This article is sponsored by Diesel Driving School, WI based CDL training school.
Hauling equipment with a lowboy or flatbed trailer is one of the most useful skills a driver can learn at a training school. Spotters/signalers are an important part of the team, as well, and they should be certified professionals.
The ground must be level and a safety zone cleared before loading because the center of gravity on the equipment being loaded will shift as it moves up on the trailer. This must be carefully done, with spotters watching to guide the driver. Often the equipment is wider than the trailer, so a few inches too far to one side can mean disaster. Nothing can stop a multi-ton piece of machinery from falling once it starts!
Once the equipment is loaded, it must be secured. Most states have “chain laws” outlining the minimum requirements for stabilizing the load. Many companies have regulations that surpass this minimum so make sure that the rules have been followed before going any further. Tie downs have to do two things: keep the load from shifting and avoid damaging the equipment. It’s important to pay attention to both.
The route to the destination has to be looked over before being planned. This avoids complications like low overpasses, inadequate bridges, and sharp turns. Any permits must be obtained before starting off; all safety signage, like wide load banners, must also be in place.
Being one of the biggest vehicles on the road comes with responsibility. If you are following an escort vehicle, allow plenty of room to stop and pay attention to their signals about conditions ahead. Other drivers usually will give you a wide berth, but there’s always one who is in a hurry and isn’t thinking about how long it takes you to stop. If the load isn’t tied down properly and starts to shift, respond immediately to stop and correct the situation before it gets worse.
Never attempt a shortcut or deviate from the route without contacting your company dispatcher first. Let them check for problems and give the green light for route changes. This keeps you out of trouble and keeps them in the loop.
Once again, a level, stable site is imperative when unloading. Get out and walk around to visually inspect the area before doing anything else. When taking off the chains and straps, pay attention to those that could snap and fly back upon release. Make sure all tie-downs have been removed before trying to unload.
Spotters have the responsibility of guiding the driver off the ramps. That means the spotter must check to ensure the equipment is lined up correctly before signaling it’s time to start. The spotter also must be in the driver’s line of vision, and both must be trained to communicate with signals. Safety vests increase visibility, but if the spotter is close to the machine checking something, no safety vest will help the driver see the danger. Drivers and other workers have to see the spotter and follow the signals so everyone stays safe.