Fred Whitford looked straight at the older farmer who was smiling like a Cheshire cat, sitting in a room crowded with farmers taking training to help them toward their goal of renewing their private pesticide license. Maybe your state requires private licenses, maybe not. Either way, the training Whitford dished out to this group could apply anywhere. Much of what he referred to are covered by federal regulations about how to secure loads.
"How do you secure your load of bags of seed corn in the pickup when you leave the elevator?" the beady, former state regulator in a southern state asked. Today, he's in charge of pesticide programs at Purdue University. Over the past two years, he's emphasized understanding the rules of the road as related to trucks hauling farm products. Many times, that includes pesticides.
"Well, how do you strap it down, man?" he continued
"I don't strap it down," the farmer smiled.
"Do they tell you at the elevator you should secure it in your truck?" he asked.
"Yep, and I tell them..." he answered.
"You tell them you're just going a short distance, right?" Whitford said, cutting him off. "That's what everyone of you guys probably tell them."
"That's what I tell them," the farmer answered. "I've never lost a bag of seed before."
Whitford congratulated him on his luck, but proceeded to tell the audience about a farmer who lost two bags of pesticide last spring on a blacktop roadway. Even after the road was cleaned, every time it rained it doubled to the surface out of the pavement. Eventually, it had to be repaved. "It turned out to be an $80,000 decision not to tie down the load," Whitford says.
"And don't tell me that if the bags of seed or chemical are on a pallet and inside shrink wrap, it's OK," Whitford continued. "Shrink wrap is shrink wrap- it's in no way a tie-down or way to secure a load. It's not OK"
Federal regulations determine the number of tie-downs you need by length of the load and weight. State regulations may impose stricter requirement. In that case, if you're stopped by a trooper wants to enforce the state law, you could be in violation if you meet federal regulations, but not state regulations.
You also need to know how much load each strap or chain can carry," Whitford says. "Straps have to have enough of a rating when combined to cover half the weight of the load. It only has to cover half because there is a large safety factor built into how companies are required to report ratings for straps and chains vs. breaking point.
"And remember, a chain is only as strong as it's weakest link. I cringe when I find chains hooked together with a bolt, or broken links welded together. It's just not worth the risk."