Oversized loads require intricate planning for night moves

01 November 2018

2016-08-30 (16)

Notably large loads have been restricted to nighttime-permit movement mostly due to their slow speed and logistic complexities. 

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Large Truck Crash Causation Study, seven percent of U.S. trucking accidents are caused by improper cargo securement or cargo shifts. Shifting cargo can cause the truck to destabilize or the load can fall off completely, leading to serious public safety issues.

And when considering oversize/over-dimensional, even mega-loads, if it’s dangerous to the public, a giant load is perhaps even more dangerous to everyone involved in the move. This reality becomes more serious when considering that many of these moves are performed at night.

That has begun to change, but for many years, notably large loads have been restricted to nighttime-permit movement – often because of their slow speed (a traffic issue) and the aforementioned danger element. In recent years, however – in part due to SC&RA’s advocacy – the industry is beginning to see a small but growing number of states allowing up to ten and even twelve feet wide – at any time – or under any conditions at night. A couple of states stick out: Kentucky has been 24/7 unlimited-permit movement for several years, and has never reported a single problem or incident; and Tennessee – in the last couple of years – went up to 15 feet 6 inches at night.

SC&RA Vice President, Transportation Steven Todd indicated: “From the Association’s perspective, we recognize that driving an oversized load at night is not the most ideal situation; furthermore, we recognize that a number of drivers within our membership prefer not to drive at night.

“Our advocacy is simply to provide all of our members the additional option to run at night, and in those instances in which it meets the carrier’s needs – sometimes our carriers get stuck at sunset a few miles from the state line, or what have you – this gives them the option to finish their move legally under a permit without having to sit and waste time overnight.”

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The hazards of an OS/OD nighttime move present a host of challenges – the likes of which include “struck-by” and “caught-between” dangers for ground spotters.

The nighttime movement issue is significant enough to SC&RA that the topic will be covered in depth at the upcoming Specialized Transportation Symposium (STS) in Houston (TX), February 19-22, 2019. Danny Cain, corporate director of safety/risk management at Edwards Moving & Rigging (Shelbyville, KY), whom SC&RA considers a subject matter expert on nighttime movement, will present on the topic.

Situational awareness

In addition to his role at Edwards overseeing all safety training throughout the company, where he’s been for 17 years, Cain is also an OSHA outreach instructor. He goes through all of his own testing/exams to administer 10- and 30-hour OSHA training courses.

“As a carrier, like many SC&RA members, we are required to make night transport – for some obvious reasons: the main one being many of the states do not want to increase traffic during day time,” he explained. “But, inherently with night moves, there are a lot of additional hazards and dangers that have to be mitigated to keep everyone safe. I’ve been intricately involved for many years and this is one particular area – because it’s outside of the norm of many of the transports that we make in the day – so it’s critically important that everyone on that night transport crew understand the inherent dangers and, more importantly, what measures they have to take to mitigate their exposure to these hazards.”

Cain stressed that oversized/over-dimensional (OS/OD) loads are by no means “normal” loads traveling across the highways, and require an enormous amount of logistical planning and attention to detail when it comes to safely delivering the cargo during night transports. The list of safety considerations is comprehensive, he said, focusing heavily on (but not limited to) pre-job briefings, special PPE considerations, circadian body clocks (fatigue) for workers, required lighting plans, reduced visibility, traffic control and reaction to traffic, transporter configuration and road conditions.

“Probably the biggest issue of concern is making sure that the personnel performing the moves have been given sufficient rest – just like a driver with regards to FMCSA has rules on hours of service,” he emphasized. “It’s not unusual for a daytime transport at the last second to get switched to a night move because of the jurisdiction the load is travelling within. They’ll say: ‘Well, we just found out about this move and we don’t want you impeding our traffic, so we want you to move at night now.’”

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Oversized/over-dimensional loads require an enormous amount of logistical planning and attention to detail when it comes to safely delivering the cargo during night transports.

Cain pointed out that when this happens, “… it’s critically important that the transport crew members have had sufficient rest throughout the day – that they’re not working during the day and then go out and add another ten hours to a fifteen-hour workday they’ve already put in. Fatigue is a huge concern with regards to these moves, and can’t be emphasized enough.”

Another critical piece to the conversation involves night hazards that aren’t encountered in the day. “The hazards are obvious for these oversize loads: power lines that you can’t see until you’re on top of them, overhead obstructions like tree branches, shadows, limited ambient light, increased blind spots, strobe lights, protecting ground spotters from the many ‘struck-by’ and ‘caught-between’ dangers and, of course, oncoming hazards,” Cain said. “Your reaction time to mitigate these hazards is greatly reduced at night.

Due diligence

Cain gives credit to SC&RA and its members for advocating many of the changes regarding nighttime travel at the FMCSA in the last decade. “In the last several years, there seems to me – in my personal observation from attending a lot of SC&RA-related meetings – a much more enhanced collaboration-type partnership with these enforcement agencies, and I’m hopeful that it’s only going to continue as we educate them as to some of the safety concerns that we as an industry have,” he maintained. “Many of them have been very amenable; I think advocacy partnerships have taken us a long way towards making some major changes in the last five to ten years.”

As to where the nighttime issue is headed in the U.S. – considering what has evolved in Kentucky and Tennessee in recent years – Cain’s instincts tell him that steady progress will happen as a result of the states taking it upon themselves to continue to focus on both safety and productivity.

“I think it’s a due diligence issue for the states – the education between our industry and the powers that be,” he said, “so that those powers can recognize what we are being faced with in regards to these night moves.”

To that end, Cain’s presentation at STS in February will cover this issue as well as his primary concern. “Every carrier should have a goal in making sure that all crew members on a shift go home safely. Obviously, making sure that all crew members are properly trained, but another key element of any transport is the thoroughness of the pre-transport safety briefing – making sure that everyone is acutely aware of the task that they’re going to perform, the hazards associated with performing that work and, most importantly, that they mitigate exposure to these hazards.”

Ultimately, Cain looks at nighttime travel from a lessons-learned point of view – recognizing that industry benefits collectively, even if/when things don’t go smoothly.

“It’s not that I wish any carrier to have any type of unfortunate accident, but when they do occur, it’s critically important that every company that’s providing this type of service take an internal look at their own policies, training and means to mitigate such a thing from happening to them,” he underscored. “Because it can truly happen to anyone; there are no easy transports.”


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