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Friday, March 19, 2010

CARGO TRANSPORTATION – THE NEED FOR SAFETY AND PROPER PLANNING.

Recently a friend who is in the Survey field shared some photographs of a gory accident - sad one at that - but was that really an accident is what triggers thought process. Safety is everybody’s concern and no body wants an accident to happen. But despite best of precautions and safe driving accidents do happen and perhaps that is the time when Insurer is required to step in.


By definition, accident is unexpected, unusual, unintended, sudden external action which occurs without apparent or deliberate cause and generally has negative outcome which may have been avoided or prevented had circumstances lading up to the same been recognised and acted upon, prior to its occurrence. Road accidents are common and so many valuable human lives are lost. A number of factors contribute to the risk of collision which include the vehicle design, speed of operation, road design, driver impairment and something more……………. A high percentage of accidents do occur due to sheer negligence, or laxity or utter callousness – this article is more about this article.
Time and again I have highlighted the indifferent attitude and impudence of drivers talking on cell phone whilst driving. Have you heard of ‘return lorry syndrome? Before we proceed, the one above is an interesting photo of a goods transport truck that fell into a six meter deep hole in a street in downtown Badajoz, western Spain, recently. The 28 ton truck had to be lifted by three cranes after falling into the hole created by a leak on the city's main sewer. Sounds that roads in advanced countries could also have potholes and poor maintenance.


See these photos – iron rods and pipes being transported from one place to other by truck, presumably for some project. Can you smell anything?


More often than not, the cargo owner wants the goods to be moved. The cargo could be costly but not much is planned or thought of about the way it is to be transported. Just find a lorry perhaps someone returning after delivering cargo, for a cheap cost; put them on the truck, the illiterate lorry driver would take care of everything on the way.


Quite unfortunately, this truck did not reach the destination. Human lives were lost when the driver tried to avoid a stray animal (something commonly encountered in highways). No other vehicle was involved The driver applied brakes at a considerable speed, the loose lying cargo, flew piercing the cabin and killing the driver and the other occupant. Quite inconceivably, the pipes were not even secured using conventional ropes – fibre, wire, composite, jute or synthetic ones.




A grim tale of how lack of any safety precaution paved way for an accident ! Was it really an accident ? Could it not have been avoided by proper planning ? Who is to be blamed ? - the cargo owner, the contractor, the carrier, the lorry driver, the roads, lack of regulations, or the laxity of administration in allowing such things to happen. Will anybody learn from such mistakes? Unfortunately, the answer would be a striking NO.



There are some basic aspects of transporting cargo. Pipes are not to be carried loose lying. There are aspects of weight management, stowing and securing the cargo. These are mandatory in ships and are to be adhered to in trucks also. Any cargo needs to be packed and secured within the unit to prevent throughout the voyage, shifting, movement or falling to prevent hazards not only to cargo and carrying vessel but to other road users as well. Appropriate precautions are to be taken during loading and transporting. Cargo should be lashed and secured. In advanced countries there are manuals created after great research in load securing, lashing and handling.

The objects loaded must be fundamentally safe and secure and should not be able to move as a result of jolts or vibrations that can be expected under normal operating conditions. The possibility of longitudinal movement is permitted insofar as the magnitude of this movement is limited by the use of appropriate means and there is no risk posed to safety. Truckers must avoid stacking loads too high or with uneven or improper weight distribution. Failure will only result in an uneven load or load shifting, which can cause the truck to rollover, leading to accidents.

Unsecured cargo is potential ammunition of hazard to all road users and stringent regulations needs to be in place. Inspection by a qualified authority (surveyors have a great role here) on loads should be made mandatory. The expenses incurred are towards safety – for all concerned. The trucker need to inspect the security of the load frequently at regular intervals say every 200 kms and observations logged properly.

There are simple methods of containing, immobilising, securing the load so that it would not move / shift upon or within the vehicle. Movements could adversely impact the vehicle’s stability or manoeuvrability. Some of the simple things to be adopted could be: strapping by tensioned strips of material, clamping them, tying down on anchor points, putting dunnage, contour bunks and blocking materials either by nailing or fastening. The carrier and driver besides the consignor and receiver must be aware of the environmental and physical hazards relating to such transport.


Any measure taken just for the sake of complying with any regulation (if at all there are some) would never have the intended safety effect. It does not require great engineering brain to understand that upon deceleration or sudden breaking, unsecured pipes tend to shoot forward, crash through the trailer head board and driver’s cabin before finally embedding themselves on the ground in front or elsewhere!!


Before the journey begins, the possibility of placing them side by side or cantline and securing them sensibility should be studied. This is certainly left to the experts. There are techniques of forward securing countering the friction and distribute the pressure. Use of hooks, long link chains, tie-down lashings, belts, steel wires etc., are to be used appropriately. In movement, there will always be forces which would apply on the belts holding the cargo (pipes). Further they are to be secured against sideways movement assisted by wooden guide rails. It has to be ensured that the load movement does cause exceeding the permissible axle loads. Regardless of the mass, the goods could slide and that needs to be blocked.


There is accepted practice of rigid loading and individually securing the load. Popularly, wooden wedges and squared lumber are used so also are planks which are to be nailed.



If you plan all these properly and transportation takes place in a planned manner and if there is any unforeseen mishap, that could be termed as an accident but not when there is invitation to disaster – it is only a recipe for disaster and road to harrowing experience.


With regards – S Sampathkumar.

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