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Block and Brace: Best Practices To Secure Cargo on Trailers

Resources > Block and Brace: Best Practices To Secure Cargo on Trailers
What are blocking and bracing methods? Join us as we explain how to brace and block cargo safely and effectively using guidelines from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and industry best practices.
Published: July 18, 2023
Last Modified: August 28, 2023
Author: Joe Weaver

Block and brace practices are key to the shipping process, particularly over-the-road trucking. These techniques keep cargo stable during transport. However, implementing block and brace methods is a challenge. Varying load sizes, shapes, and weights demand different approaches to cargo securement. Also, failure to properly block and brace cargo can cause goods to be damaged. 

According to the American Trucking Associations, block and brace in truckload logistics involves using materials and supports to securely fasten cargo, preventing it from moving during transportation. This practice is vital for ensuring safe and efficient shipping.

This article sheds light on the best practices in blocking and bracing to secure cargo on trailers and shipping containers effectively.

What are Block and Brace Methods?

An individual blocking cargo with an adjustable cargo bar.

When it comes to securing cargo, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Multiple techniques exist for both blocking and bracing. Let's examine the individual components of block and brace.

What is Blocking?

Blocking is the practice of using various materials to prevent cargo from shifting or moving side-to-side movement during transportation. The main goal is to keep the load from moving horizontally.

Common materials used when blocking a load include:

  • 2x4s and other lumber
  • Wooden chocks
  • Dunnage bags
  • Inflatable airbags

By preventing lateral movement, blocking reduces the risk of cargo tipping over or shifting, which could compromise the stability of the vehicle and cause damage to the goods in transit.

What is Bracing?

Bracing, on the other hand, involves stabilizing cargo to prevent vertical movement. It employs supports such as bars, rods, or straps to keep cargo from shifting up and down. The primary objective is to prevent cargo from tipping or becoming unstable due to shifts in weight distribution during transit.

Some of the most common bracing materials are:

  • Tie-down straps
  • Shoring bars
  • Load bars
  • Cargo nets
  • Headache racks

Bracing keeps vertical movements in check, minimizing the risk of cargo falling or causing the trailer to tip over. It is a key facet of safe cargo transportation that should never be overlooked.

Deep Dive into Block and Brace Load Techniques

Cargo on a flatbed trailer braced with straps.

Various types of loads require different approaches to blocking and bracing. Improperly secured cargo can easily lead to costly damage and upset customers.

Best Practices for Different Types of Cargo

We’ve laid out some common types of cargo and the best block and brace freight practices for each.

Blocking and Bracing Individual Types of Cargo

Palletized goodsTop to bottom screen wrapping with crisscross pattern 
Heavy machinerySteel braces with wooden chock blocks
Shipping containersInflatable or otherwise adjustable dunnage
Fragile itemsClear labels indicating fragile cargo with warnings to avoid top loading

Distributing the weight evenly across the trailer is another critical facet of blocking and bracing. It ensures that heavy items are placed low and centered, which is vital to preventing tip-overs.

Discover more tips for shipping glassware and other fragile items.

When Are You Required to Brace and Block a Load?

Blocking and bracing are not just best practices – they’re often legal necessities. Any time you haul large cargo via a trailer, some kind of brace and block technique must be used. The size and shape of cargo dictates which techniques should be used to comply with regulations.

Understanding and complying with regulations that govern blocking and bracing is essential for safe and legal transportation. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets standards for cargo securement to ensure some consistency from one cargo company to another.

FMCSA regulations dictate that cargo be secured at regular intervals (5’ to 10’ depending on its weight) with appropriate straps. Since this limits lateral and vertical movement, strapping down a load can be seen as a form of both blocking and bracing.

Depending on the shape of the cargo, they also require wedges, cradles, and other forms of braces or blocks to minimize movement. This rule mostly applies to cargo that is likely to roll in transit, such as pipes or drums.

How to Load, Block, and Brace an Ocean Container

An open shipping container at port.

Over the road trucking is just one example of where or how cargo blocking is used. Block and brace is also necessary in other forms of shipping. 

Transportation via cargo liners and trains are two of the most common methods of intermodal transportation, and the practice of block and brace is key here as well. Containers moving side to side on a cargo vessel or train can have catastrophic consequences. 

To block and brace a container properly, keep these three elements in mind.

  • Even weight distribution: When loading the container, ensure that the weight is supported evenly across the cargo floor. This prevents lopsidedness.
  • Lateral void fillers: Once weight is distributed evenly, dunnage should be used to fill in lateral gaps. This reduces side-to-side movement.
  • Fore and aft bracing: The use of chock blocks or specially designed 2x4s will brace the cargo to further combat load shifting.

Using the correct block and brace method is especially important for shipping containers traveling by rail. This is due to a gentle but persistent vibration during transit, which increases the likelihood of cargo shifting. Proper blocking and bracing of the container prevents damage during drayage, transit to distribution centers, and the final mile.

Learn more about how rail drayage can improve your company’s bottom line.

How USA Truckload Shipping Can Help

As you can see, block and brace techniques are crucial to ensuring the safety of your cargo. However, you don’t have to go it alone. USA Truckload Shipping is a leading company in the logistics sector, and we’re dedicated to ensuring that your cargo is transported safely and efficiently.

These are just some of the services we offer.

We employ expert techniques and high-quality materials for blocking and bracing to safeguard your goods. If you’re looking for reliable and secure cargo transportation, send us an RFP today, or call our expert team at (866) 353-7178. We’re standing by to handle your shipping needs with the expert knowledge and care you deserve.

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