Cargo Related BASIC: Keep it on four, er, eighteen wheels

Preventing accidents caused by improperly-loaded or secured cargo and unsafe transport of hazardous materials is the focus of the FMCSA’s cargo related BASIC, and the latest in our series on the seven BASIC categories. Time is money when your truck is being loaded, so the temptation to cut corners is strong. But we’ve all seen reasons (some funny, some not) why it’s never a good idea to take shortcuts when carrying cargo. Here, here, and here.

Cargo securement: “You call that a tie-down?”

The Cargo-Related BASIC tracks any violations that are identified during a roadside inspection or any other traffic stop. Violations for improper cargo securement are assigned to a motor carrier’s overall score, which is accessible via the CSA’s SMS website, unless it’s also determined that the driver could have been prevented, in which case it’s placed on the driver’s personal record as well. Some examples of improper cargo securement are:
●    Failure to check load at correct intervals
●    Load falling from truck, creating a road hazard
●    Unsecured heavy equipment, such as construction vehicles and log skidders, falling from low-boy trucks
●    Inadequate or defective tie-downs

Hazmat safety

This BASIC also covers the safe transportation of hazardous materials, and some examples of violations here include:
●    cargo or tank documentation not correct
●    improper marking of a hazardous materials container
●    improper placarding
●    no or improper emergency information with the driver when carrying a hazardous material shipment
●    an unsecure container of hazardous material
●    an improper or damaged package containing a hazardous material

Cargo related violations

Like many of the other categories tracked in the BASICs, cargo-related violations are weighted for severity and time of occurrence. So an unsecure load (considered very likely to cause an accident) is weighted at 10, while improper documentation scores a 1. Similarly, on the hazardous materials side, failure to transport these materials in approved containers and safely secure them during transport will net the higher scores on a motor carrier’s ranking.

Motor carriers should know that the Cargo-Related BASIC Score is not publicly-accessible information, unlike several of the other BASIC Scores (the Crash-Indicator BASIC <eventual blog post link> is also not publicly accessible). Still, it’s a good idea for carriers to keep an eye on their scores, as this information will affect their overall ranking, and can play a factor in ongoing investigations.

How motor carriers can help

The best way to avoid a high BASIC Score is the education of drivers, who have to verify that a load has been secured (whether or not they secure it themselves), as well as check periodically during transport to ensure that the load hasn’t shifted or tie-downs haven’t been compromised.

Motor carriers can help drivers navigate the many complicated requirements for cargo-securement by providing cheat-sheets that help summarize the important rules. The FMCSA’s documentation governing cargo-securement runs to 27 pages, 19 of which focus on transport of hazardous materials, so having a handy guide can go a long way.

It’s also a good idea to connect young drivers with a mentor driver they can call if they have questions about cargo-securement. Drivers may be more inclined to talk to another driver, rather than a company compliance official. Either way, encouraging drivers to ask questions is good practice. Far better that they’re asking you beforehand, rather than a police officer after the fact.

Some BASIC changes

Recently, the FMCSA has announced that the Cargo-related BASIC is undergoing a revision, which will place the cargo-securement requirements within the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC, making this ranking available to the publisc. The Cargo-related BASIC is projected to be renamed the Hazardous Materials BASIC, focusing solely on safe transportation of hazardous materials. Stay tuned as the FMCSA releases more information about this change. We’ll keep you updated.

Check back with us next week as we take a look at the final BASIC category, the Crash-Indicator.