The long haul
Editor’s note: In 2002, several glass manufacturers and glass transportation carriers―along with Dr. Frank Davis, University of Tennessee Logistics Professor―formed the Flat Glass Logistics Council. The purpose of the council was to address issues associated with flat glass transportation, including capacity, safety and supply chain efficiency.
Using the University of Tennessee’s Logistics Department to provide the analysis, the FGLC examined 18 months’ worth of data from 19 shipping locations and five major North American glass carriers in an attempt to identify the areas that were the most susceptible to accidents or injuries. The FGLC Carrier Safety Committee then established guidelines to address the safety issues that the study revealed. The following safety findings and guidelines are the result of that study.
Since the FGLC established these guidelines, there has been a significant reduction in serious incidents in the flat glass supply chain, making these guidelines just as relevant today as they were when the initial study was conducted.
Most claim incidents involve mixed loads: loads that have different glass sizes and packaging configurations on the same trailer. Pictured is a mixed load that included glass lites as tall as 130 inches and as short as 60 inches. At first glance, the load looked ok upon arrival.
However, closer inspection revealed horizontal cracks on the largest lite.
In this instance, the 60-inch glass moved during transport, putting undue pressure on the strap securing the tallest glass lite and causing it to crack.
When comparing accidents, injuries and cargo claims with that of other commodities transported by over-the-road carriers, flat glass has a much higher rate of incidents and serious injuries. Most claim incidents involve mixed loads: loads that have different glass sizes and packaging configurations (uncrated, crated, shipper racks, etc.) all on the same trailer.
Not only are over-the-road glass haulers expected to safely navigate a 75-foot-long/80,000-pound truck on congested highways, they are expected to be “glass packaging engineers” capable of loading trailers in a safe, efficient manner. In an industry where driver turnover is greater than 100 percent, this is a critical issue. Whenever possible, provide an on-site specialist skilled in glass securement and packaging at major shipping locations to give guidance and assistance to less experienced glass drivers.
To minimize glass cargo claims, the FGLC also recommends the following:
- When mixing uncrated glass on an “A” frame, never mix glass sizes that are smaller than 70 percent of the tallest glass on a side. For example, a 96-inch-by-130-inch glass lite against the frame should not be loaded with a glass lite that measures 60 inches by 130 inches or smaller.
- Do not load customer “L” racks or “I” racks on the back of a double-drop trailer, as the ride is roughest in that location.
Riding high on the trailer, heavy glass makes tractor-trailers very susceptible to rollovers. The FGLC recommends glass transportation carriers purchase glass trailers (especially flatbeds) with stiffer reinforced frames to minimize twisting or racking in turns. It also advises drivers take the following precautions:
- Slow to half the posted speed limit on exit and onramps
- Reconfigure loads to achieve the lowest center of gravity
- Avoid sudden changes in direction, swerves and unplanned lane changes
- Maintain a speed below the posted limit in construction areas.
The cause of glass breakage was undetermined in this instance. However, the pictures illustrate how costly glass transportation accidents can be, with significant damage to the trailer itself (top) and the glass load. Although the glass load on the other side of the A frame was undamaged in this case, it could not be salvaged because no one could access it safely (see below). Heavy equipment was necessary to push all of the glass off the truck.
Loading and unloading
In terms of frequency, slips and falls are the leading cause of injury and occur most often when the trailer is being loaded or unloaded.
To help avoid injuries in the loading area itself, the FGLC recommends:
- The loading area be clean and clear of previous dunnage, equipment, racks and stored glass to provide a clear and safe working environment
- The trailer is parked on a level, hard surface―preferably inside, out of the wind and weather
- The trailer air supply is “dumped” from the suspension system to stabilize the rear of the trailer
- The trailer wheels are chocked
- If the environment requires that the tractor be unhooked from the trailer, two jack stands are placed under the fifth wheel plate (one on either side) to stabilize the front of the trailer
- The trailer landing gear is lowered to the ground to provide further stabilization
- All individuals working in the area wear personal protective equipment, including hard hats, long-sleeved shirts, load pants, hard-soled shoes and gloves
- All ladders are used on flat, stable surfaces, according to the manufacturer’s instructions
- The trailer surface is clean. All previous dunnage, chocks, nails, etc., have been removed
- No one walks on top of the glass
- Assistance is provided, as needed, when lifting tarps and other heavy material.
When loading and unloading glass trailers, the FGLC recommends:
- The load configuration meets the carrier trailer capabilities
- Mixed products and sizes meet guidelines (see “mixed loads” section on Page XX)
- Stop-off loads are set up to meet safe securement and balance standards after each stop. Or, the stop-off customer moves the remaining product on the trailer to meet safe and balanced standards
- All loads are of legal dimensions and weight.
On the road
The Department of Transportation requires that drivers inspect cargo securement systems at the beginning of a trip, after the first 50 miles or within one hour of that trip, every additional 150 miles or 3 hours, and at every change-of-duty status. During these inspections, trailers should be on level ground, a safe distance from others, and in a well-lit area.
In the event of breakage or cracked glass lites occurring over-the-road, the FGLC recommends drivers:
- Assess the situation with leadership of the transportation company. When doing so, determine how close the nearest professional glass handing facility is; whether or not the trailer is in a safe, level area and can be safely moved; whether or not assistance or special equipment is required; and what the alternatives are. Then, notify the shipper and customer, if necessary.
- Depending on the situation, corrective action could include moving to a professional glass handling facility to remove the broken glass to cullet bins, or getting professional assistance and equipment to remove the broken glass at the current location. If the latter course of action is taken, make sure to advise the local emergency response team and be aware that heavy equipment will be required if glass is on the ground. In this situation, always wear PPE and keep a safe distance from broken glass still on the trailer.
In the event the driver arrives at the customer location with broken or cracked glass lites, the FGLC recommends:
- Drivers assess the situation and communicate with the customer, shipper and carrier leadership to determine the safest course of action
- The party or parties accountable for the damage fairly compensate all parties that assist in cleanup and disposal
- Unsafe, damaged loads are not moved over public highways.
Transporting architectural glass, not unlike manufacturing and fabricating glass, is a specialized business that requires unique equipment, as well as skilled and experienced drivers who are not only familiar with their product and equipment, but committed to safety in all aspects of the job. It also requires cooperation between suppliers and transportation carriers. We are all part of the same supply chain, and working together to minimize risks will help build a safe working environment.