HOW important is van loading safety to you?
Well, we reckon that how much importance you place on loading your vans safely and securely probably depends on whether you are a business van manager or a van driver.
Let’s be honest, many business van managers are more likely to be concerned with getting as much as possible into the back of a vehicle, and aren’t so bothered whether it is legal or not.
It is a different story for van drivers, as they are more likely to be worried about being on the wrong side of the law if stopped, or if the loads they are carrying will hurt them in a crash.
Like it or not, this seems to be the case in Britain today, certainly among the smaller van fleets which may be less well run. Is it time to change then? Well, yes probably.
So here’s our tips and advice on van loading safety, for both business van managers and business van drivers.
We’ll first start from behind the wheel.
- Do not overload storage systems or vehicles
This seems fairly obvious really, but is a point too often overlooked. During our research, we got talking to a guy from the DVSA last year, who said he’d stopped a 3.5-tonne Mercedes Sprinter which weighed 10.5 tonnes. He told me that the driver couldn’t even see what the fuss was about – he said it wasn’t even full!
If you are worried about overloading, there are several measuring systems on the market which will alert you to the issue – and will undoubtedly improve your van loading safety.
- Do not leave unsecured objects directly behind occupants seats
Not all vans are fitted with bulkheads and in the event of a crash, any unsecured loads will come flying forwards towards the front seats at an alarming rate if not secured. The worst case scenario for large moving loads in accidents, is that assuming you are all strapped in, you’ll be crushed between the load and seatbelt, equalling serious injury or even death.
- Do not place unsecured objects directly in the cabin of the vehicle
Is the inside of your van full of loose items such as tea flasks, mobile phones, newspapers and even lumps of old wood? Well, you’re not alone, but remember that with enough velocity, all these items could cause injury or death in the event of a crash (apart from the newspaper of course).
- Use appropriate tie-downs, lashing and netting to secure larger loads and equipment in the rear of the vehicle
Are you a builder? Well this rule is particularly important to you! We’re amazed at how many drivers don’t bother tying things down like bags of cement! Maybe the risk of injuries to passers-by in the event of a crash will make you think again? Always use proper ratchet ties – they aren’t very expensive and could save a life.
- Check load restraints and lashings shortly after beginning a journey or after any heavy braking, to be sure to not have loosened the load
Ties – even ratchet ones – can come loose after a few miles – fact! So, if you are travelling a long distance it’s important to stop and check that all is where you intended it to be when you started the journey.
- Concerns about modifications that have been made to a vehicle, should be raised with the fleet manager
Do you have any concerns about the vehicle you drive? Well, make sure you let your fleet manager know first. After this, if you still feel your concerns aren’t being taken seriously, then insist on seeing someone higher. If that still doesn’t work we’d recommend you start looking for another job, as in our opinion people like that really aren’t worth working for.
Next up, it’s the turn of business van managers, who need to be aware of a slightly different set of loading concerns….
- Produce company guidelines and procedures on how to load and store equipment and tools in vehicles for safe transit
Your company should have a handbook that all drivers must read and then sign to say they will stick by the rules. If you don’t have one, then get writing – or alternatively buy a ready-made one from the Freight Transport Association.
- Regularly check to ensure drivers are aware of and following company policies and procedures concerning van loading safety and the storing equipment
A straightforward one really, regular random checks should keep your employees on their toes with regards to the correct policies and procedures.
- Ensure that your vehicles are the right specification to do the job
This should be done before you buy your vehicles. Buying the right vans for the job is a whole art in itself but nowadays most of the big van manufacturers have dealers and specialists who will be able to help out.
- Give appropriate van loading safety training for your drivers
Either get a trainer in for a few days, or there are a variety of online courses on offer. They cost a bit, but you should recoup your outlay by having fewer crashes and other problems to deal with. Let alone the DVSA.
- Fit appropriate systems for restraining loads, equipment and tools
We cannot stress enough, how it’s important to fit a proper crash-tested racking system. You shouldn’t be tempted to get Fred in the workshop to knock you some up out of old coat hangers, biscuit tins and double-sided sticky tape just to save funds.
- Allow time for regular checks on tie-down points, lashing and netting systems to ensure they are not damaged and worn
Factor in time to give your staff time to do proper safety checks each day!
- Make sure they can see what they are doing
The load areas of most vans have pathetic little lights, that are next to useless when trying to load up at nightime. Solve this by fitting a proper set of LED lights, or specify LED lights as an option when you next buy. It will help your drivers to get the van loaded more efficiently and more safely.
- Be receptive to the concerns and advice of your drivers on modifications to vehicles and load security
Your drivers are important: listen to them – sort the moans out from the genuine concerns. Steve Hume, director of Britalitez, the leading supplier of LED aftermarket lights to the van market, added: “Ensuring safety in all van operations is paramount, whether you’re in a trade with just the one van or running a small fleet. And correct lighting in the loading areas of vans is one of the most important safety aspects when it comes to loading and unloading.”
The FTA (Freight Transport Association) added: “The safe loading of vans and light goods vehicles is fundamental in ensuring compliance with operator licensing regulations, transport legislation and importantly the safety of drivers and other road users.”
So, ensure you don’t get caught by the DVSA for overloading – and ensure you drive your van loaded safely in case of an accident. Correctly implementing van loading safety will save you from both.