how to secure load on flatbed trailers, get in touch with us at Logity Dispatch. It is our job to help drivers ensure they get the highest-paying loads possible every day. To do this, we work with shippers and brokers to negotiate all the details and get you the best rate so that you can transport the best freight at the highest price. 

Remember, our motto is simple: drive, deliver, earn, and we’ll do all the rest for you. So for further information, reach us at (302) 425 9299 or email info@logitydispatch.com.