The truck loading code - specialised requirements

General freight

Symbols on the load

There are certain symbols marked on cargo to and from overseas that are recognised universally.

All indicate general handling instructions to handlers of cargo who may speak a different language.

The symbols should measure over 100mm in height and be painted in black on a light background or white on a dark background. They can be in the form of a label or stencilled directly on to the package.

Several different symbols may be used on one package for varied instructions. In general, these should be placed in the upper left and right-hand corners of the main vertical face of the package and repeated on each vertical face, if possible. However, the 'keep away from heat' and 'sling here' marks are usually placed on the lower vertical face.

The common symbols are shown in figure 24.

The loading and securing of general freight loads on goods vehicles is made difficult by the wide diversity of shape, size and nature of this type of load. Vehicles equipped with side gates or van bodies will provide some restraint to movement of the load. However, additional load-restraining devices may still be required under the following conditions:

  • If there is a risk that the load may break through the walls or side gates of the vehicle.
  • If the load is higher than the loading racks or side gates of the vehicle.
  • If the load is liable to be damaged because it moved during transit.

When general freight loads are carried on platform vehicles, some form of load restraining device will always be required.

Figure 24

Figure 24 International cargo symbols

Load arrangement

Two essential requirements must be satisfied when loading vehicles, namely the load must be distributed so that:

  • the maximum vehicle and axle weights are not exceeded
  • maximum stability is ensured when the vehicle is braked, accelerated or changes direction.

For maximum stability, the items that comprise the total load need to be evenly spread to achieve minimum height and to form a unified whole so that no excessive stress is applied to whatever restraining devices are used. Where a part of the load is to be picked up or removed in the course of a journey, the effect on gross vehicle weight, individual axle loadings and the securing andstability of the load being carried must not be overlooked. Although the removal of part of the load will reduce the aggregate vehicle weight, it may change the mass distribution, and this possibility must be borne in mind during the initial loading operation.

In addition to the general principles outlined above, the following procedures should be followed whenever applicable:

  • Where mixed loads, such as heavy, solid articles and light crushable boxes, etc are involved, the former should provide the base and forward parts of the load. The light portions should be loaded on top and to the rear, provided the load arrangement does not overload the prime mover axles (see figure 25).
  • Throughout the journey, at every stop, the load should be checked for security and the lashings tested. Weather conditions can affect the tension of ropes and this may lead to damage of the load or loss of security.
  • Where mixed goods in different sizes of container are involved, small items should be central with larger items forming the outer walls of the load. The smaller items should not be so low as to act as a pivot point for the larger items around the edge to tip either way, inwards or outwards.

    It is possible for gas cylinders to be placed vertically in the centre of a mixed load (see figure 26).

    Plastic containers may be contained within the load, as illustrated.
  • Keep irregular-shaped items for the upper part of the load when it is not possible to place them centrally within the load.
  • The load must be packed tightly before applying restraint.
Figure 25

Figure 25

Figure 26

Figure 26

Restraint devices

A variety of materials may be used for restraining general freight loads. These include rope, steel chain, steel wire rope and specially designed webbing strapping made up into a harness or net. For the securing of loads inside van bodies and similar load containers, specially designed shoring poles used in conjunction with the appropriate securing fixtures on the vehicle deck and sides are suitable. Custom-built restraining devices should only be used as outlined by the manufacturer.

The restraining devices you use should be based on load securing principles. However, there are some special points that need to be considered when dealing with general freight and these are outlined below.


Tarpaulins may be used subject to the conditions outlined in Basic criteria and precautions.

Tarpaulins must be properly secured to the vehicle. Where several tarpaulins are required to cover one load they should be put on at the rear of the load first (see figures 27, 28, 29, 30). This ensures the overlapping portion of the tarpaulin faces rearwards, so preventing wind and driving rain penetrating between them. The same principle must be applied to folds in the tarpaulins at the front or on the sides of the vehicle, so that wind pressure is harnessed to close any gaps or folds in the tarpaulins.

In the case of multiple tarps position the sheets on the load ensuring that all parts are covered and that sheets are equal on each side, secure the front of the rear sheet followed by the rear of the front sheet. Do not overtighten or sheets will be drawn up to expose the load at the rear or at the front.

The next stage is to secure the front of the front sheet. This can be done in either of the following ways:

  • Step 1: Draw in the surplus sheet from the sides, cross over the front and secure.
  • Step 2: Fold the cross-overs down. The remaining surplus sheet should form a full width flat front flap (see figure 28).


  • Step 1: Draw down the front end of the sheet and secure along the entire width of headboard or trailer body.
  • Step 2: Draw the surplus sheet forward at the front corner until the sheet lies flat against the load (figure 29). Secure one side of sheet from the front corner as shown in figure 29 left. Repeat on the other side drawing the sheet taut while tightening the second sheet.
  • Step 3: Fold back the triangular shape surplus sheet along the side and secure.

The following points should always be checked:

  • The lights, reflectors, number plates and rear markings, etc should not be obscured.
  • All loose rope ends should be tied up.
  • There should be no loose flaps or tears in the tarp sheet liable to cause danger to other road users when the vehicle is moving. If damaged tarps cannot be replaced immediately, carry out temporary repairs and apply additional lashings (refer figure 31).
Figure 27

Figure 27

Figure 28

Figure 28

Figure 29

Figure 29

Figure 30

Figure 30

Figure 31

Figure 31

Loading methods

In view of the wide diversity of general loads, it is not possible to suggest loading methods for all types of loads likely to be encountered. However, the basic precautions outlined in Basic criteria and precautions will always be applicable. Loading methods for certain general categories of loads are outlined in the following paragraphs.

Rolls, drums or cylindrical loads

If the length of the cylinders is less than twice their diameter, they should be placed on end unless instructions are given to the contrary. If the length is greater than twice the diameter, but less than the width of the vehicle, they must be positioned so as to roll forward. Each row must contact the one in front, and the front and rear ones must be chocked to prevent rolling backwards or forwards.

Steel drums - 200 litre capacity - individually loaded

Wherever possible the vehicle you are using to carry drums should be equipped with either:

  • headboards, sideboards and tailboards, or
  • stanchions, ropes and hooks.

If this is not possible the vehicle must be equipped with cant rails and ropes must be used to secure the load as shown in the following figures. The drums are to be secured in groups of 8 and anchor points should be spaced no greater than 1 metre apart. All drums must be inside, NOT on the cant rail. The cant rails should be at least 3cm above the deck. You tie the first row before placing the second row.

Figures 32 and 33: Vehicle without headboard, sideboard, tailboard or stanchions. Drums in this case are to be loaded from the back and towards the front row to be double lashed as shown.

Figure 32

Figure 32

Figure 33

Figure 33

Figure 34

Figure 34

Figure 35

Figure 35

Figure 36

Figure 36 Vehicle without headboard, sideboards, tailboard
or stanchions carrying less than eight drums

Note: Only this method should be used when drums are carried on their own. If drums are carried with different types of containers, where possible, they should be surrounded by other packages, if the packages are heavy enough to help steady the drums before other lashings are tied on.

The double stacking of full 200 litre drums is not allowed. However, empty drums may be double stacked, provided the vehicle is fitted with a specially constructed cage. On no account must steel drums be carried on a metal deck without the use of close-boarded dunnage or sheets of plywood as a base for the load. This is because of the ease with which metal slips on metal both when being handled in loading and when the vehicle is moving.

Loading and offloading of heavy drums

Care should be taken not to damage either the vehicle or the drums to prevent spillage. Suitable skids and/or protective cushioning should be employed. This applies in the absence of mechanical handling equipment.

(Drums loaded on pallets - refer to Pallets)

Small steel containers - approximately 50 litre capacity

The same method of securing 200 litre drums outlined above must be used. The exception is where head, side and tailboards are fitted. In this case double stacking is permitted as long as the top layer is 50 percent below the top of the sideboard and the bottom layer of containers is capable of withstanding the extra pressures exerted by the weight of the top layer. As for the larger steel drums a metal deck must be covered with wooden dunnage.

Plastic containers and plastic drums

Because of the difficulty in securing plastic containers and the ease with which they can collapse, a vehicle fitted with headboard, sideboards and tailboards or an enclosed vehicle must be used. If the plastic-contained goods form part of a load, stack the other goods around them to provide barriers between the plastic containers and the edge of the vehicle, and to hold the plastic containers steady. Plastic containers and drums must not be double stacked because of the risk of the bottom layer splitting under the weight of the top layer.

Cartons and boxes

Boxes and cartons must be loaded so that they are prevented from moving in any direction. They must interlock if possible, and be loaded to a uniform height. Heavier boxes should be at the bottom of the load.

Tarpaulins may be used to secure very light bulk loads. However, for heavier loads there must be one lashing for each row of boxes across the vehicle under the tarpaulin. Any box that is above the general height of the load must have at least one cross lashing, and two if it weighs more than 0.5 tonne.


Sacks should be laid flat with alternate layers in opposite directions as shown in figure 37. In any event no more than two successive layers should be in the same direction. The load should be of uniform height when possible. There must be at least one cross lashing for each sack length, or one cross lashing for each two sack lengths if covered with tarpaulins securely fastened to the anchor points. With certain loads the use of tensioners may be desirable. This is particularly true of loads that tend to settle around the lashings.

Figure 37

Figure 37

Gas cylinders

All gas cylinders being transported by road should always be fitted with a valve cap or suitable guard to protect the valve from striking the road surface if an accident occurred.

Gas cylinders should be placed with their axis across the vehicle so that the rolling tendency will be to the front or rear. A vehicle with a metal deck must not be used for the carriage of gas cylinders.

Vehicles with headboards, sideboards and tailboards are to be used when transporting gas cylinders. The cylinders must be laid against each other, placed against the headboard and chocked at the back by means of a spiked chock. Stanchions may be used at the back so long as they are close enough to prevent any forward or back movement of the cylinders. The cylinders may be stacked on top of each other but may not project above the top of the sideboard.

If a vehicle with sideboards, headboard and tailboard is not available, spiked chocks must be used at both ends of a row and baulked against sideways movement along the entire length of the load. In this situation only one level is permitted, ie no stacking.

Note: The gas cylinders referred to here are the long, narrow type holding compressive gases or liquids under 250 litres water capacity and not the squat type with a bottom ring to stand upright that should be secured similarly to steel drums. Also some gas cylinders, such as those containing LPG, are required to be transported upright (ie with their long axis vertical) and therefore should be secured against a headboard similarly to steel drums.


This type of load would normally be carried on custom-built vehicles embodying specially designed glass clamps and supports. However, when sheet or plate glass is carried in crates or timber pallets the load restraint precautions for general freight apply.

The transport of crated drink, milk or other glass bottles and containers constitutes one of the greatest potential hazards for other road users because of the risk of falling crates and the breakage and scattering of broken glass on the roadway.

Crates should therefore be adequately restrained unless they lean towards the centre of the vehicle in built-in compartments. All vehicles used for this purpose should be fitted with substantial loading racks and tail gates. Vehicles used for anything other than local delivery should be fitted with side gates.

Crated bottles and other glass containers should not be stacked on the platform to a height greater than the loading rack and tail gate.


All restraining systems must restrain the bulk mass of the load as well as individual bricks. These requirements can be met by load-surrounding sides, headboard and tail board, all of which satisfy the requirements given in Loading racks and headboards. The load height should not exceed the height of the surrounding body. Custom-made nets may also be used for securing this type of load, providing the strength of both the net and the securing points used are equal to the load being restrained. Tarps should only be used as weather protection subject to the conditions.

It is now becoming commonplace to transport new bricks in bound bundles or shrink-wrapped on pallets on a platform truck with its own built-in loading and unloading device.

In such cases, the pallets of bricks must conform to the pallet requirements, the bundle of bricks being constrained by steel bands, etc.

In spite of the steel-banding of bricks, individual bricks are liable to work loose during transport and fall to the roadway creating a hazard to following or passing traffic. Drivers must therefore be extremely vigilant towards the security of their loads. Because of potential traffic hazards of dislodged bricks, restraints with caged sides are recommended.

Mixed loads

When a load is composed of different items - both goods and types of containers - each part of the load must be secured with cross-lashings in a manner suitable to the type of load. The longitudinal lashings, however, should be adequate for the total weight of the load. Separators must be used so that no part of the load can move forwards or backwards independently.


In the transportation of wool, bales must be evenly distributed over the vehicle platform and the aggregate weight of the vehicle must not be exceeded. For the security of the bales during transport, double-ended spikes are to be secured across the loading and firmly attached to the tie bars or anchor points on each side of the vehicle. Ensure that all bales on the load are roped.

Again drivers and operators should at all times ensure that the loading is properly secured.

< previous | next >

Last updated: 30 August 2010