Clients who have taken advantage of our driver and management training courses will already be aware that we have been focussing heavily on the need for both drivers and other staff involved in the loading of vehicles to ensure that they follow the guidelines set out in the DfT Code of Practice ‘Security of Loads’.
We are increasingly hearing of operators who have had their vehicle stopped and a prohibition issued because the authorities - in this country being VOSA – have had concerns arising from the load having been insufficiently secured, often sitting on a the bed of the vehicle without any ropes, straps or ratchets.
A large number of operators seem to be under the impression that a curtain-sided vehicle or trailer needs no more than to shut the curtains to secure the load! This is not the case and from next month prosecutions for such practices are likely to rise.
It has been announced by the Freight Transport Association that VOSA is training its enforcement examiners on the securing of loads, enabling them to identify high-risk loads. Their aim is to roll out this higher level of specialist detection from April 2012. It is hoped that providing the examining staff with specialist knowledge will give operators a level of clarity and consistency in enforcement of load securing that it has been alleged has not existed in the past.
The initiative has been in development for some time, following a campaign in early 2010 by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and VOSA, when enforcement examiners inspected the loads of vehicles to ensure that they were being transported securely. Similar spot checks took place in early 2009 and a major European wide initiative took place at the same time when enforcement staff met and discussed their various approaches to this subject.
These campaigns highlighted concern at the time that significant numbers of vehicles were found to have loads which were not sufficiently restrained.
Since that time an industry-led working group, which included the Freight Transport Association, has been involved in discussions with VOSA and the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) to review current load securing practice. This made recommendations for VOSA enforcement staff to be adequately trained in assessing load securing and drafted guidance for operators, consignors and drivers which will be representative of, and coincide with, the training and guidelines given to VOSA examiners. The guidance, funded and published by HSL and supported and endorsed by the industry working group representatives, will be launched at this year's CV Show in April.
The guidance distinguishes between various types of load and has three categories of severity for assessing load securing. Any problems concerning the securing of the load will be assessed against a matrix and may result in prohibition action (P) for higher risk circumstances or an advisory notice (A) for minor problems.
HSE research has shown that unsafe loads on vehicles cost UK businesses millions of pounds in damaged goods each year. Vehicles carrying unrestrained loads are also a safety risk to their drivers and other staff involved in loading and unloading them. On the road they also pose a danger to other road users and the public at large. An unrestrained load can significantly increase the risk of a vehicle rolling over or spilling its load onto the highway.
To protect drivers and other road users, the (Road Vehicles) Construction and Use Regulations 1986 indicate that loads must be secured, if necessary by physical restraint other than their own weight, so they don't present a danger or nuisance. VOSA can enforce a range of regulatory powers, including prohibiting the continued use of the vehicle if they feel there is serious risk to other road users, workers or to the driver and has stated that operators who are currently complying with the Construction and Use Regulations should see no difference in VOSA's enforcement policy from April. Minor problems in the way vehicles have been loaded and secured will be dealt with through advice rather than enforcement action wherever possible.
We would advise all operators to make sure they get hold of this guidance as soon as it becomes widely available and clients of Truck UK can be assured that we will be making you aware as soon as we've seen a copy and our training courses will be amended accordingly.
Steve Williams / 14 March 2012