Tied Down: Load Securement in the Eagle Ford Shale Play

Cargo Load Securement
Cargo Load Securement

A few weeks ago, Land Line Magazine reported a story that caught our attention. A Texas truck driver waged a lawsuit against Dole Fresh Fruit Co. and Chevron over an injury that he sustained last year when a bungee cord on a Dole trailer snapped back into his eye.

Of course we felt badly for the injured driver. The matter of who was or was not at fault in this particular situation is not the subject of this post. The incident reminded us of the importance of cargo securement.

The suit maintained that Dole had responsibility for cargo securement, but ultimately load securement is the driver’s duty. As a commercial motor vehicle driver, you are responsible for all load securement. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation 392.9 (b) states specifically that the driver must inspect the cargo and the devices used to secure the cargo prior and during the route to determine that is safe to be transported. Here are the highlights of the regulation.

Driver and Carrier Responsibilities

Both the driver and the carrier have cargo-securement responsibilities. A driver may not operate a commercial motor vehicle and a motor carrier may not require or permit a driver to operate a commercial motor vehicle unless:

  • the cargo is properly distributed and adequately secured
  • the tiedowns and other means of fastening the cargo are secured, and
  • the cargo or any other object does not obscure the driver's view ahead or to the right or left sides.

Driver Duties

According to the regulations, drivers of a truck or truck tractor must:

  • assure themselves that the responsibilities described above have been met before driving a commercial motor vehicle
  • inspect the cargo and the devices used to secure the cargo within the first 50 miles after beginning a trip and make necessary adjustments, including adding more securement devices, to ensure that cargo cannot shift on or within, or fall and
  • reexamine the cargo and its load securement devices during the route.

Cargo and cargo securement should be reinspected:

  • at a change of duty status
  • after driving the commercial vehicle for three hours or after driving the commercial vehicle for 150 miles, whichever comes first.

The only exception is for drivers hauling sealed loads that can’t be inspected.

Oilfield Operations Call for Extra Care

Much of the area in the Eagle Ford Shale Play consists of rough caliche roads miles off the highway. These roads take a beating from weather and heavy loads. The unevenness of the road surface alone can cause loads to shift. Drivers have to pay extra attention to the securement of their loads when entering and exiting these sites. Even traveling at low speeds on a bumpy road loads can reposition a load. Straps and chains can loosen.

Oilfield Cargo Is King

Sure, driving a heavy vehicle takes a lot of skill but in the end, truck driving isn’t about the truck or driving, it’s about hauling cargo. If freight isn’t being hauled, no one is making any money. For that reason alone you will rarely bobtail or pull an empty trailer. As important as deadlines and schedules are, what’s more important is to deliver the cargo undamaged while guarding your safety and the safety of those who share the road with you.