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How to Load a Tractor Trailer

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Tractor trailers carry thousands of shipments over the roads of the United States every day. Although bulk cargoes like coal tend to travel by train and high-value items by plane, almost everything else goes by truck. Trucks have the advantage of being able to take a shipment directly from it's point of manufacture to anywhere that has a road access. Loading a tractor trailer is simple; the amount of time and effort it takes depends on where it is being loaded and whether there is forklift access.

Contact the destination for the shipment and check what facilities they have for receiving it. If they don't have a loading dock or a forklift, for example, you will need to load the truck by hand. If they do, check how much weight their forklifts can carry so as not to bring them overweight pallets they can't move.

Back the truck up to a loading dock. Ideally, the truck will be sitting level at the loading dock so that forklifts don't have to fight gravity when bringing a load aboard. If there is no loading dock, use a trailer with ramps and load items by hand.

Open the loading dock door and the trailer's back door. If your loading dock has a metal flap to bridge the trailer and the dock, set it over the gap.

Clean the truck thoroughly and check it over for leaks that might damage loads on board.

Carry parcels aboard by hand and stack them on the floor of the truck, starting at the end closest to the driver. Put the heaviest items at the bottom. If your loading area has a movable conveyor belt, you can speed this operation up significantly by bringing the belt into the truck and stationing workers at the end to pull boxes off the belt and stack them.

Load pallets of freight with a forklift or pallet truck (a set of forks pumped up and pulled by hand). There are three basic ways to load pallets: side-by-side (with their short sides facing forward and backward), turned (with their long sides facing forward and backward) or pinwheeled (with half the pallets turned). Turned pallets will use the space more efficiently, as there is less of a gap between the walls and the cargo. You will need pallets that have gaps to be lifted from each side.

Distribute the weight on the truck evenly. If your load of pallets doesn't fill the trailer, move them so that equal weight (or close to it) is on the left, right, front and back of the trailer.

Load loose or irregularly shaped items by hand or with a forklift and secure them in place with straps hooked to attachment points inside the trailer.

Check over your load to ensure that everything is well braced. You may want to brace the loads by nailing blocks and cleats to the floor of the truck, strapping them down or wrapping them in webbing. Individual pallets should be wrapped in shrink wrap to prevent small items from shifting.

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About the Author

Joshua Smyth started writing in 2003 and is based in St. John's, Newfoundland. He has written for the award-winning "Cord Weekly" and for "Blueprint Magazine" in Waterloo, Ontario, where he spent a year as editor-in-chief. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and economics from Wilfrid Laurier University.

Photo Credits

  • line of trucks 1 image by Aaron Kohr from Fotolia.com