Hauling Steel Coils

If you are new to hauling freight and are considering handling steel coils on a flatbed trailer, at first it may feel a lot like being a novice ice skater on a frozen lake. You never know what you’re in for. It takes much skill and strength to load a trailer properly and secure the load safely while observing the law.

Ideally you’ll already have a trailer equipped with a coil package. This type of trailer contains special reinforcements and is rated to haul heavy loads in a small area of the deck.

And it takes good math skills to calculate the number of chains required to secure a coil. You must know the exact weight of the coil and your chain ratings. Drivers we talked to said to also add one extra chain for your family and one more chain to save yourself.

Before we get into securing, let’s talk about loading. It takes preparations to load the coil properly. And do you load it shotgun, eye to the sky, or suicide? Sometimes the method will be chosen for you by the shipper.

Suicide Loading

Suicide loading puts the coil with the rolling face toward the cab of the tractor. It’s called suicide because in a panic stop or a crash if the coil breaks loose it will roll through the cab taking you and anything else with it.

A driver places two hardwood 4 x 4 lengths a measured distance apart depending on the size of the coil. These blocks are sitting on rubber pads – old mud flaps will do – to avoid slippage. A crane drops the coil in place on the blocks.

Then securement begins with chains and binders. Binders can be either snap or ratchet type. One at a time chains are thrown through the center – or eye – of the heavy coil. Coil protectors go under each chain where it tightens down on the steel to avoid damage to the coil.

Chains on a suicide coil are run side by side- never crossed- with most of the chains pulling toward the rear of the trailer for added safety during braking. The remaining chains pull forward.

Shotgun Loading

Shotgun loading places the coil sideways on blocks and rubber pads with the flat sides of the steel roll facing forward and backward. This method is also referred to by drivers as homicide loading because if the coil breaks loose it goes off one side of the trailer and likely kills someone.

Shotgun loading will usually start with crossed chains in the eye of the coil. Next chain will be placed through the eye with one end pulling forward and the other pulling backward, with chain ends on the same side of the trailer. Proceed chaining side to side until you have more than enough to secure the load.

Eye to the Sky Loading

Eye to the sky loading refers to the center opening of the coil pointing upward with the coil sitting on a flat side. Sometimes this method is preferred when hauling lighter coils. Often secured with a combination of straps and chains.

In all cases chain protectors are used to protect the metal roll. It may be on a skid and loaded by forklift. If this is the case, put down rubber mats before the coil is loaded. Securement starts with running straps side to side then crossing chains with one end pulling forward on the right or left side, the other end pulling rearward on the opposite side of the trailer.

With the next chain forming an X on the top of the coil. You may add another chain straight across the center of the X and hooked on either side of the trailer. Always do your math to know if you have adequate securement. Then add more. Even a lighter coil will become a missile if it breaks loose during unforeseen circumstances. You never know what you’re in for.

What Veteran Drivers Say

Hauling steel coils requires a subdued style of driving. Extend your following distance to enable you to slow or stop more gently. Slow down on all curves as the trailer may start to twist up (called torquing) under the weight of the heavy coil. Gentle turns are the way to go.

Whenever you stop, check and adjust the tension on the chains. Constant road vibrations will often loosen the chains. Using ratchet binders will help adjusting go quickly and easily. Do your homework. It’s up to you to know what to do to keep danger out of the picture.

Our Suggestion

This post is not intended to teach you how to load and secure a coil. It is written for the purpose of providing insight into hauling metal coils. Take a course on flatbed cargo securement. There are many available. And when you’re ready, find a fleet with great orientation to help you get started. Now entering a brave new world, safely.

Maintenance of your vehicle and equipment is most important when you haul heavy coils. It should be at regular intervals and never missed or overlooked.

Happy trucking and remember to check the tension on your chains.

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