TT Talk - More to be done – the road to safety
Over the past year much has been written about changes to Maritime legislation to improve safety and to minimise the risk of containers being damaged or lost at sea. There is also work on amendments to international standards concerning containers. What’s the impact?
The approval by all three UN organizations IMO/ILO/UN ECE Code of practice for packing cargo transport units (CTU Code) is most often associated with containers and maritime transport. It is worth highlighting that the CTU Code in fact covers all types of surface transport mode (road, rail and sea), and all types of equipment – road vehicles, rail wagons and containers. This article seeks to identify how the production of a verified gross mass and compliance with the CTU Code emphasised in the maritime mode will assist in reducing risk for land transport.
“The CTU Code articulates some key requirements relating to the payload”
The CTU Code articulates some key requirements relating to the payload. Firstly, the maximum payload limits for the CTU (cargo transport unit) or the transport mode should not be exceeded and secondly, the payload should not be eccentrically packed. The former is, of course, reinforced by the guidance notes associated with the amendment to SOLAS which detail the two methods for obtaining a gross mass. While aimed at containers being shipped in the maritime mode these practices may be followed for all transport modes.
Mass is significant
Consider the road carrier’s position. Failure to provide an accurate gross mass for the CTU by the time that it departs from the packer’s premises may place the driver of the road vehicle at risk. Once on the public highway, most countries place responsibility on the driver to ensure that the axle loadings do not exceed certain values.
“Once on the public highway, most countries place responsibility on the driver to ensure that the axle loadings do not exceed certain values”
Regulatory checks may be carried out at roadside weighbridges or using weigh in motion systems (WIMS) to identify vehicles that contravene the rules. A driver who picks up a packed and sealed container or unaccompanied semi-trailer is reliant on the information provided – and, if the shipper does not provide accurate information, the driver may be penalised. This general position is reflected in the CTU Code.
But what can the driver do if, after leaving the packer’s premises, the axle loading is found to be over the national road limits, or the gross mass of the CTU is exceeded? Once the driver is made aware of this, the unit should not be moved until necessary actions are taken to bring it into compliance with the regulations. Where the driver is contracted only to move the CTU, it is the responsibility of the shipper to arrange for repacking the cargo.
Experienced drivers can protect themselves by knowing the ‘feel’ of their vehicle. If it appears sluggish or not as responsive as expected when starting off or manoeuvring, it may be that the vehicle is overloaded, in which case the driver should question the validity of the mass information provided. Ideally, any concerns about the mass should be raised before departing the packer’s premises when any required action can be taken immediately.
Also of critical importance to safety of road transport, the CTU Code additionally requires that the centre of gravity of the cargo is correctly located; too far forward on a semi-trailer and the tractor unit may lose steering, too far to the rear it may lose traction. Equally, a centre of gravity to one side of the vehicle centre-line increases the risk of an overturn when negotiating bends, turns or lane changes. Unfortunately, post-incident it is often difficult to ascertain definitively whether an eccentrically packed cargo is the cause.
“CTU Code additionally requires that the centre of gravity of the cargo is correctly located”
Research by ETS Consulting revealed that 10% of containers sampled were packed with an eccentricity greater than 5% and approximately 1% of containers with an eccentricity greater than 20%. The resultant destabilising of the vehicle may not be detected on simple weighbridges.
Drivers who are unable to inspect the cargo at the time the CTU is collected are at risk should there be significant eccentrically packed cargo; it is important they carefully inspect the set of their vehicle before departure, looking for one side or corner that is lower than others, which may indicate an eccentrically packed CTU.
Even with the cargo packed correctly there are other issues that can affect the handling performance during road transport. Cargoes with a dynamic centre of gravity, such as hanging sides of beef and bulk liquids in flexitanks, will accentuate the transverse forces when negotiating corners, increasing the risk of an overturn.
Packages that are not secured in line with the CTU Code may slip or tip resulting in a substantial and often sudden movement of the cargo’s centre of gravity, radically changing loadings on the axles of a road vehicle and rendering the semi-trailer unstable.
Drivers should consider undertaking small manoeuvres before the outset of the journey which will indicate if the CTU has a dynamic centre of gravity. While driving, be alert to any changes in the balance of the vehicle as a result of manoeuvres; if unhappy with the performance of the CTU it is the driver’s responsibility to stop before an incident can occur.
“We should actively support the reporting of any concerns about the stability and mass of the CTUs truckers are carrying”
Thus, compliance with the CTU Code by packers and shippers will improve road safety. Culturally, we should applaud experienced drivers who are familiar with the handling characteristics of the CTU and actively support the reporting of any concerns about the stability and mass of the CTUs they are carrying.
We gratefully acknowledge the assistance in the preparation of this article of Bill Brassington, ETS Consulting.
We hope that you have found the above interesting. If you would like further information, or have any comments, please email us, or take this opportunity to forward to any colleagues who you may feel would be interested.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Risk Management Director, TT Club