What can be done to prevent cargo damage?

By: Tom Bray

Publication: Transport Safety Management Today

Date Posted: 10/01/2021

Preventing cargo damage best practices

Within the industry, there are many strategies used to prevent cargo damage.

Here are some of the best practices:

  • Include cargo-securement training in your new-driver training program (also known as orientation at some companies),
  • Include cargo securement in your ongoing training and communications efforts,
  • Issue all drivers the necessary cargo securement devices,
  • Provide drivers with easy access to replacement securement devices,
  • Tie safety or performance bonuses to cargo damage, and
  • Track cargo claims to identify drivers who are not securing their cargo correctly.

Dealing with incidents

If a driver has a cargo-damage incident, review it immediately to determine if driver action or inaction played a role in the incident.

Driver actions that could lead to cargo damage include:

  • Damage done during driver loading/unloading,
  • Poor driving habits leading to shifting cargo,
  • Improper securement (securement devices damaged the cargo, wrong securement devices were used, securement devices were incorrectly placed, etc.),
  • Not setting/locating cargo correctly,
  • Not correctly tightening securement devices, etc.

Driver inaction that could lead to damage includes:

  • Not noting pre-existing damage on the shipment paperwork,
  • Not correctly securing cargo (such as not using enough — or any — securement devices),
  • Not using edge or cargo protection, not using dunnage when necessary, etc.

If the driver did play a role in the cargo damage, immediately retrain the driver on cargo securement. If the driver continues to have cargo damage, consider moving to a formal warning, suspension, or termination.

Nearly every driver will have a cargo-related incident over the long term due to a shipper “slipping one past them” or a lapse in judgment. When it’s a repeat issue, however, it becomes a problem. This tends to indicate the driver either really doesn’t know how to do the job, or doesn’t care to do the job right. Either way, the company needs to correct or — if necessary — terminate the driver.

Not always the driver

Another prevention tool is to constantly review cargo claims based on the shipper and receiver involved. This is done to see if a shipper or receiver is creating an issue, such as improper loading or unloading, filing false claims to reduce shipping costs, constantly filing claims to get the shipper to lower the price of the goods, or a shipper trying to ship damaged goods.

If a driver is constantly hauling for a customer that files a claim on every movement, it will make the driver look bad when the issue is actually the shipper or receiver.


Key to remember: Cargo damage can be avoided. It’s a matter of training and equipping drivers, tracking damage, and then working with drivers and customers involved when there is damage.

About the author
Tom Bray - Transportation Editor

Tom has been with J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. since 2005. He brought with him an extensive background that includes years of experience in DOT compliance, policy development, driver human resources, driver training, training program development, CDL testing, claims management, and accident and injury prevention.

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