Loads better07 September 2011

An advanced load weight monitor for trailers is among developments aimed at improving efficiency at loading bay, while also helping to prevent accidents. John Challen reports

Given that loading bays have, over the last five years, accounted for 31 fatalities and more than 6,000 injuries, there is potential to improve health and safety levels at this end of transport. Looking at those figures, and remembering also the nearly 500 truck rollovers last year alone – many of which were caused by loading issues –loading bay equipment and lift supplier Transdek believes it has a novel solution.

Its equipment, currently on trial at an unnamed operator's distribution centre, is unassumingly dubbed the load weight monitor (LWM) – which does what it says on the tin, but in more detail than many. Transdek operations director Leon Butler explains that, where double deck trailers are concerned, operators tend to use an 18:8 tonne safety loading ratio for the bottom versus the top. However, he also makes the point that a dry freight double deck trailer's maximum payload is 26 tonnes – with a maximum of 12 tonnes on the top and 14 on the bottom.

Transdek's system is simple but clever – effectively weight loads for the upper and lower decks independently. Loading bay operators get load information, as it happens, via an HMI screen on the LWM's control panel. That shows maximum weight, how much is loaded on the trailer per deck at that moment, and remaining weight available. If the maximum weight is exceeded, the scale is shown in red, and an alarm sounds, indicating that the limit has been breached. There are also large red/green lights on the top deck of the trailers, so that operatives or drivers know they are clear (or not) to carry on loading.

"When we're designing lift software for a particular site, we enter the [allowed weight] parameters in, and the lift compares against those weights when product is put on the platform," states Butler. He suggests that live updates of the weights loaded are key to eliminating overloads and also the time otherwise spent unloading when thresholds have been exceeded – a significant improvement on most current weighing options.

"When a double-deck trailer goes onto a weighbridge, the load distribution between the top and lower decks is not given," he reasons. "There could be 15 tonnes on top and nothing on the bottom, thereby making it unstable. Yes, [a load indicator] would show the trailer to be underweight, but not where the weight is, or whether that was a problem."

Cost-cutting exercise
Butler reckons that an overweight trailer leaving the loading bay, getting weighed and coming back for re-loading wastes around three hours, and works out at around £500. As well as proving that those costs can be eliminated, the LWM's current six-week trial is designed to show that the equipment won't get damaged in a typical loading bay environment, and to ensure that the software is in line with the expectation of a distribution centre.

"We've been talking to them on a weekly basis, and been onsite to monitor feedback from the maintenance guys," reveals Butler. "The trailers are being safely loaded and there have been none of the reloading costs encountered before, so the LWM has been warmly received."

Ultimately, Butler expects further enquires and equipment rollouts throughout the company's distribution centres later this year. He also adds that Transdek's latest lifts are designed with health and safety top of mind. "To cut manual handling operations, the loading platform [for the lifts] has been made wider and robust enough so that roll cages can be moved onto the lift platform using mechanical handling equipment, rather than people. It also has a separate personnel walkway, from the front to the back, so segregating the user from the product itself."

When one door closes...
Loading bay equipment provider Sara LBS has developed a rapid food door (RFD), said to improve health and safety for operators. Designed to provide better entry and exit to transport areas, the RFD is aimed at setting new standards for user safety, while also maintaining consistent temperatures forfood processing.
Sara LBS's RFD is powered by a geared brake motor, which is controlled by an MCC vector control frequency converter, with the motor/drive combination delivering rapid opening and closing of the door.

For more information
The Health and Safety Executive's website features a page dedicated to loading bay safety, with advice, suggestions and guidelines on how to improve overall safety when loading and unloading. Go to www.hse.gov.uk/workplacetransport/loading.htmto find out more.

John Challen

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Related Companies
Health & Safety Executive
Transdek UK Ltd

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