They are all called Buckles – just like the Buckle on your trouser belt
Trousers have buckles of different styles. Simple hole and peg, loops or clamps on the material. Load restraint equipment is the same. Different styles do different jobs.
It all started with just a rope. In the old days a driver knew how to form an eye at one end of his rope, how to tie it to a simple rope hook on his lorry (not truck in those days!). He threw the rope over the load and then did a few magic twists at the other end, pulled a loop through the twist, coupled it to another rope hook and, hey presto, he had not only created a reduction gear of 2 to 1, his strength was doubled! Bigger drivers got it tighter and very big drivers could sometimes break the rope!
All worked well at the time, or so they thought! Ropes were made from jute or hemp which rotted, stretched and came in varying thicknesses and qualities. However, loads came adrift and people got killed or badly hurt; and this happened a lot.
Enter the new world of mechanical tensioning, ropes of man-made fibre, alloy steels, sophisticated body attachment systems and – UK Construction and Use Regulations with roadside checks by inspectors having opinions. Is it safe or isn’t it?
What did the haulage industry really need? It needed design standards, it needed system interchangeability so that load restraint equipment was compatible with a haulier’s other equipment; it needed recommended industry application procedures. It got most things and it got VOSA, the H&SE and EU directives! Britain also got European based hauliers not just delivering and collecting loads in Britain but able, legally, to undertake internal haulage work. This meant that Britain also needed to comply with EU directives for safety reasons. We are getting used to it now but with such a complex subject it will take a long time to become second nature. Look at www.fta.co.uk… and see downloads/loading/enforcement – excellent.
It is up to manufacturers and retailers to ensure that load restraint products are made of approved materials, tested to perform consistently and meet legal requirements. It is up to hauliers to select restraint equipment from the market that meets the demands of the loads they carry for their customers, is compatible with their own vehicle systems and, lastly but most importantly, meets the law and does everything safely.
Let’s get down to basics and look at how a ratchet restraint system works so that it can secure a load.
A ratchet operates via toothed wheels that are turned to wind in a webbing strap (or lash) that is located over a load. The ratchet “tensions” the webbing to a predetermined force and thus the webbing, the ratchet and the hooks at each end that secure the webbing to the bodywork have to be designed individually to operate safely in excess of the maximum tension exerted on the webbing. More importantly, the safe working load limit (SWL) of each component in the system must also be adequate to cover the overall tension exerted. Put even more simply – the rated SWL load of the system has to be under half the certified capacity of any individual piece of hardware in the system (i.e. ratchet & hooks) and even lower at one third of the certified capacity of any webbing used in the system. Ignore these rules at your peril!
Now webbing needs attachments fitted at either end. One to secure the ratchet end to the body of the vehicle and the other to secure the lash end also to the body on the other side of the vehicle. The loose end of the lash is looped through the ratchet and tensioned as mentioned earlier but the hooks frequently have to do specialist jobs and fit in with different loading systems on truck bodies. You can see in the specification sheets issued by many cargo restraint manufacturers that there are several types of “hook”. Each is designed to do a different job. These “hooks” and the specific webbing used (once again – learn how to identify different types and capacities of webbing from websites such as www.gtf.eu and www.spanset.co.uk) will lead you on to identifying a system’s Rated Assembly Strength (RAS). RAS is the minimum level in kgs or whatever at which the assembly will break in laboratory test conditions. Remember that, breaks in a laboratory under test. This RAS leads on to the Safe Working Load (SWL), or in the US Working Load Limit (WLL), which is a portion of the RAS. This SWL or WLL portion is rated by the manufacturers and usually represents a third of the RAS. That SWL or WLL is the figure that never should be exceeded. Got it? You have to learn it!
Security is also becoming a strong issue with many operators not only due to the sheer cost of the load restraint equipment that goes walkabout but the fact that “other people’s equipment” may not be to the same quality or capacity level as their own or it might have been abused or abraded etc. The haulier using the equipment is liable. To overcome this problem many operators now specify their company name and logo be printed onto webbing. This printing is done before an assembly is sewn together and thus cannot be removed without destroying the equipment or replacing all of the webbing. A smart move and it affords protection for the haulier who uses quality load restraint equipment on his vehicles.
I have a thing about safety, be it dismounting from a truck cab or moving carefully about vehicles and loads. I have seen poorly lashed loads twist chassis like a corkscrew and “explode” on corners allowing sheet boarding to fly across the road like Oddjob’s bowler hat. Quality load restraint equipment not only protects the public – it protects you!
Now I have been told to say this! These are my views and are not to be taken as a strict interpretation of the law. You are responsible for ensuring that you meet all legal requirements in any matter of safe load restraint. Look at the European Commission’s website www.ec.europa.eu/transport for European Guidelines on Cargo Security (or punch it into Google) and settle in for a long read!
Off my high horse now!