Trucks carrying heavy loads often pose significant dangers for truck drivers and the people who travel with them. As many as 3,702 or 12% of the fatal accidents in the year 2012 were due to the involvement of at least one heavy truck. Of the 5,584 nonfatal accidents in the same year, 6.6% involved at least one heavy truck. The estimated cost incurred on account of heavy truck crashes in 2012 was a whopping $99 billion. It is not surprising to know that truck-related work is rated as one of America’s most dangerous profession.
Anything that involves safety in this industry like custom canopies for railcars & trucks is a timely undertaking. These canopies help achieve safer truck loading operations. Let us look at the role that this plays in ensuring that in some detail.
Purpose of a Canopy for Truck
Every time a delivery truck gets into a docking position, it receives protection from the elements in the shape of a truck canopy that protects a dock leveler from falling rain or snow. Typically, a canopy of this kind is constructed with solid wood or metal and extends in an outward direction from a facility wall for about 6 to 12 feet at a downward sloping angle. The purpose of the canopy is to divert rainwater seeping in through any gap that might exist between the top of the delivery truck and the wall of the building flowing to the dock-lever, thereby preventing water from collecting on the surface. This considerably enhances dock safety because the trucks get to move on a surface that is free of standing water.
Some of the best truck loading canopies in the business are supplied by SafeRack. Their range of canopy for truck loading and shelters protects both workers and gear from the elements.
How Canopies for Truck Ensure Safety
Truck safety shelters and canopies more than pay back the money invested in installing them in terms of the protection they provide to men and materials from bad weather. Depending upon the type of canopies that one gets installed one can get years and years of protection from inclement weather. This is especially true of the heavy-duty corrugated metal-built canopies. Besides, canopies for trucks help diminish product contamination during the loading and unloading process, notwithstanding the prevailing weather conditions. They do so by keeping dust, snow, sleet, hail, and even wind away from both goods and the people handling them.
Trucking companies are committed to delivering their clients’ goods safely and on time. Rain and snow can play a spoilsport in achieving this end if loading and unloading are done without recourse to the protection provided by canopies for trucks. Because some of these canopies can withstand even very high-speed winds with ease and keep the docking areas clean and dry even when it is raining or snowing means that trucks can go about their business of loading and unloading their precious cargo without worrying about spoilage of goods or any kind of injury caused to operators.
Hazards Faced During Loading and Unloading of Trucks
Loading and unloading of goods may seem like a straightforward activity to most people but is fraught with danger. The danger to drivers and other staff exist both at the time of loading at the beginning of a journey and at the time of unloading at the destination.
- There are clear danger zones that one has to operate carefully within while managing a loading or unloading operation. These are determined by the size of the cargo being handled and how the loading or unloading is being carried out.
- People sometimes keep their back towards the loading and unloading process and that is just not sensible, while one is stationed in the danger zone. One should be aware of one’s escape route in case things go wrong.
- If loads are not secured properly to the truck before their transportation they may shift place during the journey. It is imperative to use things like load bars, load straps, and vertical bars to ensure that goods arrive in the same fashion in which they were loaded.
- The way to unload any consignment has to be decided based on the type of consignment being loaded. You cannot unload bales of cotton the same way that you would be unloading steel.
- Workers who are on foot would do well to steer clear of the opposite side of a truck. This is because one can never be sure if a part of the consignment does not break loose and fall during unloading.
- Any securing of load that one might be doing has to be from the ground instead of climbing on to the trailer. In case doing the latter is essential, one should use the three-point system of climbing and descent.
- Fastening materials such as straps and chains should always be in good condition. One should never use something that can break and cause a mishap.
- Pulling or tugging at a trap that has got caught in the load is not to be done under any circumstances as it can make the strap buckle to strike the person doing so in the face.
- Items that are likely to roll need to be constrained with the help of wedges, chocks, cradles, etc. to prevent any mishaps at the time of loading and unloading.
- The use of cell phones while carrying out loading and unloading is to strictly not be allowed. These can be a major source of distraction and endanger the safety of everybody working in the danger zone.
- The process of tarping too needs to be carried out systematically to prevent any mishaps. A ladder should be used to reach the top of the load and the help of tarping stations and forklifts should be taken to reach the tarps to the top of the load. Finally, the tarps always have to be rolled forward and not backward.
Regulations for Truck/Trailer Loading and Unloading
The rules and regulations about trucks and trailers about loading and unloading are very explicit and exhaustive. The following two issues are considered a top priority:
- Binding Chains- These are used by truckers to secure loads by tying them down. This helps them both keep the load and the people handling them safe as well as comply with regulations. While choosing the right kind of chains one has to check for its “grade” Grade 7 chains are very popular with truckers despite their high price on account of their solid quality of the build. Grade 8 and Grade 10 chains, on the other hand, are preferred for their ability to lift heavy loads.
The other important factor that determines the choice of safety chains is their purported “safety factor.” That is determined by considering a fraction of the maximum load the chain can support before breaking. A chain that can support no more than a thousand pounds before it breaks and possessing a safety factor of 4 would support a working load limit of 250 pounds (one-fourth of a thousand). Truckers are mandated to use chains that support a working load limit equal to 50% of the weight of the load. Extrapolating this for the above example a chain with a working load limit of 250 pounds would be good for load weighing 500 pounds.
- Tie Downs – Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) mandate that there has to be a tie-down corresponding to every 10 feet of general cargo and every 8 feet of metal cargo. The tie-downs must be sufficient in number to enable their combined working load limit to reach half that of the cargo being secured. A minimum of two tie-downs must be used when securing metal articles. One may use ratchet or lock binders as tie-downs depending upon one’s choice and discretion.
Types of Canopies for Trucks
Canopies for trucks typically deploy the bolt-together construction technique making it quite easy to install them. In case one is looking for longevity one can go for canopies that comprise of heavy-duty corrugated metal roofing that lasts for a very long time indeed. Canopies come in different shapes and sizes to cater to the specific need of a loading dock. Let us see what these might be-
- Overhead Canopy- This kind of canopy typically is stationed right above the dock door and can cantilever out to protect a trailer. It usually extends four to five feet over a trailer. One might either choose to install a long canopy that can cover all the dock doors in a building or install separate ones for each of the doors.
- Sloped Loading Canopy- These kinds of awnings are pretty sturdy and long-lasting made as they are with steel braces and standing seam panels. They help one comply with local regulations on account of their design. They have a 3’11” projection from the building giving the dock doors adequate coverage to keep both men and materials dry. These can be used for both single- door applications and a large warehouse.
There are many other loading dock canopies or shelters like stationery truck shelter, inflatable dock shelter, retractable shelter, airframe inflatable truck shelter, inflatable dock shelter, stationery inflatable truck shelter, retractable shelter, foam frame shelter, and airframe inflatable truck shelter.
Canopies for Top and Bottom Loading Trucks
Trucks that ferry and deliver goods from one point to another may be of the top or bottom loading type. It follows therefore that the canopy that protects such trucks has to be customized to match the truck in question. Companies like Saferack provide bespoke canopy solutions to accommodate all kinds of loading trucks. They could, for example, provide a full or half canopy version for single or two-sided loading facilities. They could also provide a free-standing or integrated loading rack platform.
Whatever be the operating situation in one’s loading area, there can be a canopy customized to protect both the materials being handled and the personnel involved from the elements. It doesn’t matter whether the truck in question is of the top or bottom loading type. There will be a canopy just right for it.
Fall Protection and Safety Equipment
As mentioned earlier in this article truck loading and unloading is inherently hazardous, if adequate safety measures are not taken. When it comes to fall protection measures relevant to truck loading and unloading one has to understand the complexities first. Trucks may be flatbeds, box trucks, double drop flatbeds, tankers, or bulk solid haulers-each with their unique dimensions. Likewise, their access points and fall hazards too will be uniquely their own.
It requires a great deal of planning to ensure the safety of the drivers and other staff during the loading and unloading process. One has to have an all-encompassing fall prevention strategy in place. This incorporates making provisions for the required fall protection equipment, training the people, and hiring a professional fall prevention company that specializes in the concerned industry.
OSHA (1926.501(b) (1)) has mandated some measures about fall protection for drivers and other people who climb on top of trucks and trailers to secure loads. For instance, it states that every member of the staff on a walking surface or working surface which has an unprotected side or edge that is six feet or more over a lower level shall have to be protected against falling with the help of safety net systems, guardrail systems or personal fall arrest systems.
OSHA also uses the general industry clause (OSHA 29 CFR 1910.23(c) about transportation. It mandates that every open-sided floor/platform that is four feet higher than an adjacent floor or ground level shall be protected with the help of a standard railing on all open sides other than the one facing the entrance to a ramp, fixed ladder or stairway.
The transportation industry has two principle fall arrest categories-permanent lifelines and portable lifelines-
Permanent Fall Protection Systems
These are the most cost-effective in the long run as they require a one-time installation expenditure. These kinds of fall protection systems are ideal in situations where workers are frequently exposed to heights. This overhead rigid track system is constructed above the loading lanes enabling the workers to easily move back and forth on the top and sides, even while safely fastened to self-retracting lifelines attached to the overhead tracks. The transportation industry installs these in L or T shape configurations.
Portable Fall Protection Systems
These are ideal for scenarios where there are no fixed or permanent work stations. A typical example would be the type of loading docks where workers have to move from one truck to another to service them. Portable fall systems of this type have to be lugged around and assembled beside a vehicle or on top of it. You could also have a portable lifeline system (comprising of OSHA-compliant cages) in the cases where work needs to be carried around an open hatch of a tanker truck
Loading and unloading operations carried around trucks are fraught with danger. Measures like installing canopies for trucks in the loading/unloading areas not only enhances security but also protects both mean and materials from the elements. When it comes to loading and unloading cargo from trucks there is a long list of dos and don’ts that one must necessarily follow to ensure both safety and efficiency. Accordingly, there is an exhaustive list of rules and regulations that has to be adhered to carry out truck and trailer loading and unloading operations.
The loading canopies themselves are of several types depending upon the kind of trucks that they have to protect. That apart, it is essential to use fall protection and safety equipment to prevent mishaps of any type from occurring. There are several OSHA directives in this regard that need to be followed by the transportation industry. These principally pertain to the two main types of fall protection systems-rigid and portable.
One might have imagined that the transportation and logistics industry is only about moving freight safely one point to another. As one can see this is a lot more complex than that and involves meticulous planning and execution. Above all, there is a great deal of stress rightly placed on the safety of the drivers and other personnel involved in the loading/unloading process as well as that of the materials being transported. Think about that the next time you see a truck or a tanker cruise down the highway.