Shortly after New York energy company Consolidated Edison (Con Edison) introduced 10 aluminum trailers to its fleet, a driver raised a safety and load securement concern.
Unlike the fleet’s previous steel trailers, which incorporated wood and a non-slip coating to increase traction, the aluminum trailers only had a narrow band of wood running down each side.
The driver suggested that the large pad-mounted transformers the company hauls, which could weigh many tons, might shift during transport in wet or windy conditions.
As an interim solution, Richard Stewart, a Con Edison environmental health and safety manager, issued an alert stating that, whenever possible, loads should be secured inside in a loading or receiving dock. However, a more permanent long-term solution was required for a non-slip surface to allow safe, reliable load securement of materials and equipment.
The fleet explored several possibilities to improve the traction of the trailer surface, including conventional anti-slip coatings. The company had tried such coatings in the past but found some were costly, difficult to install, required long curing times, or could be applied only to specific substrates, according to Stewart.
And like most things in the fleet world, expediting the application of the coating was important because Con Edison could not afford excess fleet downtime.
“Our fleet [of tractor-trailers] is in high demand because we transport supplies to customers, including during emergencies or outages,” Stewart says. “So, we need the trailers back in service very quickly.”
Stewart considered the possibility of a coating he had successfully used for other applications, including in high-traffic areas at the company’s receiving warehouse in Astoria; stairways in the Bronx; walkway ramps and dock loading ramps in Staten Island; and even plastic bumpers on the company’s utility vans.
He knew this specific epoxy, Form-A-Tread Self Leveling, dried and cured fast. But the coating hadn’t yet been applied to a trailer bed. First, they needed further testing to ensure the coating would withstand the flexing and bowing of the trailer while transporting heavy loads.
Stewart also wanted to ensure the coating could stand up to harsh weather conditions and the wear-and-tear the trailer would endure over many miles. The team decided to perform a trial of three to six months on one trailer.
“The drivers loved it because even on rainy, windy days, the coating improved safety by providing sufficient traction and footing [on the aluminum trailer beds],” Stewart says. “The improved traction also helped ensure large cargo would not shift on the trailer during transport.”
Based on the success of the trial, Con Edison decided to use the coating on the remaining nine trailers.
The innovative use to secure tractor-trailer loads would later win an internal Con Edison team award for environmental health and safety for the Astoria Ops Union Management Safety Team that worked on this initiative.
The award recognized the team’s “extraordinary contribution to ensuring a safe workplace, achieving operational excellence, and improving how tractor-trailer loads are secured.”
“The accomplishment was a great example of not settling for existing conditions but maintaining a high standard and going above and beyond,” Stewart says.
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