Driving tests

What do forklift drivers need to know about loading trucks and trailers?

Forklift and walkie stacker operators frequently load trucks. Truck loading is governed by the Truck Loading Code. It’s a document that outlines the legal requirements for load security on a truck or trailer. While the ultimate responsibility for the security of the load lies with the truck driver, the driver must rely on the loader to do their job properly.

The forklift operator’s certificate doesn’t contain much about the specifics of loading a vehicle; it’s something that tends to be picked up on the job.

Forklift drivers may need to think about:

  • Truck and trailer characteristics
  • Axle weights
  • Load distribution
  • Load composition
  • Load restraint
  • Dangerous goods segregation
  • Static roll threshold
  • The order in which the load will be unloaded
  • Tail lift operation
  • Safe operation of curtains and doors

Truck and trailer characteristics

It’s a good idea to have a quick chat with the driver to see if they have any specific input as to how they want you to load the truck.

Make sure you’re using the right type of forklift or walkie stacker for the job. If you’re loading into a container or reefer, then you’ll need a machine with the correct height mast so as not to damage the roof.

Make sure the truck is level; loading on a slope is dangerous.

If you are loading across a bridge plate, ensure the bridge place is rated to take the right weight and that it is secured before you drive across it.

Be very careful not to damage the truck you are loading onto – drivers who are owner-operators might have spent over half a million dollars on their truck and they don’t want any dents from your careless driving.

Axle weights

Each axle has a maximum permitted weight that it will be able to take. For example, one twin-tyred axle has a maximum permitted weight of up to 8200kg, but tandem axles, tri-axles and quad-axles have different weight limits. So, as a forklift loader, you’ll need to estimate how much weight might already be over that axle by using the tare weight of the truck or trailer, and you’ll need to get information from the driver to understand their RUCs they’ve purchased (or you can read the certificate of loading).

Load distribution

A load should be distributed as evenly as possible on the truck deck, with the centre of gravity as close to the centre line as possible. If you load too much at the rear of the truck, it makes the steering light and the brakes much less effective as it reduces the weight over the front wheels. If you load too much weight over the front wheels, it reduces traction because there’s less weight over the rear wheels and it could overheat the tyres or damage the suspension.

When loading into a curtainsider, if the curtains are to be used as restraint then the load should be no more than 100mm from the curtains.

When loading into a chiller, space must be left for the chilled air to circulate properly.

Load composition

Heavier items should be placed at the bottom of the load with lighter items on top. The load should be arranged in such a way that items can’t move independently of one another. You may need to use dunnage or other packing materials.

Load restraint

Usually, the driver will secure the load, but if you are responsible for securing the load, you’ll need to ensure that enough straps, chains or ropes are used in relation to the load’s weight and whether it is blocked or not. The rules are:

  • 100% of the weight forwards, 50% of the weight sideways and backwards and 20% of the weight vertically for blocked loads: a 10,000kg load will need at least 10,000kg of restraint.
  • 200% of the weight forwards, 50% of the weight sideways and backwards and 20% of the weight vertically for loads that aren’t blocked: a 10,000kg load will need at least 20,000kg of restraint.
  • If a load is blocked by at least 150mm at the front, the restraints must be able to withstand 150% of the weight of the load: a 10,000kg load will need at least 15,000kg of restraint.

In the case of a curtainside or hard side truck or trailer, check the curtains are tight and any doors are closed and sealed properly.

Anyone who loads and/or restrains loads must know how to do it safely. Check out this load restraint course.

Dangerous goods segregation

When loading dangerous goods, some items may need to be segregated from others, either in a different vehicle (i.e. in a trailer rather than the truck), by a certain distance (3 metres) or in a segregation device.

You should check the DG placards are showing the right DG class.

Drivers will need to hold a D endorsement, while loaders and handlers need to do dangerous goods handler training.

Static roll threshold

If you are loading onto a mezzanine floor in a curtainsider, do not exceed the weights for the static roll threshold. You will find the maximum height you can load to by looking for the static rollover threshold on the certificate of loading.

The SRT is set at 0.35G. For this trailer, it can be loaded with 18 tonnes up to 4.25 metres high.
This also shows the axle set rating.
A mezzanine floor enables more goods to be carried if the goods cannot be stacked very high. The truck should not be used with only the mezzanine loaded. Any forklift operator that loads mezzanine decks must do mezzanine deck installation training.


If the load is to be unloaded gradually over a number of stops, it should be loaded to make it as easy as possible to maintain a good load balance as the vehicle gets lighter. The driver shouldn’t be left with, for example, a row of pallets all on one side of the vehicle or all at the rear (unless they are light enough for it to be irrelevant).

If the truck is to be loaded and unloaded from the rear, put the items that are to be unloaded first at the back, i.e. in last.

Tail lift operation

Tail lift training course

Tail lifts can be dangerous, especially if you’re using a powered walkie stacker that’s heavy. If it goes over the edge, there’s no way of holding it, and it can pull you over.

Training in tail lift operation is important for drivers and loaders to avoid damaging the tail lift, damaging freight, or causing injuries.

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Darren has written over 3000 articles about driving and vehicles, plus almost 500 vehicle reviews and numerous driving courses. Connect with him on LinkedIn by clicking the name above

Posted in Forklift