Transporting large cargo and
construction equipment in a safe and legal manner is no easy undertaking. A set loading, hauling, and unloading routine is not only a best practice — it’s the only practice when dealing with some of the most colossal pieces of machinery ever produced by humankind. For carrying construction equipment safely, we recommend following these rules.
PREPARE TRANSPORTABLE CONSTRUCTION EQUIPMENT
The importance of preparation cannot be overstated. When nearly half of all injuries occur while loading and unloading
heavy equipment, precautions must be taken from the start to avoid liability and construction accidents. Let’s have a look at how to properly prepare heavy equipment for shipping.
1. Conduct a risk assessment that is documented. Construction companies are responsible for dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s when it comes to heavy equipment liability. Risk assessments are preventative compliance documentation that shows how thorough and precise your fleet management systems are. Consider including one in your equipment transportation planning. They can be completed by senior management or supervisor and include the entire operation and transportation timeline, as well as project risks and what has been done to address them. 2. Provide PPE to Sites We can’t emphasize it enough: safety is the industry’s backbone. It is a safety standard across all construction operations, not only while preparing for safe and legal transit of large material, to have your workforce wear a full set of personal protective equipment. It’s also something that’s frequently disregarded, with many sites using shortcuts in order to rapidly chain up a trailer and move on to the next activity. Documenting personal protective equipment is also a risk-mitigation approach. You’ll have a stronger risk assessment and permit application if you include all of the safety measures that you and your crew follow in addition to the standard heavy equipment tie-down standards. 3. Examine Your Truck or Trailer’s Hauling Capabilities When preparing for heavy equipment transfer, the next step is to inspect the items that will be conducting the actual transporting. The following items should be included in a full trailer or truck inspection: • Tires: Examine the condition of your trailer and truck tires, paying special attention to tire pressure. Tire air pressure is depleted by multi-ton machinery, and any that are already low will deflate quickly. • Lights: The front and brake lights should work flawlessly. • Brakes: Your enormous load impacts your vehicle’s stopping performance in the same way as tires do. Ascertain that all braking functions and components are in good working order. • Points of Convergence: Check the needed point number, securement condition, and spacing of your load. For weights weighing more than 10,000 pounds, most states require at least four tie-down points, each with its own binder or boomer and independent chains connected to trailer hitch points. These boomers are in charge of providing the tension needed to tighten the actual chain connection, thus they should be inspected as well. • Weight: Make sure your tie-down working load restrictions sum up to at least half your load’s weight. While most states require four tie-down points, and most businesses comply, some heavy equipment requires even more. Any machine having attachments or appendages must disengage and secure the attachments independently, requiring a minimum of five tie-down points. When hauling excavators, for example, this is a good example.
HOW TO SAFELY LOAD HEAVY EQUIPMENT The strength of a load is determined by its weakest link. And those weak links frequently arise not because a basic heavy equipment loading method was not followed, but rather because it was — although in a hurried, halfhearted, or passive manner. Driving a new dozer up the ramp, looping in a few chains, and sending it on its way is not the only method to load heavy equipment safely. We’ve got a few extra things to think about to make sure you’re transporting large stuff safely and lawfully. For safe loading procedures, refer to these safety precautions. 1. Assign responsibilities Before the actual loading begins, the team should have a firm grasp on who is in charge of what. You’ll need someone to drive the equipment onto the deck, as well as a spotter to give hand signals and guide the driver up the ramp and onto the trailer bed. It’s unlikely that they’ll have a clear line of sight to do so. Furthermore, if a loading process is scheduled, the remainder of the crew should be alerted. Loading operations should not be interrupted by wandering people or other vehicles, as it is typically risky to stop them once they have begun. 2. Clean the Trailer and Ramp Ramps and trailer decks should be free of dirt, oil, and debris, especially if they are made of metal. This provides as much traction as possible for the loading equipment to travel up its ramp. A dry ramp and trailer bed imply one that is free of ice, snow, and water. Consider using ramp friction devices during this phase if you’re still worried about equipment moving up ramps smoothly. 3. Make the loading area clear and level. Set up the ramp and undertake heavy equipment loading in an unoccupied and level area. Again, this seems obvious, yet in the midst of a hectic workday or during peak yard hours, such precautions can be overlooked. You should also check that the ground in the loading area is compact enough to support the full weight of your loaded trailer. The combined weight of these two cars has the potential to produce sinkage after rain or during thaw seasons. 4. Begin lining up the machines and ramps. The key is to take it slowly and steadily. Begin driving the heavy equipment up the cleared ramp and onto the deck of the transportation vehicle with the driver in the cab and a spotter in plain sight. The machine’s center of gravity will vary throughout this ramp movement. The equipment’s weight is stuck in a state of limbo at this time, making it the most perilous stage of the loading procedure. Simply keep moving forward. Also, keep in mind that the majority of the equipment’s weight should be placed toward the front of the trailer when properly positioned at final rest on deck. This prevents fishtailing while on the road. 5. Begin securing heavy equipment using chains. Check your state’s legislation to see how heavy equipment must be secured when traveling on public highways. While the 4–5 tie-down locations are almost universal, each state has its own set of excessive cargo limits and rules. Once the heavy equipment is safely positioned on the deck, you may begin tying it down, which is one of the most important tasks in the loading and unloading process.
When it comes to chaining down, there are three major concerns 1. Tight, Secure Chains: Your chain should have no wiggle space or movement. While on the move, the equipment cannot shift or bounce. 2. Appropriately Located Tie-Down Points: Most machine manufacturers designate the necessary tie-down points for you to follow. However, if these fall near a machine’s cylinders, hydraulic lines, or braking components, take extra precautions. Tying down heavy equipment at strategic locations saves damage and creates the tightest, most compliant linkages possible. 3. Adequately Matched Chain and Hook Binder Grades: Every 4–5 chain links, a number carved into the metal can be found. Compare that number to the one printed on the boomer handle to ensure they’re in the same place. The sum of all your tie-down components’ working load limits must equal at least 50% of the cargo’s weight. Always check that the chain’s grade and working load limit do not exceed the manufacturers’ specified limits. Here are a few more reminders on how to properly chain down an excavator, loader, and other machines: • All chains must be fastened horizontally, with no horizontal twists, bends, or angles. • There will be no slack. To keep the link from coming free, wrap the excess chain around the rest of the link. • A minimum of four chains are in use. Connect two to the front corners of the trailer and two to the back corners of the trailer. The equipment should be held in place by the tension created by these opposing pressures. Always double-check the chain and hook sizes. You must ensure that they are complementary and well-matched, rather than mismatched. HOW TO SAFELY TRANSPORT HEAVY EQUIPMENT Heavy vehicles and cargo transit are causing an increase in vehicle accidents. This just emphasizes the importance of not only following good loading and unloading procedures in the yard but also hauling equipment safely when on the road. We’ve devised a few plans. 1. Plan ahead of time the most linear transportation route. We’ve all heard horror stories of trucks that are too tall to pass under an overpass and seen recordings of them doing so. A pre-planned transportation route, as well as an actual on-the-road run-through, guarantees that nightmares like these do not occur. For the safest heavy freight movement, keep an eye out for road widths and bridge analysis, especially in remote locations. The fewer bridges, turns, starts, stops, and tough terrain the motorist encounters, the better. 2. Submit an application for a transportation permit This is especially crucial if your load is considered excessive or overwidth, which most heavy construction equipment is. Heavy equipment responsibility extends to cranes, excavators, dump trucks, graders, dozers, and scrapers, to name a few. Prepare properly, whether it’s through deconstructing transportation plans that prevent overwidth or overweight designations, or by asking for the appropriate state permission right now. 3. Immobilize Wheel Components on Equipment It takes a little longer, but the added security is well worth it. Use the parking brake on the vehicle. Consider securing equipment wheels with wedges, chocks, or cradles to keep them in place and prevent them from rolling on deck. They’ll also help you defend against the weight-distribution pressures that occur naturally during transportation: • Forward Force: When braking during transport, 80 percent of the vehicle’s weight is applied. • Rearward Force: When accelerating, shifting gears, or reversing, 50 percent of the vehicle’s weight is applied • Upward Force: Up to 20% of the vehicle’s weight is applied when driving uphill or over bumpy terrain • Sideways Force: 50 percent of the vehicle’s weight is applied when turning, lane changing, or braking while turning This is also a good opportunity to double-check any additional machine-specific loading and transportation conditions listed on a spec sheet or in the manufacturer’s directions. 4. Install signs and flashing lights on transport vehicles. On the road, oversize loads are identified with appropriate banners, signage, and lighting. In the most extreme instances, you may be forced to have escort vehicles — one directing your transportation truck and the other trailing behind, alerting other drivers on the road to the technical operation. It’s also worth noting that proper communication between transport and escort vehicles does not require the use of a cell phone. For safe communication between drivers, two-way or CB radios are the industry standard. 5. Conduct complaint inspections while on the road and document them. Once you turn on the engine, the safe and legal transportation of large freight continues. Heavy load securement necessitates on-the-road check-ins and inspections, especially when traveling long distances.