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Road transport is by far the most ubiquitous methods of moving cargo globally. Road transport also happens to be something that individuals or shippers can easily managed directly without having to go through a broker or third party. Trucks and vehicles can frequently be sourced locally, even in the early days of an emergency response, though quality of vehicles and roads may vary.
- Flexibility - Organisations can use commercial providers to meet fluctuating demand requirements
- No Size Constraint – Organisations that may only ship infrequently, or only ship small quantities and may not need self-managed vehicles on hand at all times. Third-party transport caters to variable loads and journeys.
- Lower Upfront Cost – Third-party transporters will have virtually no start-up costs, and the transporter may be able to offer a more cost-effective and a more efficient service by sharing loads with other shippers.
- Reduced Complexity – The administration of vehicles and drivers is no longer the responsibility of the organisation, allowing the administration teams of the organisation to focus on other areas.
- Local Knowledge - Third-party transporters or providers may have better working knowledge of country requirements, local restrictions, geography, vehicle requirements or limitations, optimized optimised routes, sticking points and more.
It is important to be able to select the appropriate vehicle for the purpose required even if, at a later stage, it is necessary to revise this choice to reflect availability in the field. See below a description of the main body types and combinations that are available.
Body and Size
The overall size of the vehicle is largely tied to the load in question. There are many factors that might limit the weight of a vehicle, including local infrastructure, road conditions, local laws and even the overall quality of the vehicle itself.
Max Gross Weight (Tonnes)
*Estimated Payload (Tonnes)
Typical Total Body Length (Meters)
Single Unit Truck
2 axles / 4 wheels
Single Unit Truck
2 axles / 6 wheels
Single Unit Truck
2 axles / 6 wheels
Single Unit Truck
Single Unit Truck
Tractor Trailer Truck
Tractor Trailer Truck
Tractor Trailer Truck
Tractor Trailer Truck
Close Coupled Trailer
*The estimated payload is the weight of goods that can be carried without exceeding the maximum gross vehicle weight. Where law does not specify a maximum gross weight or local circumstances allow, this payload may be increased. For high volume / low weight cargo, the load may reach maximum capacity before weight limits are met.
Generic Body Types
The desired vehicle body/trailer type will vary according to the goods or materials being carried, the terrain, the distance, and the prevailing security conditions on the ground. There are many variants of body/trailer type available. Generic body types might include:
- The number of calls to a particular delivery point in any single day is limited.
- The total vehicle travel in any day is limited and the driver's time is limited.
- Vehicles have a fixed carrying capacity.
- Whether the roads are suitable for the specific transport needs and vehicle, including road conditions, hairpin turns, and any narrow gates or physical structures.
- Volume of goods for each delivery point is known and each drop has a location for which there is an established driving time to and from the warehouse or to the next delivery point.
- The quantity of goods delivered to any drop is smaller than the vehicle’s carrying capacity and there is an established time to deliver/collect at the drop point.
- The operating hours of the delivery/offloading points are known, and constraints such as peak hours are understood.
Calculating a Route Plan
A vehicle route is scheduled by basic following steps:
- Always load the heaviest items at the bottom of the items stacked onto a truck bed. Top heavy loads are more likely to fall over in transit.
- Loaders should plan for weight to be evenly distributed on all four sides of a truck bed. Even if space is properly utilizedutilised, overly heavy cargo on one side of the vehicle will cause issues while in transit.
Any place where a rope or chain passed over cargo and is secured to both sides of the vehicle is referred to as tie-down.
A general guide for how many tie-downs to use can be seen below:
- Tire irons
- Full sized spare tires
- External air compressors
- First aid kits
- Jumper cables
Contracting Third-Party Transport
Recommended Terms - All Movements
If humanitarian organisations plan to solicit and contract third-party transport services, below is a general guide to terms and conditions that planners may wish to consider.
- The contracted trucking company should ensure that drivers fill in all required information on provided logbooks or activities sheets as instructed and agreed with the contracting agency.
- It is recommended that the contracted trucking company should ensure a proper and adequate vehicle inspection checklist is completed daily.
- The contracted trucking company should ensure all trucks have adequate lashing or tie down equipment, and all required handling equipment.
- The contracted trucking company should ensure that all drivers wear safety equipment present in the truck for driver use as and when required.
- It is recommended that humanitarian agencies require contracted trucking companies to use logbooks, activity sheets and vehicle inspection checklists, maintained for all drivers / equipment for quality assurance purposes. Contracting humanitarian agencies should inspect logbooks and activity sheets on a routine basis.
- Where possible, drivers should be reachable during the whole transportation time by the contracted trucking company and contracting humanitarian agency whenever needed.
- The contracted trucking company should ensure the driver used for transporting humanitarian goods is well trained, and training can be demonstrated to contracting humanitarian agencies upon request.
- The contracted transport company should ensure that the drivers used for delivering pharmaceuticals or other temperature sensitive goods are trained well and are aware of the temperature requirement of the goods being carried.
- The contracted transport company should ensure that the drivers used for delivery dangerous goods are well trained on handling and transport of dangerous items, and in compliance with national and local laws and regulations.
Contracted Trucking Company Responsibilities
- If any truck is subcontracted by contracted trucking company, the subcontracted vehicle is the contracted trucking company’s sole responsibility and should ensure the subcontractors comply with the conditions agreed between the humanitarian organisation & contracted trucking company.
- The contracted trucking company is responsible for ensuring that all cargo is delivered within the agreed transit time period.
- The contracted trucking company should ensure the drivers reach the correct point of delivery and the proof of delivery has to be signed and stamped by the consignee.
- The contracted trucking company should ensure to handover of cargos at point of delivery.
- The contracted trucking company should submit invoice, and receipts to the contracting humanitarian agency within the pre-defined contracted period after delivery.
Reports and Communications
- The contracted trucking company should clearly communicate the daily transportation requirements.
- The contracted trucking company should ensure that if drivers are not reachable, a status update report can be sent once the drivers are contacted. Update reports should be sent at a pre-defined period, established in the contract.
- The driver used for any transport should report any instance of the following within a contractually pre-defined period:
- Accident, theft, or damage at any point during the transportation.
- Security incidents, including checkpoints, detention, armed conflict on the road, harassment from security officials or any other security relate matter.
- Physical impediments including damaged infrastructure, road closures, impassable weather conditions, or anything else that may prevent vehicle movement.
- Any additional charges billed without transport supervisor / manager awareness should not be accepted and should be removed from any invoice or ‘statement of account’ of the contracted trucking company.
- The contracted trucking company should promptly inform the contracting humanitarian agency via phone or email in any case of discrepancy at the destination offloading point, such as short shipment, damages, theft, temperature variances or any other problem related to delays in delivering the cargo to the point of delivery.
Insurance and Limitations of Liabilities
- The replacement costs of lost or damage of transported items due to negligence should be the responsibility of the contracted transport company, and all repayment terms and deadlines should be included in the contract between parties.
- The contracted trucking company should indemnify the contracting humanitarian organisation, its affiliates and its and its and their officers, and employees from and against all claims, liabilities, damages, and expenses arising out of or incidental to the performance of the services, for:
- Any and all injuries to or death or illnesses of any person.
- Any and all damage to or loss of property.
- Any and all damage to or loss of humanitarian organisation's goods under the sole care, custody and control of contracted trucking company in the performance of the services.
- Any and all breaches of applicable laws and regulations, except in cases of gross negligence or wilful misconduct of the contracting humanitarian organisation.
- It is strongly recommended that the contracted trucking company should be obliged to take out and maintain, in its own name and at its own expense insurance adequate to cover its liabilities in full force and effect at all times during the contracted transport process:
- Liability insurance policy to cover any and all shortages, damages, pilferage, missing, misallocation or any other loss of the goods while in the contracted trucking company’s care, custody or control subject to a maximum liability of an adequate amount to compensate the contracting humanitarian agency against any loss or goods damage in accordance to the applicable local laws and regulations; whichever is higher.
- Motor third party liability insurance, with minimum compensation limits for bodily injury, death or property damage in accordance to local applicable law and regulations
- All insurance policies effected by the contracted trucking company should contain the provision that they cannot not be amended, deleted or permitted to lapse without the express prior approval of the contracted company.
- Deductibles under the insurances maintained by the contracted trucking company or its subcontractor should be the responsibility of contracted trucking company’s or its subcontractor's.
Recommended Terms - Temperature Controlled Movements / Requirements
In the case of the movement of temperature controlled goods, the following is recommended.
- Prior to loading, the trailers should be at temperature required for transport. Loading should only be initiated when the temperature reaches the set point requested by the contracting humanitarian agency.
- Trailer interiors should be clean, tidy, and free from bad odour.
- If required, contracted trucking company should ensure that the cooling units have been programmed for permanent run prior to loading per instructions.
- Contracted trucking company should ensure a copy of a valid calibration report is present in the truck.
- Contracted trucking company should ensure the driver maintains an activity sheet where temperature readings are recorded at every transition / touch point / stop point.
- Drivers should remain present at the dock area while goods are being loaded at origin and offloaded at destination.
- Drivers should ensure doors are closed immediately after loading. Doors should be barred and locked if required.
- Whenever the trailer doors have to be opened, including but not limited to loading, offloading, they should be closed immediately after-wards to avoid temperature disparities.
- In case of any customs or third party inspection, the contracted trucking company should inform contracting agency immediately, detailing door opening and closing duration and the temperature readings should be recorded on the activity sheet.
- The contracted trucking company should provide calibrated and proper functioning reefer equipment and ensure the driver checks the temperature and the reefer equipment’s running status at every stop.
- In case of irregularity / temperature variance the contracted trucking company should inform the contracting humanitarian agency immediately.
- The contracted trucking company should make sure the drivers do not remove any temperature monitors / data recorders once they are placed inside the trailer until the truck reaches the point of delivery.
- The contracted trucking company has to ensure temperature monitors / data recorders are to be brought back after delivery.
Temperature Variances / Deviations
- In case of deviations from the terms and conditions contained in this agreement/contract the driver should notify the contracted trucking company, who should communicate this with the contracting humanitarian agency immediately.
- The contracted trucking company should make sure an investigation is done in case of a complaint / temperature variation issue is raised by the contracting humanitarian agency with regards to the temperature variances.
- In any case of claim/complaints the contracted trucking company and contracting humanitarian agency will study the case, should provide the corrective and preventive actions and then proceed with the claim process and procedures.
Maintenance and Calibration
- The contracted trucking company should ensure the reefer system used for transporting temperature controlled goods should undergo regular preventive maintenance.
- The contracted trucking company should ensure the reefer trucks used are calibrated annually and should be certified.
- Contracted trucking company should provide the contracting humanitarian agency with the records of truck maintenance and calibration certificates upon request.
Organising Humanitarian Convoys
In the course of humanitarian operations, humanitarian aid agencies may need to organise convoys for the proper delivery of relief items. The need to organise a convoy may be very contextually dependent - in well developed markets with high degrees of road safety and predictability, there may be no reason to use convoys at all. The use of convoys is usually based upon the insecurity of the operating environment, the uncertainty of the road conditions, the absence of persistent communications along the route, the value of the cargo, or any combination therein. General guidelines for organising convoys may be as follows:
- Though the decision is ultimately up to each humanitarian organisation’s management, it is strongly advisable that vehicles should not be part of military convoys, or even civilian humanitarian convoys with armed escorts.
- Radio/telephone/communications contact should be kept between at least the vehicle at the back of the convoy and the leader.
- Where possible, vehicles should carry communications equipment capable of reaching a location or focal point in a different location.
- Planned convoy dates and contents should not be shared widely, or with unauthorised parties.
- Local communities, police, military or governments may have procedures for organising convoys, or for passing through specific areas. Humanitarian organisations should liaise with proper authority figures before moving through unknown areas.
- Humanitarian agencies may choose to operate their own convoys, or collaborate to form joint convoys. If more than one organisation is participating in a convoy, all parties should agree to and understand on rules in advance, and even develop written agreements in necessary.
- Agencies may use commercial vehicles, or they may utilise their own leased/owned vehicles. The policies and rules in place for convoys should reflect the transport arrangement. If commercial transporters are used in a convoy, terms of the convoy may need to be written into transporter contracts.
- The person/team on the receiving end of a convoy should ideally be informed in advance of what the anticipated cargo is, and if possible should receive an advanced copy of the packing list, and receive estimated dates/times of arrival. All cargo should be counted - and if required weighed/measured - at the receiving end to ensure no cargo has gone missing along the way.
In the event of a cross-border operation:
- All customs related documentation should be identified and provided in advance to the driver, convoy leader, and intended recipient.
- A trustworthy person from the organising humanitarian agency should inspect cargo and vehicles both prior to arriving and the border crossing and after goods are cleared to ensure that cargo has not been tampered with and avoid accusation of smuggling.
- If cargo is offloaded and transloaded onto new vehicles, a representative from the organising humanitarian agency should be present to observe the process. Ideally, cargo should be counted after the transloading is complete to ensure that no theft or loss has occurred.
- Organisers should plan for border crossing times.
- Vehicles may wait for days or even weeks at border crossings in some cases. Drivers must have the ability to eat and sleep safely while still maintaining physical presence around cargo vehicles.
- Ideally, vehicles should be able to return safely in daylight hours if rejected at the border.
- Any and all delays or problems associated with customs or border crossing should be communicated to the appointed organising focal point as soon as possible.
It is strongly advised that convoy organisers should:
- Appoint a convoy leader with experience and knowledge of the route.
- Where possible, plan the route carefully in advance with designated stopping places.
- Generate and provide all required documentation, including waybills and packing lists.
- Decide beforehand what procedures to follow if the convoy is obstructed or blocked, and brief all drivers fully before starting movement.
- Identify a security focal point and/or organiser outside the convoy who will be on call during convoy.
- Conduct detailed briefings with transporters/drivers.
- Ensure they have driver names, contact details, and vehicle plate/registration numbers prior to departure.
- Maintain communication with convoy leaders at pre-determined intervals where possible.
- Following each trip, record any security intendents or checkpoints for future planning.
- Develop a repair and recovery plan (spare parts, a chase vehicle, easy access to a recovery vehicle, etc.).
- Recover visibility items once the mission has been completed, especially in cases where commercial vehicles are in use.
Before a convoy departs, it is strongly advised that vehicles should:
- Be in a good mechanical condition. Organisations and planners should check for significant wear and tear, tyre pressure, etc.
- Travel with a full complement of spare parts (filters, belts, spare tires, motor oil, etc.) wherever possible.
- Where necessary, be well branded with their organisation logos. It is suggested to use at least one of the following items: flags, banners or large stickers.
- Be fully fuelled and ready to depart upon reaching the assembly point.
- It is strongly advised that vehicles have an alternate driver. The driver’s alternate should be legally able to drive, and have experience with long-haul trucking.
During a convoy, it is strongly advised vehicles should:
- Obey speed limits, and drive only as fast as conditions permit.
- Obey all local and national rules and regulations.
- Maintain a steady speed.
- Not overtake other vehicles within the convoy.
- If required, use flags to distinguish the first and last vehicle of each section.
- Maintain a constant distance between each other. The recommended distance is 100 meters in day, 50 at night, however distance between vehicles will depend on terrain, the speed required, visibility, and other limiting conditions.
- Not transport any cargo that is not contained on the associated waybills/packing lists, not part of the originally delivery plan, and that is not intent ended for humanitarian use.
- Where avoidable, not move in convoy before sunrise and/or after sunset.
- Abandon the convoy or leave any truck behind without instruction from the convoy leader or authorised person.
- Not pick up hitch hikers or other persons not originally in the convoy plan. Vehicles should be especially warned against transporting soldiers or non-state armed actors under any circumstances.
In the event a vehicle breaks down while in transit:
- All convoy vehicles must stop. The convoy leader should contact the designated organiser and security focal point.
- Convoys should resume only after it is determined that a repair/recovery effort is underway, or if the security focal point determines that it is safe to leave a vehicle behind.
As a general guide, convoy drivers should:
- Not carry or transport any form of weapons, narcotics, and/or spirits.
- Depart without the authorisation of the convoy leader and/or authorised convoy organiser.
- Hand over any fuel or communication equipment, money, or cargo contents to any persons on the road unless they are part of a planned delivery/distribution process.
- Participate in any inappropriate behaviour (including but not limited to, any form of intoxication, harassment, sexual harassment, abuse of power). Appropriate behaviour of convoy personnel should be mandatory.
- Drivers must carry all the necessary legal documentation clearing them to drive in the areas of operation.