How to Safely Haul Heavy Construction Equipment

Published August 17, 2016 by Whirlwind Team

 construction equipment transport

Roadside inspections found over 40,000 violations of load securement in 2015. If these had been failures, think of how much life and property could have been lost.

Hauling heavy equipment is not for the faint of heart nor for anybody who is unwilling or unable to take the time to learn all the rules and regulations of heavy cargo-hauling or who doesn’t want to take the time to make certain the load will not cause an accident because it became unsecured through negligence or equipment failure.

Violations found

The following is a list of the type of violations that were found last year and how often each one occurred. Some of these numbers are shocking.

  • Failure to secure vehicle equipment - 11,947
  • Damaged securement system or tie downs - 7,094
  • Failure to secure load - 6,416
  • No or improper heavy vehicle or machine securement - 4,357
  • Violations of Section 392.9 entitled Inspection of Cargo, Cargo Securement Devices, and Systems - 2,999
  • Inadequate or damaged securement device or system - 1,508
  • Vehicle not secured - front and rear - 1,075
  • Cargo not immobilized or secured - 1,050
  • No or improper securement of vehicles - 992
  • Improper securement system (tie down assemblies) - 804

That is a high number of failures to secure a huge, heavy load that could easily squash a passenger car full of people. It has happened; in Kansas City, in the 1990s a flatbed hauling an industrial air conditioning unit lost the load because it was inadequately secured. It bounced off the flatbed and onto a small car, killing the driver.

Here is how to prevent something like that happening again.

Follow best practices

Before loading

Before you load the equipment, verify the gross weight rating or gross combination rating of the transport hauler will not be exceeded. If the load is too heavy, find another transporter.

Find out if you need any special permits for oversize or over-width loads along your planned route. Remember, regulations can differ between municipalities and states. Loading guidelines may be included; check them for required equipment such as outriggers or deck wideners. Find out if there are any rules regarding locking pins, transmission gears, or brakes.

Determine where the cargo must be placed for proper balance and weight distribution as well as proper securement. Inspect the securement points on the cargo and the transporter for wear and damage.

If there will be slight friction between the cargo and the transport bed, such as metal crawler tracks against a metal deck, find out if you need to install friction devices. For equipment with rubber tires, check the pressure; low pressure could result in the tie downs loosening unexpectedly.

Finally, remove any extra dirt, debris, aggregate, or other materials that could fall or produce friction while in transit.

During loading

It should go without saying, but we will say it anyway: Do not operate or load equipment if you are not fully trained to do so safely. This should be your number one concern if you are going to haul heavy equipment around or between jobsites.

Equipment should be placed against a vehicle structure to keep it from moving forward whenever possible. If it interferes with weight distribution or securement, don't do it. Place the load where it should be for safety.

Attach securement devices over brake lines and hydraulic hoses or cylinders so they are not damaged. Use edge protection as well to prevent damage to the tie downs or the equipment being hauled. And unless otherwise indicated, always use the manufacturer’s designated attachment points and securement recommendations when loading. If any attachment point seems weak or unsuitable, do not use it.

Chains are the preferred tie down for heavy equipment and machinery; direct tie downs are best, but it will require using more tie downs than when using an indirect tie down method.

Place chocks, cradles, wedges, or other devices against the equipment wheels to prevent it from rolling during transit. These devices, in turn, will require their own securement so they won’t fly off the transport and endanger people or property.

After loading

Once the equipment is loaded onto the transport, lower all its accessories and other movable parts such as hydraulic shovels, crane arms, and plows. Secure these parts to the transport with tie downs as well. If the accessories come with locking pins or similar, they do not need to be secured with additional devices.

Be aware that hydraulics alone are not enough to keep an accessory secure. If the equipment has an articulation point, hinge, or pivot, this must also be locked and restrained to prevent movement in transit.

If there is anything, accessory or otherwise, that are not attached to equipment, it must be secured according to the same cargo rules as everything else. Once everything is secured, double-check the height and weight of the loaded transport vehicle and complete all required securement inspections en route to your destination.

Minimum tie down requirements

Equipment with crawler tracks or wheels must have at least four tie downs to prevent movement side to side, forward, to the rear, and vertically. Each individual tie down must be routed through an anchor point and attached to both sides of the trailer is counted as a single tie down, and the sum of the working load limits of tie downs must equal at least 50% of the weight of the cargo.

Chains can be used as two tie downs if they are properly attached to two anchor points using two binders with slack in the middle of the chain so a break in the middle would not impact either tie down.

Additional tie downs can be used if you are unsure of the load weight or balance. Attach all tie downs as close as possible to the front and rear of the equipment or else at mounting points designed into the equipment for the purpose.

Avoid these dangers

  • Loose chains and unsecured items
  • Cracked wires and leaky hoses
  • Tires that are either under- or over-inflated
  • Unbalanced loads
  • Excessive speed and road hazards

Like you do at your jobsite, manage your risk. Use the right driver, the right equipment, the right escorts, and routes, and hold the right license and insurance. Secure the load properly and tighten every tie down chain once the equipment is appropriately positioned on the transport.

Oversize loads typically require escorts ahead and behind to help navigate traffic and maintain safety. Make sure to track your hours closely behind the wheel, understanding that the roadways you navigate can make a difference in your fatigue level.

Driver training and updating are crucial to moving heavy cargo along the nation's highways and byways. Always update using a simulator at least once a year while maintaining a transport license.  Get a GPS to help with routing but pull over before entering or changing a destination.

We want you and your equipment to get there in one piece and ready to work.

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