Surveying truck, trailer and rail cargo

Over the past year, If Insurance has worked with clients on over 3000 claims that relate to cargo-related incidents and accidents. Of these claims, around 2000 were related to handling errors. This includes, for example, poorly secured cargo on road, rail, or sea transportation. When transporting goods, it is vital to adhere to the existing national, or international regulations.

Unsecured cargo carries serious risks, and often there are human factors involved. According to Markus Hytönen, Cargo Risk Engineer at If, some of the more typical accidents and incidents relate to negligence, fatigue, and inexperience. However, criminal acts in warehouses or at sea are also becoming increasingly common.

Transporting goods incorrectly is basically an accident waiting to happen,” states Hytönen. “When cargo is not fastened down for transport, the risks are multiplied. Some common issues include cargo overturning or rolling because of shifting weight. Poorly secured cargo can also damage the vessel or vehicle transporting the goods. It is also important to highlight that these issues will add to the risk of injury to personnel involved with the loading and unloading of goods, as well as potentially put the public in harm’s way.”

Lost cargo, lost business

Every year, cargo losses interrupt business operations, cause adverse environmental incidents in the accident area, as well as damage company reputations, which leads to further business losses. There are many different types of cargo losses, from criminal acts to water damage or contamination, all of which lead to damages incurred during the transportation of goods.

Inadequate stowage, carelessness during lashing or incorrect slinging, as well as poor packing and negligence relating to weight distribution can all play a role in cargo being lost during transit.

Human factors, such as fatigue and stress can also play a role in cargo losses – therefore it is important to consider not only adherence to guidelines and legislation, as well as the recommendations of authorities and other stakeholders, but to take a holistic view to tackle the risks that exist when transporting goods.

Safe transportation demands due diligence

It is of the utmost importance that the cargo being transported is properly secured in accordance with existing regulations. Beyond these regulations, there are several critical factors to consider to safely transport goods and materials. Often, it is better to exceed recommendations to ensure that your cargo will be delivered safely.

From careful route planning to knowing when a vehicle escort will be required for your specific combined transport, highlighted below are some essential tips from If’s cargo experts:

Before loading

  • Check the drivers route planning. For example, will the vehicle meet height requirements under all bridges?
  • Transport on Road, Rail, Combined Rail, or also in Sea Area A, B C?
  • Observe and follow all local road regulations and authority recommendations regarding driving times, as well as breaks and rest periods for drivers.
  • Check all tires and the condition of the truck or trailer. These must be in good shape before loading begins.
  • Check the integrity of weather protection (tarpaulin, roof, etc.) in case of delicate cargo.
  • Check the floor conditions and cleanliness in the loading bay (e.g., ensure that there is no grease or oil present, which can reduce friction).
  • All trucks must have valid Compulsory Road traffic insurance.
  • Check if the cargo has any damage before loading. If any damage is present, this should be reported in a survey report with photos attached.

Securing the cargo

  • Check all lashing equipment and lashing eyes on trucks, trailers or rail wagons. They must all be in good condition before loading and lashing.
  • Never approve combined web and chain lashings on the same cargo.
  • With regards to heavy cargo, use chain lashings only.
  • Sliding – friction: use rubber mats or sawn wood under the cargo to prevent sliding.
  • Check if the cargo has any damage after loading. If any damage occurred during loading, this should be reported in a survey report with photos attached.
  • Cargo must be secured to prevent movement of the cargo vertically, sideways, forward and/or backwards.
  • Select the highest cargo securing requirements at combined transport road, rail or at sea.
  • Read more about appropriate cargo securing recommendations according to the Swedish CTU-CODE (Quick Lashing Guide) for transports on Road, Rail, Combined Rail and in Sea Area A, B and C.

Winter season

  • Check and adhere to national regulations regarding proper winter tires. In some countries, winter tires or snow chains must be used during winter. These requirements must be fulfilled before the loading of cargo is undertaken.

Oversized vehicle

  • In cases where the width of the transported cargo exceeds the national limits on road width, hazard lights and/or warning signs, as well as the possible use of escort vehicles may be required in many countries.

Dangerous goods

  • When transporting dangerous goods, national and/or international dangerous goods regulations must be followed depending on what kind of transportation is applicable and which destinations are in question. For combined transport, for example road and sea transport, select the highest requirements, which is usually the IMDG code for sea transport.


  • When unloading, be sure to check if the cargo has any damage upon arrival as well as after discharging. If any damage is present, this should be reported in a survey report with photos attached.

Meet our experts

Markus Hytönen photo.

Markus Hytönen

Cargo Risk Engineer

Rikard Sahl photo.

Rikard Sahl

Cargo Risk Specialist

Written by

Kristian Orispää