Thursday, March 31, 2011

Revisiting..... Load Locks

Back in September, we discussed the topic of load locks. To review, load locks are used to secure cargo, and are telescoping bars that have ratcheting mechanisms inside, and are typically made of steel or aluminum. To set load locks into place, you telescope the bar until the ends contact the wall or the floor and the ceiling, then flip the tension handle to lock it in place.

Today, we will revisit this important topic and provide some tips that will be useful in improving or maintaining your CSA score for the Cargo-Related BASIC. To review, the Cargo-Related BASIC relates to failure to properly prevent shifting loads, spilled or dropped cargo, overloading, and unsafe handling of hazardous materials on a Commercial Motor Vehicle. Example violations are: improper load securement, cargo retention, and hazardous material handling. In refrigerated produce shipments, load locks (along with proper loading techniques) are one of the most important tools to ensure that cargo is loaded and secured properly for transport.

So, now, let’s review how to use load locks to our best advantage:

- Make sure that you have 3-6 load locks that are in good working order available.

- It is recommended that 2 load locks be placed between the floor and the ceiling on the left side of the rear pallets – this is because all vehicles on the road lean slightly to the right due to the road’s center crown, and pallets are therefore stacked slightly to the right of the trailer in order to minimize shifting.

- It is also recommended that 2 load locks be placed on the back of the rear pallets between the trailer’s walls. Remember that it is always advisable to have a minimum of 6 inches of space between the back doors and the load to allow for adequate air flow.

- Even if you don’t use your load locks on a regular basis, a monthly inspection is advised to ensure that they are operating effectively and are not rusted or otherwise broken. Don’t get you and your load locks jammed up at time of loading!

Improperly positioned freight can not only affect your BASIC score in the Cargo-Related area, but can also result in damages have the potential to cause a significant loss of value to the load, and consequently, the potential for additional costs. So, the moral here (once again) is be prepared; prevention is always the best way!

Share your tips for using load locks with us!!!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Carrier Loading Tip - Do the Math and Show Your Work

When it comes to loading, one of the best ways to protect yourself as a driver is to observe the loading of your trailer, for not only for product quality and condition, but also for quantity.

Here are some tips on how to keep track of what is being loaded in your trailer:

- If you are not sure of how many pallets/cases are supposed to be loaded on your trailer, call UWC immediately and we will provide you with this information. Remember, you can always reach us, toll free 24/7: 1.877.273.7400!!

- Carry a small notepad with you, that will help you keep track of the # of pallets/cases that are going on the trailer (this is the do your math part!).

- Compare the Bill of Lading with the UWC load sheet, and with what is actually being loaded on the trailer – any discrepancies - either with product description or count - must be communicated to UWC and written on the BOL (this is the show your work part!). Writing any issues/discrepancies down on the BOL is one of the best ways to protect yourself against any issues that may arise upon delivery.

- If you do not have access to the loading dock, you must write “SHIPPER LOAD AND COUNT” on your BOL. The same goes here for delivery – if there is no access to the receiving dock, record “RECIEVER UNLOAD AND COUNT” – this helps indicate that the work done at these points was by someone other than yourself. These are key!!!

We all know how hard it is to make your case when all you have as proof is your words; documentation is key in this industry!!! These tips will surely help you on your way to successful loading practices; for more, take a look at UWC’s Carrier Loading Guidelines. Do you have any more counting tips or experiences to share?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

How it works - Refrigerated Trailers - Part II

In a post back in February, we introduced the topic of how refer units work that outlined some facts what will help us better understand and clarify their operation.

This lead us to ask the question, exactly how do reefer units work? So, we did some research to find some more technical explanations.

As a review, the idea of refrigeration is to remove heat, and thus, maintain temperature of products; refrigeration systems are closed, and have many parts that assist in helping the unit maintain temperature. The major parts are:

- The Compressor – in a reefer unit, the compressor is driven by a small engine. The compressor draws gaseous refrigerant in and compresses it. The pressure inside the compressor liquefies the gas, and the now-liquid refrigerant gives off heat to the body of the compressor, and ultimately to the air.

- The Condenser – the liquid from the compressor is still relatively warm, so it is pumped into a condenser; the condenser is a heat exchanger. Warmth flows from the liquid to the walls of the tubing, to fins on the tubing. The fins present more surface area for cooling outside air drawn through the condenser by a fan. Similar to the way a radiator cools an engine!!

- The Evaporator – The evaporator is located in the trailer. The refrigerant, having given up much of its heat in the condenser, has turned into a cool liquid under pressure. It now flows through a metering valve into the evaporator. The metering valve controls the amount of refrigerant released into the evaporator, acting like a throttle to control the amount of cooling. It also works to help maintain backpressure in the high-pressure part of the system, which runs from the compressor to the evaporator.

In the evaporator, the refrigerant rapidly expands, once again becoming a gas. As it does, it absorbs a great amount of heat from its surroundings. Those surroundings are finned coils, which help transfer heat from air flowing over the fins to the refrigerant. Air from inside the trailer is blown over the evaporator. The refrigerant gas, now under low pressure, is drawn back to the compressor where the cycle starts again.

The trailer air, now cooled by giving up some of its heat to the evaporator, circulates back into the trailer to keep the cargo cool.

This is a very basic description of how a reefer system works to maintain air temperature. Like any component of a truck or trailer, it requires regular maintenance to ensure it operates as designed. Maintenance is relatively straightforward, and as with all other past suggestions, UWC strongly recommends regular preventative maintenance to avoid costly breakdown repair bills! Units should be checked regularly for oil leakage at both the engine and the compressor. Belt and hoses should also be checked regularly. Standard units call for oil and filter changes at approximately 1,500 hours, or about once every few months. This depends on how much the reefer operates when the truck is idle, and is best to also check with the manufacturers recommendations.
Along with mechanical maintenance, be sure to check your unit regularly to make sure air passages are clear and free of debris; check the channels on the floor for cleanliness, and remember to periodically remove the forward bulkhead to make sure airways are clean. It is also a good idea to routinely check the evaporator for any paper or scraps that may affect cooling.

Understanding exactly how your reefer unit works will allow you to be better equipped to take care of it. Remember, take care of your equipment, and it will in turn take care of you! Do you have any comments or more details to add to our post? Please share!!!

An on a final note, we hope you have a very cool St. Patrick’s Day!!!!


Understanding reefers. Paul Abelson, technical editor. May 2001. Landline: The Business Magazine for Professional Truckers. Accessed on March 17, 2011.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Industry News Alert - United States, Mexico Reach Cross-Border Trucking Agreement

On March 3, in a joint news conference, United States President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced that both countries have reached a preliminary agreement set to resolve the long-standing dispute over cross-border trucking.

What does the agreement outline?

The agreement aligns with previous requirements that Mexican motor carriers will be required to apply for authority from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and also demonstrate that they meet the same safety standards as United States fleets. Under this agreement, Mexican trucks will have the same situation as Canadian trucks, and will be prohibited from hauling freight between destinations within the United States.

What will the agreement change?

If the agreement is approved by Congress, Mexico would remove the tariffs it has imposed on U.S. fresh fruits and vegetables. Shippers of apples, pears, cherries, apricots, strawberries, table grapes, grapefruit, oranges, onions, lettuce, for example have suffered at one time or another during the period since the tariffs were first imposed in 2009.

When is all this supposed to happen?

After the final draft agreement is signed, Mexico has agreed to suspend 50% of these tariffs; this could happen in as little as two months. The remaining 50% of tariffs would be suspended once the first Mexican carrier is granted operating authority under the new program, which could happen perhaps a couple of months after the final draft agreement is signed.

What does it mean for the transportation industry?

As with any government/industry agreement, positive and negatives have been brought up by stakeholders. One significant positive point is that U.S. shippers of fresh fruit and vegetables will now be able to move their product across the border without being subject to a tariff.

One negative that some in the industry have highlighted is that allowing Mexican trucks into the U.S. will increase risks to motorists and open the doors for increased drug trafficking. This threat will be eased with increased and strict monitoring of all trucks that cross the border.

Whatever the outcome, positive and negatives will be discussed, and UWC will strive to keep all involved updated.


U.S., Mexico lay out path to end trucking dispute – The Packer – Published on 03/03/2011 by Tom Karst. Accessed on 03/08/2011.

U.S., Mexico reach Cross-Border Trucking Agreement – TIA Logistics Weekly – 03-09-2011.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

CSA - New Warining Letter Tipsheet Now Available!!!

The FMCSA sends warning letters to motor carriers whose safety performance data indicates that they are not complying with the applicable regulations. Warning letters are often the first step in the intervention process. Below, some helpful information on these letters, and tips on how to take action to improve your safety operations.

So, what exactly is a warning letter?
A warning letter is a correspondence sent by the FMCSA to a motor carrier’s place of business that highlights the BASICs that are assigned with an “alert”, or safety compliance problem. The letter outlines the possible consequences of persistent safety problems, and also provides instructions for accessing motor carrier safety data in the SMS system, as well as a point of contact if additional information is needed.

Why would a carrier get a warning letter?
Safety performance data shows whether a motor carrier is operating in full compliance with all applicable FMCSA safety regulations. Based on the data, the warning letter will list BASICs where the motor carrier’s on-road performance over the past 24 months indicates safety issues. The letter further encourages the motor carrier to look at its safety performance data online.

How do you respond if you receive a letter?
Motor carriers who receive warning letters should review their safety data in order to develop and execute strategies the will make their operations compliant with safety regulations. Continued poor performance may lead to more intensive interventions. Motor carrier are not required to write a response to the FMCSA when they receive a warning letter.

Need some tips on how to move forward with the CSA, and reduce the likelihood of getting a warning letter?

Tip #1 – Check your data
Log in to the FMCSA Portal to review your data, ensure data accuracy, and examine violation types.

Tip #2 – Understand your Safety Assessment – Percentiles and Alerts
Percentiles – The SMS calculates a measure for each of the BASICs . The measure is used to assign a ranking or percentile that allows the safety behavior of a carrier to be compared with the safety behavior of other motor carriers with similar operations and numbers of safety events. For more in SMS calculations and methodologies, visit Percentile thresholds have been established to indicate when safety compliance problems require intervention:

- Unsafe Driving, Fatigued Driving, Crash Indicator: General-65%; HAZMAT-60%; Passenger-50%
- Driver Fitness, Controlled Substances/Alcohol, Vehicle Maintenance, Cargo: General-80%; HAZMAT-60%; Passenger-65%

Alerts – You can receive an alert on a BASIC in two ways. The On-Road column lists the motor carrier’s percentile for each BASIC. If the percentile is over the established intervention threshold, the percentile is presented with an orange outline around the percentile. The Investigation column displays the “Serious Violation Found” icon for a BASIC if a serious violation was cited during an investigation within 12months of the SMS results date. The icon will remain present for 12 months following an investigation regardless of whether corrective actions have occurred.

Tip #3 – Improve Safety Now!
Conduct detailed data analysis, address safety issues, and periodically review SMS data.
Remember, motor carriers that do not improve their safety may be subject to more intensive interventions such as full or focused compliance reviews!!!

If you would like to obtain the full copy of the “FMCSA Warning Letter: TIPSHEET”, visit

Do you have any CSA experiences or tips of your own? What are your opinions of the new system?