Safe Transport

Protect people and product during handling and on the road
Katy Devlin
December 3, 2014
COMMERCIAL, RETAIL, FABRICATION
Following best practices while loading and unloading, maintaining racks and wearing necessary PPE will minimize breakage and potential injury. Pictured is the Schodorf Model L-60 all-aluminum glass rack for one-ton cab and chassis trucks.
Following best practices while loading and unloading, maintaining racks and wearing necessary PPE will minimize breakage and potential injury. Pictured is the Schodorf Model L-60 all-aluminum glass rack for one-ton cab and chassis trucks.

Cutting corners when transporting glass from the shop to the job site can be costly. Glass breakage hits the bottom line, and accidents can cause injuries, lost time, and in the worst cases, fatalities. However, investments in appropriate transportation equipment and necessary personal protective gear, paired with the institution of maintenance and safety protocols, pay off in the long term, sources say.

Glass Racks

The first step to protecting employees and preventing breakage during transport is investing in professional glass transport racks. Despite a wide array of glass rack options on the market, many glass shops continue to use homemade rack systems. “Our biggest competitor is the guy willing to make his own rack,” says John Weise, president, F. Barkow Inc., www.barkow.com. “But, how many loads of glass do you have to lose until you realize it’s worth it to invest in [professional racks]?”

Companies that make their own racks also open themselves to liability, says Paul Schodorf, president and coowner for Schodorf Truck Body & Equipment Co., www.schodorftruck.com. A failure of a homemade rack could present a costly problem to a glass shop.

Most homemade rack systems are wooden, with some shops welding their own steel or aluminum racks. Rope is commonly used to secure the glass to the rack. Glass breakage is more common with homemade systems, and the racks wear out quickly. “A lot of racks that have been built at the shop break off, or start twisting,” says Michael Frett, sales director for MyGlassTruck.com. “If you’re trying to carry flat glass on the rack that is twisted, you’re facing an unsafe situation, and breakages.”

While professional racks are tested for corrosion resistance, homemade racks are susceptible to rust and degradation of the metal, adds Rustin Cassway, president of MyGlassTruck.com.

Despite the prevalence of homemade systems, sources report a growing trend among glass shop owners toward professional rack systems, in part because of the increasing sophistication of the glass systems they are being asked to install. Heavy shower doors, decorative glasses and other higher price point products require secure rack systems that better ensure safe transport. “We are seeing more and more shops that want to look more professional and be more professional. They are using [professional racks], some for the first time,” Weise says.

Minimize breakage by maintaining racks. Checking bolts regularly improves longevity and helps prevent breakage. Pictured is the T6 Adjust-a-Pole Double Cleat from MyGlassTruck. com, which can move up and down the pole’s entire length. The cleats lock into place with a wingnut. “We also use Huck bolts—the same fasteners that are used on airplanes—to hold our racks together,” says MyGlassTruck’s Rustin Cassway, president.
Minimize breakage by maintaining racks. Checking bolts regularly improves longevity and helps prevent breakage. Pictured is the T6 Adjust-a-Pole Double Cleat from MyGlassTruck. com, which can move up and down the pole’s entire length. The cleats lock into place with a wingnut. “We also use Huck bolts—the same fasteners that are used on airplanes—to hold our racks together,” says MyGlassTruck’s Rustin Cassway, president.

Companies should work with rack manufacturers to choose the best rack and truck or van system for their requirements. “When we work with customers, we narrow [the choices] down together,” Wiese says. “We consider the type of business— whether they are mostly residential glass, or shower door, or storefront companies—we determine their daily payload capacity, and discuss the size of the glass.” Companies that haul larger glass pieces, for example, may find the smaller size allowances of dual-tire truck and rack systems too restrictive for their requirements. Or, companies that also fabricate metal systems on site may require a rack with metal carriers.

Customers should also consider the load restrictions of the rack system as well as the vehicle itself, as overloading can be dangerous and harmful to vehicle performance. “Overloading is one of the most common mistakes we see,” Weise says. “Shops surpass the weight range of the truck and stack the racks beyond the legal weight limit.”

“If we make the ledge board bigger, workers will load more glass on to the point where it’s too heavy to pull out of the parking lot,” Schodorf adds. “We limit the [available loading] space relative to the capacity of the vehicle. That is the way we are looking out for safety.”

Truck power is also important to consider in terms of load capacity. Manufacturers have made vehicles lighter to improve mileage, making many models unequipped to handle the weight of glass loads. “We want to make sure customers get as heavy duty a truck as possible,” Schodorf says. “We recommend a minimum of ¾-ton truck, with 1-ton preferred. And, we recommend an 8-cylinder engine with more power. If you are going off road at the job site, or up a hill, you’ll need that power.”

MyGlassTruck.com created a product bundle for each vehicle type, to ensure the vehicle can handle the loads of the glass rack, Cassway describes. “For lightweight vehicles, we can supply a lightweight rack that still offers strength. … We go to the [vehicle] manufacturers and ask for their recommendations on attaching the rack.”

Rack manufacturers offer a range of solutions in terms of the poles that hold the glass to the rack, and the rubber that keeps the glass away from the metal surface. Suppliers also offer add-on solutions, such as gravel plates or curtains to provide additional protection from road debris and other environmental hazards.

Once customers purchase a rack, they need to ensure best practices for maintenance and safety, sources say. (For specific recommendations on loading and unloading glass, see the sidebar at left.)

Most common transportation and handling mistakes

  • Overloading racks
  • Handling glass without personal protective equipment
  • Unbalanced loads
  • Using trucks without sufficient power
  • Neglecting rack maintenance

“You get your oil changed, you have the engine looked at regularly. Do you have someone inspecting the bolts on your glass rack? The rocking and gyrating of driving can loosen those bolts over time, and it becomes a safety issue if not checked,” Schodorf says.

“If you don’t tighten up the wing nuts and they come off while you drive down the road, you lose the part. Eventually, you are driving with a glass truck with half the parts missing,” Cassway says. MyGlassTruck.com added an additional piece to its rack poles to prevent the hardware from falling off the rack, even if it does loosen, he says.

Glass truck drivers should also be aware of their increased footprint on the road and drive with extra caution. “We often spend time replacing glass racks that have been in wrecks,” Schodorf says. “People hit the racks, because they stick out farther than expected from the side of the vehicle.” Lights on the front and back of the rack help to increase visibility and prevent accidents.

Personal protective equipment

In addition to investing in the appropriate transport racks, companies should invest in appropriate personal protective equipment for the loading and unloading process.

“One workman’s comp claim can cost a company $50,000. You can outfit your whole team for $5,000,” says Bill Bowling, director of sales & marketing for Tuff-n-Lite, tuffnlite.com. “In smaller shops, we often don’t see a lot of [personal protective equipment]. But, the more business you get, the more new employees you’ll be hiring, and the more you’re increasing the odds of injury.”

“The cost of these garments may seem expensive. But, as it relates to [the cost] of an accident, they are really cheap,” adds Eric Moll, owner of Tri-Star Glove, www.tri-starglove.com.

Tuff-n-Lite high-visibility, cut-resistant pullover.Protective garment system, including apron and sleeves from Tri-Star.
Left: Tuff-n-Lite high-visibility, cut-resistant pullover. Right: Protective garment system, including apron and sleeves from Tri-Star.

Gloves are a top priority for any employee handling glass, particularly during the loading and unloading process. Additional protection is recommended for the arms and the legs, specifically covering the radial artery in the wrists and forearms, the axillary artery across the under arm, and the femoral artery in the upper thigh. Cuts to those arteries can lead to rapid blood loss and, in worst cases, death.

“Someone who is handling glass products in an installation is likely not going to take the time to don everything that is required in a factory,” Moll says. The key is getting the most protection possible in garments that are comfortable and movable for installers. “If the installer is wearing chaps and protective sleeves, they are covering a good percent of the threat area,” he says. Tri-Star is developing a kit of recommended PPE for glass installers.

For drivers and employees unloading at the jobsite, reflective clothing is recommended, and in many cases, required. “If you’re on the jobsite unloading and carrying a dangerous piece of glass, you need to make sure other vehicles can see you,” Bowling says. Reflective, cut-resistant clothing is also available for these situations. “You can put someone in a $9 reflective vest, or you can outfit them in reflective cut-resistant clothing. We recommend reflective pullovers or zip-up jackets and cut-resistant gloves.”

Katy Devlin is editor for Glass Magazine. E-mail Katy at kdevlin@glass.org.

  • Tips for glass loading and unloading

    By Robin Donker
    marketing manager, Unruh Fab Inc.
    www.unruhfab.com

    First, make sure the vehicle is on a flat surface for loading. Support the glass while loading, and load larger pieces first, with smaller pieces leaning against the large. This will prevent breakage when securing glass to the rack. Only lean glass against supported padding on the rack.

    Beware of using cardboard to keep glass clean, as it can scratch the glass. We recommend skirts on the rack to protect glass. Additionally, do not have glass extend beyond the rack; often it is tied down and will likely break with rope wrapping all the way around the glass.

    When transporting glass, pay attention to the load level of the vehicle. Distribute the load evenly to avoid overloading the axle capacity of the transport unit. Be sure to check the stability of the load throughout your deliveries to make sure the glass is secure and the load has been evenly redistributed.

    When unloading the glass, it is again important to make sure the vehicle is on a flat, level surface prior to unsecuring the glass from the vehicle. This will aide in preventing the glass from falling forward when unsecured, thus avoiding injury and loss of product.