HSE Advisory note:Handling vehicles and trailers with shifted loads

Published: Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - 15:37

We would like to draw attention of readers to the following HSE Advisory note on Handling vehicles and trailers with shifted loads:

Advisory note: Handling vehicles and trailers with shifted loads

"A load shift incident occurred recently involving a curtain-sided articulated heavy goods vehicle leaving a port with an unsecured load that had shifted during the sea journey. The load shift was identified by the driver on collection. Arrangements were subsequently made by the operator for the vehicle to travel to a site some miles from the port for unloading and reloading. The load shifted again on the first roundabout outside the port, ejecting part of the load through the side curtain and onto the road. Items in the load weighed in excess of 700kg each.

If the load security appears to have been compromised during the sea journey, the vehicle must not enter the public road network.

The driver or port personnel may see indications of load movement on a vehicle or trailer, including significant bulging of curtains or the vehicle leaning to one side.

If the load appears to have shifted, the following steps should be taken[1]:

  • Do not open the vehicle or trailer if the curtain is bulging or there are other indications of significant load movement;
  • Do not remove or loosen any restraints;
  • Quarantine the vehicle in a safe area within the port, with enough space around it to allow remedial work to be safely carried out. The safe area should be away from other work.

Once the vehicle is quarantined, the vehicle operator should ensure that it is assessed by a competent person, using the rear doors or the curtain on the other side of the vehicle/trailer to access the load bed as necessary. A safe system of work to safely unload or reposition the load should be devised and agreed with the vehicle operator and port authorities.

Unloading, re-loading and/or repositioning the load should be carried out within the safe area, with access limited to those directly involved in the work. The load must then be secured for road transport before the vehicle leaves the port.


The Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended) and the Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986 require drivers, operators, and load consignors to ensure that goods transported by road are secured to protect the driver, other road users, and pedestrians. The load securing system must be capable of withstanding transverse forces equivalent to 50% of the load weight.

For sea transport, the load securing system must be capable of withstanding transverse forces equivalent to:

  • 70% of the load weight for commercial vehicles or trailers arriving in British Ports on the majority of journeys across the North Sea and English Channel;
  • 80% of the load weight on journeys across the Irish Sea and the majority of other journeys[2].

The load securing system can consist of the vehicle structure, any fixed structure such as bulkheads, stanchions, chocks, or coil wells, and lashings such as chains or webbing straps.

Curtain-sided trailers not constructed to the BS EN 12642:2016 “XL” standard are designed to provide weather protection for the load only. The curtains of standard curtain-sided trailers cannot be used as part of the load securing system.

Further guidance on suitable securing systems for road transport can be found in the Department for Transport Code of Practice, Safety of loads on vehicles (3rd Edition)[3]. Further guidance on securing for sea transport can be found in International Maritime Organisation guidance[4]."


HSE, Transport and Public Services Unit

19 May 2020




[1] https://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/hsg136.htm

[2] BS EN 12195-1:2010 Load restraining on road vehicles — Safety, Part 1: Calculation of securing forces

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/safety-of-loads-on-vehicles-code-of-practice

[4] http://www.imo.org/en/OurWork/Safety/Cargoes/CargoSecuring/Pages/default.aspx