Once the load is secured, weights are legal, and all the paperwork and equipment is in good order, it feels great to get on the road.
There are times when I feel like I could drive endlessly but stops are necessary; especially an important type of stop, the load check.
Load check, safety check, enroute inspection: these are some of the names drivers and carriers have for the on-duty event where the driver stops the vehicle to physically examine the cargo securement devices. Such a stop is required by law: in Canada by National Safety Code Standard 10 Part 1,1 and in the U.S. by Part 392.9 of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations.2 Here are the requirements for load checks once the vehicle has left the shipper:
within the first 80 km/50 miles of the trip, at every change of duty status, and when the vehicle has been driven for three hours or 240 km/150 miles, whichever occurs first.
During a load check, checking all the cargo securement devices (straps and chains) is the minimum. Having your cargo properly stored and secured is a benefit for carriers, drivers, and the general public. With that being said, I believe that the load check can be used for much more than just checking cargo securement.
Here are six points for you to to consider during a load check of a typical flatbed tractor-trailer.
A quick thump of each dual tire set with the load bar can identify flats and low tires and a visual inspection can spot defects and low single tires.
A quick look inside each rim can spot oil leaks, loose or broken fasteners, and other signs of hub failure. Serious problems like these can be caught before they become an on-road catastrophe.
I turn on all the lights, the four-way flashers, pull and set the trailer brake control to check the brake lights and turn on the high beams (as long as it won’t blind others). By doing this, I can quickly check most lights as part of the walk-around.
Since the trailer brake controller is set, I can identify air leaks from the trailer service circuit by listening during the walk‑around. Suspension and emergency brake air leaks could also potentially be caught this way too.
General Vehicle Condition
A careful load check allows a driver to look the entire vehicle over, which can identify fluid leaks and broken parts that could have developed since the pre-trip.
A great benefit of doing a load check is that it breaks the monotony of driving and gets my blood flowing. Plus, the brief stop allows me to plan my route, set up my music, reply to texts, and other activities that can only be safely done while stopped.
All these benefits can be reaped in a five-minute stop. This brief inspection is not as detailed as a proper pre-trip inspection and not intended to replace one; incorporating these habits into your load check will benefit and enrich your professional driver’s routine.
Majority of the vehicle defects that I discovered was during a stop (for example, to pick up an embedded object in a tire) – not during the pre-trip. I encourage all drivers to come up with a short enroute inspection routine, for the vehicles they drive, that can reasonably be incorporated into their short stops.
I hope that this helps demonstrate why these load checks, besides being required by law in some circumstances, are extremely useful to any carrier and commercial driver. A lot can happen in a full day of driving and, even if not legally required, a quick stop to check out the vehicle is never a bad idea.
1 CCMTA. 2013. NSC cargo securement standard. Retrieved July 21, 2020 from https://ccmta.ca/images/pdf-documents-english/cra/NSC_Standard_10_-_June_2013_English_Final.pdf
2 FMCSA. 2011. Electronic code of federal regulations; Part 392 – Driving of commercial motor vehicles. Retrieved July 21, 2020 from https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/retrieveECFR?gp=1&ty=HTML&h=L&mc=true&=PART&n=pt49.5.392#se49.5.392_19