Unsecure loads present a massive danger to road users. Van drivers that fail to restrain their cargo increase the risk of items moving around the load area - especially during braking or turning - which could cause the van to rollover.

Similarly, professionals using pick-up trucks, tippers and dropsides without securing their load run the risk of having objects fall from the vehicle onto the road.

Effective load securing prevents goods from shifting in transit or falling onto the road, causing danger to other road users. During 2013, the Highways Agency reported over 22,000 road impact incidents caused by objects falling from vehicles. On average, it took 20 minutes to deal with each incident.

The government and independent businesses can also benefit from secure loads. Unsafe loads on vehicles cost UK businesses millions of pounds in damaged goods. By ensuring that goods don't fall from the vehicle, they will arrive at their destination in-tact and without damaging any infrastructure which saves money all round.

The first step to transporting any load safely and securely is to be prepared.

Planning Your Load

Knowing the items you've got to transport will help to maximise the space in the back of your van. When you're planning how to load you're cargo, keep the game Tetris in mind - always load items in rows.

Start from the back of the van and work your way forwards, loading large and bulky items first. Don't forget to distrubute heavy items evenly across the floor surface of your van, making sure not to overload it - you should be able to find the maximum payload in the owner's manual.

Although it seems like common sense, it's important to remember that whatever you load first will be unloaded last. Having a loading plan can help to systematically organise how your van is loaded.

How To Secure Items In The Back Of A Van

Planning how you secure your load is an important step to keeping workers and road users safe. To secure a load safely, you need to make sure it's restrained and contained.

When assessing how loads are secured DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) examiners ask a series of questions:

  • Can the load slide or topple forwards or backwards?
  • Can the load slide or topple off the side?
  • Is the load unstable?
  • Is the load securing equipment in poor condition?
  • Is there anything loose the might fall off?
  • Does the vehicle present an immediate likelihood of causing danger of injury due to its load security or stability?

The type of securing method you use depends on the load you're transporting. You need to choose a securing method that stops the load from moving without creating other risks (e.g. working at height or unnecessary manual handling)

Tether Your Contents

Using anchor points in the van's load area, you can use webbing or lashing straps to secure objects and prevent them from moving around.

Items should be tethered to the van in the directions of travel rather than perpendicular to travel which will provide extra restraint if the contents are jolted while moving.

It's important to regularly check your webbing straps for damage - even a small cut or tear can significantly reduce its stength and ability to secure the load.

Line The Load Floor

If your van doesn't already have a floor lining, you might consider lining it with 3/4" plywood - it makes a good base for non-slip solutions to go on.

In addition, you can invest in heavy rubber mats that can be extended across the floor of your van. They will help to increase the amount of friction between your cargo and the van floor, as well as provide more stability when walking inside the van.

Although the mats stop objects from sliding in transit and make them more secure, you'll need to lift larger objects into place when loading and unloading. Previously, you would have been able to slide them across the floor. 

Cover Your Contents

If your vehicle has an open load area, for example a pick-up truck or tipper, it's advisable to cover your cargo with tarpaulin or netting. Whichever material you're using, make sure to secure it to a solid part of the vehicle before starting your journey.

Consequences Of Poor Load Securing

In the worst case scenario, poor load securing can result in death or serious injury for the driver, other road users and anyone involved in the unloading of the vehicle.

In fact, statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that workplace transport is one of the highest risk activites, accounting for over half of all death or injury incidents reported to HSE.

Being involved in a load securing incident that causes death could lead to prosecution due to negligence which can result in substanstial fines.

Aside from causing death or injury, the business risks losing a lot of money if goods are damaged in transit or during the unloading process.

Before setting off on any journey, every van driver should ensure that their load is secure. To help identify potential problems, encourage all drivers to ask themselves the DVSA examiner questions listed above.