Loss Prevention Guide to Motor Truck Cargo
In the United States, everything we use and consume has, at one point, most likely been transported across the country via a truck. An estimated 15.5 million trucks operate in the U.S., accounting for a significant amount of jobs. A truck’s cargo can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on what’s being transported. Countless industries depend on trucks; in fact, the U.S. economy relies on trucks to deliver 70% of all freight annually, accounting for $671 billion worth of manufactured retail goods.
Each day, cargo being transported via truck is at risk from collision, accidents, theft, water damage, poor packing, contamination, spoilage, vandalism, and unpredictable weather conditions, just to name a few. Any risks posed to everyday automobiles needs to be considered. It is essential that truckers protect themselves from potential liability for losses or damages that could amount to staggering financial penalties. Mitigating or minimizing your liability is possible with motor truck cargo insurance.
A major part of loss prevention is ensuring that the cargo is prepared for transit. Drivers should be trained in handling the particular cargo they are tasked with transporting. They should have at least a basic understanding of common transit issues and adequate protective packaging for the commodities they haul, as once cargo is accepted by the driver, it becomes their responsibility.
No matter what is being transported, it is crucial that it be secured. Before loading, the driver needs to ensure that the cargo compartment is in optimal condition. It should be clean, damage-free, structurally sound, and free of any odors or contaminants. Custom-load base pallets, braces, lock bars, void fillers, and Ty-Gard should be inspected before any cargo is loaded. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation maintains rules and regulations for securing materials before transport. These rules are based on the North American Cargo Securement Standard Model Regulations, which require that securement systems be capable of withstanding forces associated with various levels of acceleration and deceleration.
Truckers and Personnel
In order to be eligible for comprehensive motor truck cargo insurance, drivers need to be reliable and responsible. Truckers are tasked with handling and thousands of dollars-worth of materials and need to be fit for the task. Driver qualifications include:
- A valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
- A copy of the driver’s Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) for both personal and commercial automobiles
- A current physical examination which includes drug and alcohol screening results
- The results of a written test
- The results of a road test
A commercial driver’s license can be obtained by passing a skill and knowledge test. This licensing is imperative for drivers who operate trucks with tanks, double and triple trailers, passenger vehicles, or those carrying hazardous materials. In order to ensure that a driver is capable of safely transporting valuable cargo across long distances, extensive training is necessary. The FMCSA requires a specific amount of service hours to be completed for a driver to transport cargo.
To optimize loss prevention strategy, it is important that vehicles are inspected pre- and post-trip each time they are used to transport cargo. Inspections should cover the following:
- Air lines
- Fifth wheel
- Fuel tanks
- Lights (head, tail, dash, stop and turn indicators)
- Safety equipment (fire extinguishers, flags, flares, etc.)
- Windshield wipers
When it comes to ability to perform effectively, mileage, age, and condition of the truck must be taken into account. The better shape the truck is in, the less likely it is there will be auto issues that may jeopardize cargo. Ensuring that any truck being used to transport cargo of any kind is in the best possible condition is an essential part of avoiding losses and damages. Generally, tractors should be replaced every 3 years or 600,000 miles, while air-ride and other specifically equipped trailers average every 4 years. Vehicles should receive regular maintenance in order to increase longevity.
The following guidelines should be consulted when preparing cargo for motor truck shipping:
- Pre-loading conveyance check – Ensure there are no holes in the roof, walls, door or floor of the cargo compartment and that there is no standing water, nails, or splintered boards. Check for bent, twisted or broken corner posts, sills, and lashing points
- Cargo check – Do not load damaged, wet, or incompatible cargo. Do not load cargo laying flat or with sharp corners positioned so they might puncture adjacent objects. Count units before loading.
- Loading and stowing – Make sure to maintain the moisture content of wood cargo, as well as blocking and bracing materials. Consider unloading procedures when packing. Balance the weight of the load from front to back and side to side. Lighter cargo should be stored on top of heavy cargo.
- Securing – The cargo should be braced and blocked to avoid toppling or shifting. Blocking and bracing materials should be secured so that they cannot become dislodged during transit and do not need to restrain heavy loads. Doors should be protected against shifting cargo with load lock bars.
- In-transit – Cargo and securing devices need to be inspected before departures and within 25 miles of the starting point, as well as when the load has traveled 3 hours or 150 miles.
Accidents are a part of driving that can’t always be avoided. While you, as a truck driver, can take all of the necessary precautions, practice responsible driving and participate in training, it is impossible to avoid the risk of accidents all together. Everyone makes mistakes, and another driver could cause an accident at any time. All truckers should be knowledgeable and trained as to the proper procedures for dealing with and reporting accidents, including:
- Marking off the scene with flares
- Making calls to dispatchers and emergency personnel
- Securing the cargo and mitigating losses/damage as much as safely possible
- Contacting shippers/cargo owners for instructions
- Monitoring clean-up and salvage
- Requesting a copy of the police report
It is important that the driver knows not to asses blame and assume responsibility for an accident, and that under no circumstances should they abandon the cargo.
If you are looking for motor truck cargo insurance to protect yourself or your freight-transporting employees, contact OspreyWatch, powered by Osprey Underwriters. Our insurance professionals can connect you with the motor truck cargo insurance products you need to protect yourself against losses and damages that are beyond your control. Fill out our quick form to request a quote today.