OSHA’s regulations governing lift trucks dictate that “the brakes of highway trucks shall be set and wheel chocks placed under the rear wheels to prevent the trucks from rolling while they are boarded with powered industrial trucks.” In 1973 an OSHA review commission decided that those rules were pre-empted by a federal highway safety regulation which required brakes to be set on unattended vehicles. The Department of Transportation rescinded that rule (49CFR 392.20) last year, stating that state and local governments were in a better position to monitor and enforce regulations of that nature.
The OSHA rules, contained in 29 CFR 1910.178(k)(1) and (m)(7), further state that “fixed jacks may be necessary to support a semitrailer during loading or unloading when the trailer is not coupled to a tractor” and that “the flooring of trucks and trailers must be checked for breaks and weakness before they are driven onto.”
While the regulations are aimed at protecting dock workers, responsibility for compliance isn’t entirely clear, says Stuart Flatow, the American Trucking Assn.’s director of occupational safety and health. Citations for violations will most likely go to the employer of those workers -- i.e. the owner or operator of the loading dock -- and he says truck drivers and motor carriers may be expected to carry wheel chocks in their trucks or at least be on the alert that rear wheels must be chocked.
Flatow says ATA tried to arrange a meeting with OSHA before the directive was issued but its request was denied. “Loading dock safety of course is critical,” he says. “But we believe it’s a multi-prong approach, not just the use of one device.” That approach might include parking brakes, dock locks or similar devices, as well as employee communications and training.
The directive can be accessed via OSHA’s Internet site (http://www.osha.gov). The regulations can be found at www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/aces/aces140.