Safety Tips - Safely Transporting Equipment/Materials


Operating trucks or truck-trailer combinations loaded with landscaping equipment and materials involves many potential hazards for crew members and those with whom they share the road. Overloading or neglecting to properly secure equipment, materials and plants in a pickup bed or trailer can result in serious injuries and even fatalities. Landscape companies can be held liable in court, and drivers can face criminal negligence charges.

Dos and Don'ts


  • Know your responsibilities under the law. If the combined weight of the truck, trailer and load exceeds 10,000 pounds, the driver must stop at roadside inspection stations and be able to present a copy of a medical examiner’s certificate stating the driver is physically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle.
  • As the driver, you are responsible for cargo securement and staying within weight limits, even if you didn’t load the truck or trailer. If an accident occurs and the vehicle/trailer were overloaded or items weren’t properly secured, you could face criminal negligence charges.
  • Secure items for every trip, no matter the distance. Neglecting to tie down equipment or secure materials during short trips is one of the most common mistakes landscape crews make.
  • Use the correct trailer hitch and ensure the trailer is properly connected to the towing vehicle. Also make sure safety chains are in place.
  • Inspect all truck and trailer lights before every trip. Do not travel until defective bulbs have been replaced. Also check the trailer light hook-up socket for loose wires or corrosion.
  • Check the pressure and wear of all truck and trailer tires before each trip. Check lug nuts on all tires to make sure they are tight and damage free.
  • Inspect all load-securement devices such as chains and straps prior to use.
  • Ensure loads are properly distributed and balanced in truck beds and on trailers. With trailers, place heavier cargo toward the front, ahead of the axle, and center it left-to-right. With trucks, place heavier materials as far forward as possible and center it side-to-side. An unbalanced load can cause a trailer to sway, possibly resulting in a traffic accident.
  • Use chains or straps with ratchet load binders to secure equipment.
  • Secure plant pallets or flats to the bed of the truck or trailer using tie-down straps or other appropriate devices. If you’re transporting small trees or tree saplings, secure them in an upright position.
  • When stacking materials, put the heaviest items at the bottom.
  • Cover materials such as mulch, planting bed rocks and yard debris with tarps. This can prevent objects from flying out and striking vehicles behind you.
  • Keep trailer decks free of dirt, oil and debris.
  • Before loading or unloading a truck or trailer, ensure the parking brake is set and the wheels are chocked.
  • Only load or unload trucks and trailers in clear, open areas with good visibility. Operate equipment such as riding mowers slowly (set mowers at half throttle) and be alert to co-workers who might be loading/unloading smaller equipment.
  • Use equipment such as skid-steer loaders and devices such as wheelbarrows and hand trucks as much as possible. Using these machines and tools for loading/unloading materials from trucks and trailers and transporting materials at jobsites can prevent musculoskeletal injuries. Work with fellow crew members when loading or unloading manually. One person should hand down items to another standing on the ground.


  • Exceed the gross combination weight rating of the trailer. This limit should be stated on the trailer or in its operator’s manual.
  • Create blind spots for the driver with the positioning of cargo.
  • Neglect to tie down fuel containers or tools such as rakes, shovels, hoes, picks, ladders, etc.
  • Tow a trailer with a vehicle not properly rated for the job.
  • Load a truck or trailer to the point it’s physically full, regardless of weight. Just because material fits in a truck or on a trailer doesn’t mean it should be there. Know gross vehicle weight ratings and don’t exceed them.
  • Be hasty when securing tarps. Tarps should be secured on the front and back and both sides. Secure mounted tarps in at least three places on both sides. Secure tarps that aren’t mounted in the front and back and at least three places on both sides.
  • Leave truck or trailer gates down. Make sure they are properly latched.
  • Dump material from a truck or trailer that isn’t on level, stable ground. When a bed rises during a dump, weight is concentrated on the rear axle, and this can cause the truck or trailer to tilt or tip.
  • Refuel equipment while it’s on a trailer or carry fuel cans with you. If you do fuel equipment while you’re transporting it, don’t stretch the hose across other equipment, ensure all machines are cool and use extreme caution.
  • Jump out of truck beds or trailers. Use steps and handholds where they are available. Where they aren’t, sit on the lowest edge, then lower yourself carefully to the ground.