Who Pulled My Fifth Wheel Pin?

While I was visiting a small trucking company recently, I was reminded of FMCSR 392.9. This regulation specifies what you must do, and when you need to perform cargo securement checks. I had forgotten all about this regulation, but it’s important because we have similar laws here in Canada. So what new information might you get out of reading this article? It is going to be a reminder to you about when and how often you must check your load securement. And also it will serve as a reminder why checking your 5th wheel pin is so darned important. This regulation doesn’t just apply to flat deck drivers. This rule applies to all forms of truck transport. If the trailer is not sealed, this provision applies to you!

The regulation does not apply if the shipper has sealed your trailer and ordered you not to inspect the cargo. This law is one real reason that you and your company should be insisting that all trailers get a security seal. Thank goodness most loads that are crossing international borders are sealed.

So when do you have to inspect the cargo? Regulation 392.9 specifies that you must check it within the first 50 miles or 80 km. I had forgotten that this rule applies to all modes of transport and not just for flat deck carriers. Next, the law says that you need to stop and inspect your load every three hours or 150 miles or 240 kilometers.

When I audit logbooks, I don’t often see drivers stopping every three hours. Oh, I can hear all of you drivers yelling at me, saying that if you stop every three hours, you will not make any money! Well, if you are in the States, you can only drive eleven hours in your fourteen-hour working day. So you can stop and inspect your load. It will only take a few minutes. Not fifteen, just a few, maybe five?

Here is the part that I had totally forgotten. You must check your load at every change of duty status. I repeat, at every change of duty status.

When I’m speaking to truck drivers, I always preach that they need to inspect the truck every time that they leave the unit out of their sight. A few months ago, an industry paper wrote an article discussing how often people will pull the fifth wheel pin. YES, this is still happening on a regular basis. So you need to check it. And while you are at it, check the load securement or the seal on your trailer.

So the regulations say that you must check your cargo securement within the first fifty miles and then after that every 150 mile or every three hours of work and at each change of duty status. And while you are at it, check that fifth wheel. There are people out there that just like to ruin your day. They have no morals. The prank of pulling your fifth wheel handle is not a joke; it is extremely dangerous and puts people’s lives at risk. So please check it with every change of duty status and whenever you leave your truck out of your sight.

Please be safe out there.

Chris Harris
Top Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.