As you probably know, opening a tractor trailer door when the load has shifted can be a dangerous undertaking. Drivers have been severely injured and even killed when, upon opening the trailer door, the load has spilled out of the trailer. So it’s a worthwhile investment of your time to go over safety procedures with your drivers, particularly any who are new to the operation.

It might seem like something banal that’s too obvious to have training on, but many loading dock accidents happen each year involving truck trailer doors being improperly handled. Between all the driving, being in and out of loading dock doors, and constantly opening and closing trailer doors with thousands of pounds of inventory inside, trucking is considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. Just like proper installation and maintenance of any door is key to it providing safety and security, so, too, is ensuring all your employees perform best practices to ensure their safety and security.

Understanding Proper Trailer Door Operation

With a swing-type tractor trailer door the person opening it should do the following:

  • Face the trailer, standing to the right of the door, then place your right hand on the door latch.
  • Stay to the right of the door as you open the door latch.
  • Pull the latch toward you.
  • Maintain a safe distance while slowly opening the door. Check carefully to see if the goods inside have moved or shifted toward the door.
  • Only move in front of the open truck trailer door once you are certain there are no hazards.

Other provisions you should take in loading and unloading are:

  • Place flags when checking the trailer door, so that you will have a clear zone in which to work.
  • Equip drivers and truck unloading crews with a trailer door safety strap to apply to both swinging doors.
  • Explain to your driving team they should never park with the truck door facing downhill.
  • Stress to drivers that they should stand to the side rather than in front of the opening door. Obviously if heavy cargo comes tumbling out of the truck, they don’t want to be standing in its path.

How to tell if Inventory has Fallen Against the Trailer Door in Transit

The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association warns everyone to operate tractor trailer doors under the assumption that they are not securement devices. This principle (a) means when loading product, workers should not depend on the trailer doors to secure anything, and (b) means that when unloading product, workers should not assume the truck trailer’s doors will hold anything back if it’s fallen against them in transit.

With side-opening trailer doors, a way to tell if something’s fallen against the doors during transit is if it’s difficult to open more than an inch past the release point. If so, triple check everything is out of the path of inventory that may spill out of the trailer, and always keep the door between yourself and the inventory. Even if you think you’re sure the load is secure, still keep that door between it and you.

Better safe than sorry.