Last year, Prime undertook a sizable investment for the sake of driver safety. It installed a flatbed securement bay at the end of 2019 at the Springfield terminal. The new bay is located at Bay 14 at the Plaza, says Plaza Manager Paul Smith. Construction was no easy task. It took about four months to build. “We bought it from an outside company, but they had to engineer it to work in our building,” Smith says. “They had to make sure everything fit with our roof system. All of our buildings are precast concrete, so there aren’t metal beams you can bolt stuff to. It has to be engineered to work with that concrete.”
The new flatbed securement bay allows drivers to pull their trailer underneath it. Then the driver is able to use a remote control to operate a crane, which uses hooks to lift the tarp.“You have a remote that controls the crane, so you can do everything from the ground,” Smith says. “You don’t have to climb up. You lift the tarp in the air, move the crane over, and it moves from side to side, and it drapes the tarp over your load. Before this, drivers had to climb on their load. It could be raining, wet and slick. We were wanting to put something at our facility that would allow the driver to do everything safely from the ground.”
This new safety feature is part of why Prime’s Flatbed Division is a leader in the industry. It is one of the more dangerous jobs in trucking, and most of that is due to driver falls, says James Abell, a Prime driver. Most flatbed loads are uneven, irregular and hard to walk on. Drivers haul everything from pipe and steel to drywall and roofing materials. Aside from the added safety, the new bay helps drivers stay out of the scorching sun or freezing rain.
Abell has used the system several times and loves it. As a member of Prime’s Driver Advisory Board, he advocated for this safety measure. “No. 1, this helps prevent a fall or injury,” Abell says. “No. 2, it helps prevent possible litigation. It’s the most dangerous issue in the flatbed truck industry. Drivers climb up high and tend to fall. I have been looking for solutions to make sure our guys don’t hurt themselves. I think it’s wonderful we are finally doing it.”
A few flatbed shippers also have these bays, which is how Abell and others came up with the idea to add the safety feature to one of Prime’s main terminals. Flatbed loads can be so dangerous, some companies will not even let drivers secure their own loads.
As far as ease of use, the new loading system at the flatbed securement bay is fairly easy to use. “When you get there, find a tire tech or inspector and get the crane hoist controller,” Abell says. “When you get it, bring the crane to the north end of the building by selecting that direction. You can put the whole tarp on it and pick it up straight up in the air and move the crane to the south side of the building. As soon as you get the edge of the tarp where you want it, you can secure it.”
PUTTING IT TO USE
So far, Smith says reviews from the drivers have been mixed. Most love it, but there are some seasoned drivers who don’t want to try it and still want to climb up on their load to secure everything. At this point, Prime’s new bay is averaging three drivers a day, but Smith expects that figure to grow. “Not every load requires it to be tarped,” Smith says. “As word gets out there and people use it more, word will spread like wildfire.” Once that happens and drivers get more accustomed to using the securement bay, Smith says Prime plans to add similar bays to terminals in Pennsylvania and Utah.
For drivers who haven’t yet used the new bay or who want to see it in action first, Prime has produced a video demonstrating how to use the crane. The video can be accessed via Prime’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Abell says this is a rarity in the field, and he applauds the company for investing in the equipment. “It’s pretty unusual and I am glad Prime is doing this,” he says.
By the Numbers
- 20 minutes is how long it takes to secure a load using the bay
- 3 terminals will eventually have flatbed securement bays
- 1 person is all it takes to secure tarps with the new bay, just like normal
- 810 trucks make up Prime’s flatbed feet.
- 100 percent of trucks is what Abell hopes will use the new bay
- 980 drivers drive for Prime’s flatbed divisions.
See the article in the Prime Ways issue here on page 30!
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