There are many jobs that involve loading, occupational and unoccupational, but since I only know how to load a truck on a occupational level I am going to describe it from this view, though you will be able to use these techniques loading most any truck. Loading may seem like a boring subject....well, it is, but it's good to know in case you are ever caught in a situation in which a distressed UPS truck driver needs your help loading a large parcel truck fast.

Job Description

Whether your helping Fred and Ethel move or if you are just making a living, loading a truck is a technique you can master. You are probably saying, "Are you kidding me? It can't be that hard." Yes it can. If you do not load a truck right possesions can be tossed back and forth while the truck is hopping down the road. Things that you or your customer own, can be crushed or mangled all because you didn't load right.

Being Prepared and Tools

Depending on what kind of truck you are loading, you may use different tools to get the job done. The first thing you should have though is a set of rollers or a platform of some sort for large objects or so the packages will be able to come to you easier without having to run back and forth. Another option for smaller jobs is having at least 2 people to help you, so one can be stationary inside the truck and the other two can form a line to move packages to you for stacking.

Another tool you will probably need is some straps or some kind of retainer to keep the packages from crashing about into the empty spaces. If you have bungee cords, load straps or retaining bars this can solve that problem. Bungee cords can be found almost anywhere. In fact, every time I clean out my garage I find at least 13 or more. They are good for strapping up fastening items in trucks without rooves. Load straps are harder to come by though. A load strap usually has three straps running vertically with locking utensils on the end of each strap to attach or hook to the walls of the truck and three straps running horizontally in a net form. Most commercial shippers use load straps. Retaining bars are usually a last resort because the don't provide much protection against falling packages. A retaining bar is basically a piece of metal that can be stretched out from one wall of the truck to another and fastened tight to both walls.

Stacking Techniques for Boxes

When stacking a trailer with a roof and a fair amount of space such as a moving or parcel truck, these techniques will be more handy.

  1. It is first beneficial for you, as the loader, to load the first package correctly. The first package (or cornerstone package) should be about 12" long and about 20" wide. Keep in mind these are just recommended dimensions; the package can vary in heigth and length.
  2. Next make sure that you make a row of packages all the way to the next wall. Stack from left to right. Most of the packages in the row should be about the same height and length as the cornerstone package as to maintain levelness of the row being stacked ontop of the first row. Try and line up the packages so their edges make a straight line so that you have a flat wall facing you.
  3. Heavier packages should be used to form the base of the wall and lighter packages should be used to build the wall up. Avoid putting bigger boxes on smaller ones. This will make a vertical column and your first wall won't be able to support your second wall.
  4. Also, when a packages is so heavy that it compromises the integrity of the a wall that is mostly done, just set it to the side and create a new wall with it.
  5. When stacking boxes try to make natural T's, with one box on the higher row overlapping two boxes on the bottom row.
  6. You can use small packages to fill in gaps, so you have a nice tight space.
  7. Most of the time, there is more then one way to place a package. If you are at the end of your row and you see some space, try and wedge a box so as to make the whole row sit tightly in place. You may even have to do some shoving.
  8. When possible (with trucks with rooves) try and stack up to the to the roof. You can use irregular packages to fill in the top st of the time.(see below section)

Stacking Techniques for Irregular Packages

Irregular packages are basically anything other than a box or it is a really screwed up or longer-then-usual box. The first fundamental principle of loading irregular packages is to not get frustrated. Sometimes no matter how many freakin times you try to fit something in a space it just won't go. Maybe this section will help you to overcome this obstacle and tackle the monster that is "the irregular box".

  1. As stated above some irregular packages can be used as "fillers" for those empty spaces at the top of the wall or even as cornerstone packages.
  2. If a package is unusually long, one can usually lay it flat against the left wall with the long side running against the wall.
  3. Since bags are too unstable to put packages on, they can be placed on top of the wall. If you have a whole lotta bags try and create half a wall for one row then create a whole wall leaving enough of a gap between the wall and the ceiling to throw bags into the void.
  4. Heavy packages with a strange shape to them should be placed as close to the door of the truck as possible so as to give easy access to them.
  5. Beds and other long objects should be treated as an object in paragraph 2.

Finishing the Job

To make sure that your job has been finished properly make sure that all your packages are properly secured in place with either a load strap or other retaining device.

Always make sure that when you lift you are lifting properly; with your legs not your back. And stretch before every job.

I'm sure that if you do these things you wil be a pro loader in no time.

Node what you know.

Info taken from UPS and FedEx handbooks, as well as comments from different moving company employees.

Loading a semi truck1 with a forklift is very different from loading a small delivery truck by hand. Not only are the packages much larger and heavier, but they are generally all the same shape (and indeed often several dozen of the same thing). Furthermore, the truck is higher up off the ground, requiring a loading dock, and the forklift requires training to use safely.

A loading dock is usually either a raised platform inside the building, or a sunken ramp outside the building intended to bring the deck of the semi-trailer to the same height as ground level for the forklift. Occasionally it takes the form of a hydraulic lift used to raise the forklift up and down to match the trailer height, but this is much slower and generally found in buildings not originally designed for loading and unloading trucks.

Getting Ready

First the truck, with its loading doors latched open, backs into the loading dock, being careful to set the trailer into the dock seal if there is one. A dock seal is a series of pads or flaps used to form a seal around the trailer's loading door to keep outside weather and cold air out of the building while loading is going on. The driver should then set the handbrake2.

Once the trailer is in position, it must be secured to prevent trailer creep (gradual movement away from the loading dock caused by action-reaction forces of the forklift moving back and forth). The wheels must be chocked, and if there is a dock lock, its hook should be secured to the underride guard as a second level of protection. Never use a dock lock instead of wheel chocks, only in conjunction with them. Most dock locks have a light that turns from red to green when the hook is secured, signaling that the truck is in position for loading.

Sometimes the tractor will remain attached to the trailer, and sometimes it will be removed. If the tractor is removed, the semi-trailer's landing gear will be set down. Many loading docks have a reinforced area under the landing gear to hold the extra pressure (it has much less surface area than the tractor's wheels do). It is important to note that the landing gear is set back several feet from the front of the trailer, meaning that if a heavy weight is set in the front without a counterweight in the rear, the trailer could tip forward.

To prevent this, a jack stand should be placed under the front of the trailer for additional support. A jack stand is an adjustable support post that should be placed under the front center of the trailer. However, if the jack stand is set firmly up against the trailer deck when it is not loaded, when the trailer is loaded the extra pressure will make it difficult to remove. For this reason, a jack stand is typically adjusted to about three inches below the deck, which is high enough to prevent accidents but not so high that the loaded trailer will be resting on it.

There is one last piece of safety equipment that needs to be put in place. There will be a small gap between the loading dock and the trailer that the forklift must drive over to get into the trailer. Additionally, the trailer will not be perfectly level with the height of the loading dock, and as it gets loaded and the suspension compresses, the height will continue to change. A metal bridge with two legs that fit into this gap needs to be placed across the gap to ensure safe loading and provide a ramp for the height mismatch.


Now that all the safety equipment is in place (wheel chocks, optional dock lock, jack stand if the tractor was removed, bridge), loading can begin. Typically, a forklift will pick up large rectangular cubes sitting on pallets and drive into the trailer with them. Usually all the pallets will be the same, so there is no need to decide what order to load them in. Sometimes foam or inflatable pads are used to take up extra space between the loads and the sides of the trailer to secure the load. Unloading is the same procedure in reverse.

There are two specific dangers when driving a forklift on to and off of the trailer. First is that the trailer is not the same as solid ground. If the forklift accelerates or brakes quickly, action-reaction forces of the forklift wheels on the trailer deck can rock the trailer back and forth. This is the primary cause of trailer creep and the reason wheel chocks and dock locks are used. Second is that the forklift is heavy, especially when carrying a load. The suspension of the truck may bounce when the forklift drives on and off. In extreme cases, the bouncing can contribute to trailer creep by putting extra pressure on the wheel chocks.

Flatbed Trailers

Loading a flatbed trailer can be done the same way as loading an enclosed trailer, but it doesn't need to be. Since a flatbed trailer has no sides, the forklift can raise and set the load onto the deck from the side without ever needing to actually drive onto the deck of the trailer. Two standard four foot by four foot pallets fit side by side down the length of the trailer, sometimes stacked two high, with only a single pallet centered in the very back for stability. In good weather, this can be done outside the building with no loading dock required. Many loading areas for flatbeds are enclosed or at least covered, however, to protect the loaders and the loads from bad weather. Regardless, the wheels must still be chocked for safety.

Since a flatbed trailer is not enclosed, most loads are covered with a tarp and secured with adjustable straps to protect them while the truck is driving to its destination. To place the tarp and set the straps, it is sometimes necessary to climb on top of the loads. If this is the case, OSHA requires that a safety harness and fall protection line is used.

1. Many people wonder why such a huge vehicle is called a "semi". The entire name of the vehicle is "semi-trailer tractor truck". Semi refers to the trailer only, and is so called because the trailer only has wheels in the back, not the front. The tractor part is the cab, or rig, or prime mover.

2. Thanks, archiewood, for pointing this out.

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