Pallet stability and EUMOS

‘Truck turns over after nearly losing cargo’, ‘Truck loses entire cargo on roundabout’, ‘Truck ends up in ditch.’

Anyone reading these headlines probably does not realise that these accidents were probably caused by improperly secured cargo or a lack of pallet stability. The European Council and the European Parliament do realise that every year ill-secured cargo leads to over 1,000 fatalities and an even higher number of people seriously injured. In as early as 2014, they adopted Directive 2014/47/EU, which is now in effect in all European Member States. Under the Directive, all Member States are held to conduct technical roadside inspections of the vehicles and the securing of cargo and to report on these inspections to the European authorities.

Responsibility

With this Directive, the European legislator fairly drastically goes against the prevailing practice in many Member States. Europe shifts the responsibility for securing cargo from the driver and from the transport company to the loader and even to the packer. Europe realises that it is impossible for a driver to secure 1,800 crates of beer in a trailer one by one, let alone 75,000 loose cans one by one. Things would get a lot easier if the 33 pallet loads are sure to remain rigid.
This raises the question of how a driver – and an inspector along the roadside – knows if a pallet load is stable. In this context, Directive 2014/47/EU refers to the EUMOS 40509 standard. In this European standard, a test is described in which the forces exerted on the cargo during road transport are simulated in laboratory conditions. Realistic forces, for instance when the truck brakes or changes direction, are dealt with. In addition to the test itself, the standard includes information the packer has to apply on the pallet load for the benefit of the driver and the inspector.

Pallet stability

However, the Directive and the EUMOS standard include no regulations on how a pallet load can be made sufficiently stable. The packer is free to use straps, glue, stretch covers, stretch film, boxes, etc. In practice, more than 80% of pallet loads in Europe are wrapped in stretch film, and this percentage is increasing. What is more, both the stretch film machines and the film available have been drastically improved in the past few years, enough to meet the load unit rigidity requirements in conformity with EUMOS 40509. Many packers (and little by little the persons responsible for purchasing too) realise they had better opt for high-grade stretch film with well-documented mechanical properties. They will then adjust their stretch film machines to these properties and have their pallet load rigidity EUMOS 40509 certified.

This guest blog was written by Professor Mark Juwet, KU Leuven (University of Leuven), an expert in cargo securing, transport safety and durable product packaging.

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