By James Menzies
The Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators (CCMTA) and its US counterpart rewrote the rules on cargo securement in 2005, but some of the most significant changes for log haulers may still be to come.
By James Menzies
The current standard was the culmination of more than a decade of research and collaboration with industry stakeholders on both sides of the border. While the US and Canadian load securement rules differ somewhat, they are collectively clearer and more specific than the previous regulations.
When it comes to logs, the key points included in the latest regulations include the following:
• Tie-downs require a working load limit of 1,800 kg (4,000 lb).
• Each outside log must touch at least two stakes, or be stabilized by other logs, and extend beyond the end of the stake.
• The highest outside log on each side must touch each stake (below the top of the stake).
• The load must be “crowned” with top logs restrained by indirect tie-downs.
• Additional tie-downs are required if the logs are wet or slippery.
• Finally, tie-downs must be tensioned as tight as possible.
That last point is key, because maintaining tie-down tension has always been a struggle for loggers. Research conducted by CCMTA has shown that straps typically lose 50% of their tension within the first hour of a trip. As logs shift and settle while the truck is in motion, it’s not uncommon for chain binders to hang loosely around a load of logs after even a short run to the mill.
Adding to concerns about strap tension, the CCMTA has announced further changes are in store for log haulers by 2010. By then, truckers hauling short wood stacked crosswise will require the use of automatic tensioning systems. “A vehicle built on or after January 1, 2010 shall be equipped with a device that maintains a tension not less than 900 kg at all times, and automatically takes up slack in the tie-down as logs settle,” reads Standard 10 of the National Safety Code.
Until recently, no such system existed, and in some cases contractors who haul these types of loads had voiced their intent to stop hauling short wood stacked crosswise altogether. After all, while logs are still hauled this way in Eastern Canada, the practice is slowly dying off due to mill consolidation. Nonetheless, a new product recently caught my eye which offers a potential solution for log haulers – no matter what types of logs you transport.
While I don’t like to plug specific products in this space, this is a unique product that you really should know about if you transport logs, since it’s the only solution I’m aware of to the impending 2010 load securement requirements. B.C.-based Traction Technologies has come to market with an automatic winch system, the Cinch, that taps into the trailer’s air supply to tighten straps (or chains with straps at either end) and maintain tension while the truck is in motion.
The Cinch can apply up to 2,000 lb of pressure to a load at the touch of a button, and it infinitely tightens the strap as required to maintain that tension as the load settles or shifts. You don’t have to worry about the system depriving your service brakes of air, since the Cinch requires relatively little air to tighten the straps, and an air priority valve ensures your brakes have enough air to get you safely stopped.
Al-Pac in northern Alberta has been testing the units and so far (with some minor engineering alterations) it has stood up to the worst beatings the company could throw at it.
“The (Al-Pac) Cinch units saw a lot of abuse both from weather and physical use (including trailers and logs being dropped on them). We did have a few technical issues because of this, and it exposed areas that required further design,” Andrew Ross, engineering manager with Traction Technologies tells me. “This was a great outcome in our minds, and it allowed us to further refine the product to make it more robust and reliable. Based on those results, we improved the design. We are now running the Cinch units with a local log hauler and intend to observe their performance to ensure that we have isolated all the issues. As far as the results of our testing goes, we feel confident that we have worked through the reliability issues.”
The only other concern that I can see is weight. The units weigh about 20 lbs more than traditional winches, so they could have a slight impact on payload. But loggers typically only require about five or six units per trailer, points out Ross, so the weight is not a major concern for loggers like it may be for truckers hauling flatdeck B-trains, for instance. For more information on the Cinch, visit www.cinch.ca or ask about it next time you’re talking to your Ancra dealer.
While we’re on the subject of load securement, it’s worth pointing out that there’s been an influx of offshore cargo securement products flooding the North American marketplace. I want to take this opportunity to urge you to avoid the temptation to save a few bucks, and to shy away from these products unless you are convinced they meet industry standards. Independent tests of some of these ‘no-name’ tie-down devices have proven to be downright scary, as off-shore companies often reverse engineer – or essentially copy – North American designs. Some of these companies have absolutely no R&D expertise or expenses, and good luck tracking them down if a faulty component ends up causing an accident or injury.
Even the Web Sling and Tie Down Association (WSTDA) logo isn’t necessarily proof that a cargo securement component is legitimate. The Ancras and Kinedynes of the world have long been condemning their own association for its lax membership standards. If you pay your dues to the association, you can slap its logo on your products, points out Ralph Abato, director of sales and marketing with Ancra. Your safest bet is to stick with proven products or conduct your own pull-tests to ensure these products do what they say they’ll do.
When not deciphering new hauling regs, James Menzies is executive editor of Canada’s leading trucking magazines, Truck News and Trucks West. He writes The Log Haul exclusively for Canadian Forest Industries Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.