(Editor's note: Some of the content of this article has been superceded by the DVSA guidance issued 27th March 2015)
The issue of load restraint has been hotly debated since the spring of 2012, when the DVSA (formerly VOSA) issued a ‘Load Enforcement Matrix’ closely followed by a sharp increase in prohibitions and advisory notices issued at the roadside for “inadequate load securing”. Since then, understanding what is and what isn’t ‘adequate’ has been an industry-wide challenge; especially when discussing the merits of EN 12642-XL.
The key problem with understanding load restraint requirements stems from the fact that an operator’s legal obligations in the UK are not well defined other than the operator should ensure that ‘neither danger nor nuisance is caused or likely to be caused to any person or property’ (See your legal obligations). It falls to the DVSA to enforce these legal requirements and does so by interpreting standards recommended by bodies of repute such as the DfT or the HSE.
The DfT’s ‘Safety of Loads on Vehicles’ is one such recommendation and within that document (clause 2.5), it states “The basic principle upon which this Code of Practice is based is that the combined strength of the load restraint system must be sufficient to withstand a force not less than the total weight of the load forward, so as to prevent the load moving under severe braking, and half of the weight of the load backwards and sideways.”.
Being entirely separate from UK recommendations, EN 12642-XL is a certified European load containment standard which relates to the ability of the entire bodywork structure (not just curtains) to retain load force under various unforgiving test conditions. The historical problem with EN 12642-XL is that, literally speaking, the standard does not meet the minimum DfT UK recommendation and, until 22nd September 2014, the DVSA only recognised EN 12642-XL on its own merits.
So what happened on the 22nd September? To be absolutely clear, EN 12642-XL isn’t required by law or mandatory in any way in the UK; however, it is a certified standard and, after consultation with industry stakeholders, the DVSA now accept that EN 12642-XL is deemed to provide the minimum UK load containment requirement; with certain caveats. The DVSA remain intent on load ‘restraint’ whereas EN 12642-XL is a load ‘containment’ standard. Herein lies the reason for the caveats. In order to minimise load shift within the confines of the body, the DVSA have stipulated that the load must be ‘Positive Fit’. Firstly, any gap between the load and the side curtains must not exceed 80mm. The load must be positioned up to the front bulkhead and the rear of the load must be restrained with a net or other means to prevent rearward shift if there is any space remaining at the rear of the body.
For some time now, Don-Bur has offered their ‘LoadFix’ load restraint product; a DVSA-compliant rave-to-rave system that straps loads down to the deck and retracts into the roof space when not in use. Although this method is still widely accepted to be the ideal solution, many operators will be solely tempted to opt for EN 12642-XL bodywork and they might be right to consider it. Provided the load is Positive Fit, an operator doesn’t need additional load restraint strapping which could arguably slow down turnaround at the bay. Depending on specification, ‘XL’ rated bodywork can be comparable in cost to a LoadFix solution and DVSA roadside officers may be more lenient when they spot the bright yellow XL markings.
What must be considered however is that there are a large number of operators who cannot achieve ‘Positive Fit’. Loading up against the front bulkhead is a common enough practice but maintaining a slim gap between load and curtains is rarely guaranteed. Add to that the requirement to restrain the load at the rear and EN 12642-XL starts to look a little less inviting. Certainly, any operator on multi-drop contracts will need to think more than twice before going down the ‘XL’ route.
Whichever path an operator chooses, Don-Bur can provide tailored solutions. Even before EN 12642-XL was commonly recognised, Don-Bur had achieved the European load retention standard back in 2011. After years of development, Don-Bur is now in a position to offer the EN 12642-XL standard across the entire curtainsider range of products, including pillarless trailers, Teardrops, urbans, double decks and even rigid bodywork. Don-Bur has also achieved the EN 12642-XL standards with “unrestrained load” using dynamic tests. This level of certification exceeds previously issued certificates and most closely matches the DfT recommendation.
Operators who are unclear about their responsibilities for load securing are welcome to contact Don-Bur who will offer unbiased opinions which can be verified by both the DVSA and the FTA.