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Section 3: Transporting Cargo Safely

This Section Covers:

  • Inspecting Cargo
  • Cargo Weight and Balance
  • Securing Cargo
  • Cargo Needing Special Attention

This section tells you about hauling cargo safely. You must understand basic cargo safety rules to get a CDL.

If you load cargo wrong or do not secure it, it can be a danger to others and yourself. Loose cargo that falls off a vehicle can cause traffic problems and others could be hurt or killed. Loose cargo could hurt or kill you during a quick stop or crash. Your vehicle could be damaged by an overload. Steering could be affected by how a vehicle is loaded, making it more difficult to control the vehicle.

Whether or not you load and secure the cargo yourself, you are responsible for:

  • Inspecting your cargo.
  • Recognizing overloads and poorly balanced weight.
  • Knowing your cargo is properly secured and does not obscure your view ahead or to the sides.
  • Knowing your cargo does not restrict your access to emergency equipment.

If you intend to carry hazardous material that requires placards on your vehicle, you will also need to have a hazardous materials endorsement. Section 9 of this manual has the information you need to pass the hazardous materials test.

3.1 – Inspecting Cargo

As part of your Vehicle inspection, make sure the truck is not overloaded and the cargo is balanced and secured properly.

After Starting. Inspect the cargo and its securing devices again within the first 50 miles after beginning a trip. Make any adjustments needed.

Re-check. Re-check the cargo and securing devices as often as necessary during a trip to keep the load secure. You need to inspect again:

  • After you have driven for 3 hours or 150 miles.
  • After every break you take during driving.

Federal, state, and local regulations for commercial vehicle weight, securing cargo, covering loads, and where you can drive large vehicles vary from place to place. Know the rules where you will be driving.

3.2 – Weight and Balance

You are responsible for not being overloaded. The following are some definitions of weight you should know.

3.2.1 – Definitions You Should Know

  • Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). The value specified by the manufacturer as the loaded weight of a single vehicle.
  • Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR). The value specified by the manufacturer of the power unit, if the value is displayed on the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) certification label; or the sum of the gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs) or the gross vehicle weights (GVWs) of the power unit and the towed unit(s), or any combination thereof, that produces the highest value.
  • Axle Weight. The weight transmitted to the ground by one axle or one set of axles.
  • Tire Load. The maximum safe weight a tire can carry at a specified pressure. This rating is stated on the side of each tire.
  • Suspension Systems. Suspension systems have a manufacturer's weight capacity rating.
  • Coupling Device Capacity. Coupling devices are rated for the maximum weight they can pull and/or carry.

Multiple-Choice Questions:

Question #206 (1 of 7)

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Define Axle Weight:

  • The value specified by the manufacturer as the unloaded weight of a single vehicle
  • The weight transmitted to the ground by one axle or one set of axles.
  • The value specified by the manufacturer of the power unit, if the value is displayed on the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) certification label; or the sum of the gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs) or the gross vehicle weights (GVWs) of the power unit and the towed unit(s), or any combination thereof, that produces the highest value.
  • The value specified by the manufacturer as the loaded weight of a single vehicle.
Axle Weight. The weight transmitted to the ground by one axle or one set of axles.
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Question #203 (2 of 7)

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Define Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR):

  • The value specified by the manufacturer as the maximum weight of the cargo in the trailer
  • The maximum safe weight a tire can carry at a specified pressure.
  • The value specified by the manufacturer as the loaded weight of a single vehicle.
  • The value specified by the manufacturer as the unloaded weight of a single vehicle.
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). The value specified by the manufacturer as the loaded weight of a single vehicle.
That's a confusing way of wording it. The GVWR is the maximum weight allowed for a single vehicle when it's loaded. For a tractor-trailer, the tractor and trailer will each have separate GVWRs.
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Question #207 (3 of 7)

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Define Tire Load:

  • The value specified by the manufacturer as the unloaded weight of a single vehicle
  • The maximum safe weight a tire can carry at a specified pressure. This rating is stated on the side of each tire.
  • The value specified by the manufacturer as the loaded weight of a single vehicle.
  • The value specified by the manufacturer of the power unit, if the value is displayed on the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) certification label; or the sum of the gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs) or the gross vehicle weights (GVWs) of the power unit and the towed unit(s), or any combination thereof, that produces the highest value.
Tire Load. The maximum safe weight a tire can carry at a specified pressure. This rating is stamped on the side of each tire.
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Question #205 (4 of 7)

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Define Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR):

  • The value specified by the manufacturer as the unloaded weight of a single vehicle
  • The value specified by the manufacturer as the loaded weight of a single vehicle.
  • The value specified by the manufacturer of the power unit, if the value is displayed on the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) certification label; or the sum of the gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs) or the gross vehicle weights (GVWs) of the power unit and the towed unit(s), or any combination thereof, that produces the highest value.
  • The weight transmitted to the ground by one axle or one set of axles.
Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR). The value specified by the manufacturer of the power unit, if the value is displayed on the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) certification label; or the sum of the gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs) or the gross vehicle weights (GVWs) of the power unit and the towed unit(s), or any combination thereof, that produces the highest value.
Ok, that's the worst definition in history. The gross combination weight rating is simply the maximum weight allowed for the tractor and trailer combined. For a standard tractor-trailer it's 80,000 lbs.
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Question #204 (5 of 7)

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During a trip, you inspect the cargo after the first 50 miles. How often must you re-inspect the cargo after that?

  • After you have driven for 1 hour or 50 miles, and after every other break you take during driving
  • Once every three hours or anytime you detect the cargo has shifted
  • After you have driven for 3 hours or 150 miles, and after every break you take during driving
  • Once every hour

Re-check. Re-check the cargo and securing devices as often as necessary during a trip to keep the load secure. You need to inspect again:

  • After you have driven for 3 hours or 150 miles.
  • After every break you take during driving.
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Question #200 (6 of 7)

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After beginning a trip the driver should inspect the cargo within:

  • The first 100 miles
  • The first 50 miles
  • The first 150 miles
  • The first 10 miles
Inspect the cargo and its securing devices again within the first 50 miles after beginning a trip
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Question #199 (7 of 7)

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Which of the following is the driver's responsibility regarding cargo loading?

  • All of these are the driver's responsibility
  • Recognizing overloads and poorly balanced weight
  • Inspecting cargo
  • Knowing your cargo is properly secured and does not obscure your view ahead or to the sides.

Whether or not you load and secure the cargo yourself, you are responsible for:

  • Inspecting your cargo.
  • Recognizing overloads and poorly balanced weight.
  • Knowing your cargo is properly secured and does not obscure your view ahead or to the sides.
  • Knowing your cargo does not restrict your access to emergency equipment.
The driver is ultimately responsible for the cargo. The driver must ensure the cargo is loaded safely, is properly secured, and the weight is distributed evenly.
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