Within the road transport supply chain, load restraint is often an under-appreciated, if not ignored, area of Chain of Responsibility (CoR). Every year, Australians are injured and killed in crashes caused by unrestrained loads. Therefore, it is vital that all parties in the supply chain have policies and procedures in place to ensure that loads are properly restrained. In this article, we discuss the key principles regarding load restraint across the industry and also where can you find more information about load restraint practices to help you comply with your CoR obligations.
Why is load restraint important?
The Load Restraint Guide (the Guide), published by the National Transport Commission (NTC), provides various parties in the supply chain, including drivers, with basic safety principles that should be followed for the safe carriage of loads on heavy vehicles.
Accidents relating to load restraint usually occur when:
- objects fall from vehicles onto other vehicles or pedestrians;
- drivers are forced to swerve to avoid these objects; and
- spillage on roads from lost loads causes vehicles to skid and lose control.
In addition, improperly restrained loads can cause vehicle instability, which can result in rollovers.
What are the basic requirements?
The load restraint standards under the Guide require that:
- a load on a vehicle must not be placed in a way that makes the vehicle unstable or unsafe;
- a load on a vehicle must be secured so that it is unlikely to fall or be dislodged from the vehicle; and
- an appropriate method must be used to restrain the load on a vehicle.
The Guide also provides that loads that are permitted to move relative to the vehicle include loads that are effectively contained within the sides or enclosure of the vehicle's body, such as:
- loads that are restrained from moving horizontally (limited vertical movement is permissible);
- lightweight objects (i.e. goods that are light enough for an individual to carry) or loose bulk loads; or
- bulk liquids (limited liquid movement is permissible).
For parties that regularly use multi-modal transport for the delivery of goods, the guidelines contained in the IMO/ILO/UNECE Code of Practice for Packing of Cargo Transport Units (CTU Code) are a useful starting point for evaluating load restraint procedures.
It is widely understood that many incidents have been caused by deficient practices in the packing of cargo transport units. This includes:
- inadequate securing of cargo;
- overloading; and
- incorrect declaration of the weight of contents.
The problem with poor packing practices is that third parties, who often have no influence over the packing procedures, are often the most affected.
The CTU Code provides comprehensive information and references on all aspects of loading and securing cargo in containers and other intermodal transport units. The CTU Code focuses on the transportation of goods by land and sea, and applies to transport operations throughout the entire intermodal transport chain.
It also provides guidance on issues relating to the completion of packing and the receipt and unpacking of CTUs. It is widely acknowledged that the CTU Code could also be used as a reference base for national regulations, and could become a model for internationally harmonised legislation in this field, should such requirements arise. A copy of the CTU Code can be found here.
Industry sector Load Restraint Guide
Parties should look no further than the Gypsum Board Manufacturers of Australasia (GBMA) National Load Restraint Guide, titled Move it – The GBMA Way, as an example of how to present load restraint information in a practical and easily digestible format.
The guide identifies the purpose of load restraint and the safety challenges related to load restraint among companies that transport and distribute plasterboard on behalf of all the member companies.
A copy of the GBMA National Load Restraint Guide can be found here.
Load restraint in New Zealand – A comparison
In identifying key issues for load restraint, there is some value in looking at the policies and guidelines adopted in New Zealand. New Zealand's approach to CoR is particularly relevant given it has a high incidence of rollover and loss-of-control crashes for distance travelled compared with other countries, such as the US and Canada.
Combined with the fact that the country has more bridges, corners and hills per 100 km of road, load restraint is obviously a key concern. Similar to Australia, the New Zealand Transport Agency has stressed that the first priority with any load is to keep within the maximum legal weight limits and vehicle dimensions.
A copy of a useful guide examining heavy combination vehicle stability and dynamics can be found here.
Update to NTC Load Restraint Guide
The NTC is currently updating the Load Restraint Guide.
It is expected that the relevant ministers will consider the recommendations put forward by the NTC at their end-of-year meeting in 2016 and an amendment package will be released to the Guide in 2017. Until then, the resources mentioned above can be used to provide valuable guidance on load restraint principles and measures.
This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed.