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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.

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Type

Axles

Max Gross Weight (Tonnes)

*Estimated Payload (Tonnes)

Typical Total Body Length (Meters)

Body

Single Unit Truck

2 axles / 4 wheels

3.5

1

Various

  

Single Unit Truck

2 axles / 6 wheels

7.5

3.5

Various

Single Unit Truck

2 axles / 6 wheels

18.8

12

12

Single Unit Truck

3 axles

26

18

12

Single Unit Truck

4 axles

36

25

12

Tractor Trailer Truck

3 axles

26

18

16.5

Tractor Trailer Truck

4 axles

38

24

16.5

Tractor Trailer Truck

5 axles

40

24

16.5

Tractor Trailer Truck

6 axles

41

27

16.5

Close Coupled Trailer

Various

40

26

18.75

*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:


 

Flatbed / Platform - The simplest and cheapest body type, comprised a flat surface resting on the axles with no sides or protection. Flatbed/platform bodies provide all round access to the load, but offers little security or protection from the weather. Loads carried using the open sided flatbed/platform vehicle will need to be secured using netting/ropes, and will likely need to be covered with plastic or tarpaulin to protect against the elements. Trucks in many humanitarian contexts might use the equivalent of a flatbed truck with built up side walls – this method helps protect against items falling or being taken from the interior of the load, but will still require covering with some form of tarp.

Box truck / Van body – A truck body with hard and rigid sides that enclose the platform completely. This body type reduces the payload of the vehicle due to the fact the physical structure adds weight, but provides protection for a perishable product and added security. Construction of the external body will depend upon the needs for insulation, waterproofing or strength. Access is usually provided by a rear door. Sometimes a door will be built into one, or both, of the body sides for special access. Box/van trucks are also ideal for special needs situations, such as refrigerated loads.

Curtain Side / Drop Side Bodies - Curtain sided / drop side bodies overcome the disadvantages of access; the full bed can be exposed by either pulling back a curtain or dropping the side of cargo space. This improves the speed of loading as well as unloading. Advantages of load restraint and weather protection are maintained, while body weight might less than the box body. Curtain sided /drop sided bodies are less secure however, as contents are easier to access and cannot always be locked.

Tankers - Designed to carry powders or liquids, usually shaped in a way to prevent the vehicle from tipping over due to shifting weight. Tankers require a pumping mechanism and hoses to discharge the load, and some tankers have pumps built right into the back.

Bulk Carriers - Built similar box bodies, only without the roof. Bulk carriers are useful for large loads of loose goods that don’t require typical manual loading, such as grains, gravel, or even fruits. Bulk carriers might have a mechanical tipping mechanism built right in, otherwise offloading bulk items may be done by hand and very time consuming. Bulk carriers are typically covered with tarp.

Double/Close-Coupled Trailer – a tractor pulling more than one trailer, linked like a chain. A double trailer configuration adds more weight to the load as more axles and connections are required, but adds increased manoeuvrability.

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Vehicle Manoeuvring

Trucks in all of their forms are by their nature difficult to manoeuvre, having special difficulty turning around and backing up. Aid agencies planning cargo operations using trucks must keep the turning and parking needs of vehicles in mind for planning purposes.

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Domestic truck movement - In the majority of situations in which aid agencies operate, most cargo movement on roads operates domestically, which doesn’t require international customs clearance. Domestic cargo movement can be tracked in variety of ways, but the most common is a waybill. Many third-party transporters can use their own waybills, however agencies may wish to utilise waybills in their own formats. Organisation specific waybills tend to take specific needs into account, such as accounting for metric tonnage or tracking based on batch/lot number of medication, things which may not be tracked in the waybill provided by a transport company. Shippers are encouraged to use the standard set of shipping documents for all domestic movement. 

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When planning a load on a trailer, consider the “X” planning strategy – if a line is drawn between each of the wheels where they make contact with the road, where the two lines intersect to form an “X” is where the centre of gravity for any cargo load should go.

"X" configuration:

 


Correct Loading

Incorrect Loading

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Correct Loading

Incorrect Loading

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Weight in Movement

Cargo on the back of a vehicle can be heavy or bulky, and while drivers may understand the overall weight of the vehicle while stopped or at low speeds, increased speed can cause the weight of the cargo to act on the vehicle in unintended ways. Forces acting on the cargo during transport are caused by different movements made by the vehicle. The acting forces are:

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Number of Tie-Downs

Length of Load

Weight of Load

1

Shorter than 1.5 meters

Less than 500 kg

2

Shorter than 1.5 meters

Greater than 500 kg

2

Longer than 1.5 meters but shorter than 3 meters

-

3

Longer than 3 meters but shorter than 6 meters

-

4

Longer than 6 meters but shorter than 9 meters

-

4 (at least)

-

Greater than 4,500

5+

Additional tie-down for every additional 3 meters gained after 9 meters

 


Typical loads of cartons and basic relief supplies can be secured using nylon rope, however extremely heavy equipment such as generators or vehicle should be secured using chains. The best way to gauge the strength of a series of chain tie downs to secure a load is what is known as the “working load limit” (WLL). WLL is measured by combining the WLL of each individual chain or rope used as a tie down.  As an example, if a load is secured with four chains with a WLL each of 500 kgs, the TOTAL WLL for that load is 2,000 kgs.

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Scissor/Bottle Jack –  Scissor or bottle jacks are regular vehicle jacks that might be part of the standard package of tools that new cars come with. Scissor or bottle jacks are useful for changing single tires, but are really only best suited for flat, stable road conditions. Scissor/bottle jacks may not work well in mud, and can really only be used to elevate the vehicle enough to change a single tire. On non-paved roads, they may require a solid object underneath them to distribute the weight, such as a flat rock or a strong board. Scissor/Bottle jacks should only be used on the appropriate contact points to avoid causing damage to the vehicle. 

High-lift Jack – High-lift jacks are far more robust than scissor/bottle jacks. They can be used to lift vehicles out of mud, or raise vehicles enough to place braces or other objects underneath them. When a vehicle is full lifted, a supporting high-lift jack can have enormous pressure on it; the jack handle if not properly secured can cause bodily harm, and the jack itself may collapse with the full weight of the elevated vehicle. High-lift jacks should only be used on the appropriate contact points to avoid causing damage to the vehicle. 

Recovery Winch – Recovery winches are powered electric motors that can retract rope or metal cable. Many field level vehicles have winches permanently attached to the vehicle, usually on the front bumpers. Winches usually draw their power from the electric battery of the vehicle, and are capable of supporting the weight of the vehicle itself. Winches should only be attached to objects and anchor points that can physically support the weight of the vehicle and withstand the horizontal pressure applied by the winch. When a winch is being used, all persons should be inside a vehicle, have proper cover or be a safe distance away.

Winches are useful for pulling vehicles stuck in mud, or are otherwise immobilised on an incline. Because winches are made to support the full weight of a vehicle, the cables or ropes can be very dangerous under full pressure.  Additionally, improper use of a winch may cause damage to vegetation or nearby structures. Sometimes, vehicles with winches utilise what are called “snatch blocks” or "winch blocks" – pulleys that are designed to change the direct anchor point of a winch when a clean anchor isn’t available.

Snatch Straps – Snatch straps are bands made of durable synthetic material that are designed for one vehicle to pull another vehicle. Snatch straps should be strong enough to support the weight of the vehicle being towed, with some additional tension caused by momentary velocity differences between the vehicle being towed and the vehicle pulling. Snatch straps should only be used in a slow-speed, and only in a recovery capacity. Much like the winching, snatch straps should only be in use when all persons are at a safe distance.

 


Other tools that may be useful for vehicle of all size include:

  • Tire irons
  • Full sized spare tires
  • External air compressors
  • First aid kits
  • Jumper cables 

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