July 17, 2017 12:00 AM, EDT
Opinion: Expanding Access to Cargo Control Equipment

The demands of delivering heavy equipment or cargo safely and on time requires that drivers, equipment rental agencies and trucking industry managers have the right tie down and cargo control gear on hand to secure the load to the trailer or flatbed.

Regardless of what cargo is being hauled, there can be no compromise as to its securement over rough roads or through traffic. Improperly securing loads can have dire safety consequences and also may lead to serious legal issues, traffic citations and unplanned project or production delays.

Yet locating tie down and cargo control gear frequently is left to the last minute — it often is an afterthought. This can quickly become problematic if gear is missing or damaged or if it is unclear what specifications are required for the job. With delivery deadlines looming, carriers cannot waste time querying suppliers that cannot deliver the needed equipment right away.

The industry traditionally has looked to a number of supply channels, including local suppliers, big box stores and online retailers. The problem occurs, however, when essential equipment — such as chains, hooks, binders, d-rings and ratchet tie downs or straps of the required size and specification — is not available. Even many online retailers, which do not specialize in tie down and cargo supplies, lack sufficient, specialized inventory. As a consequence, companies often waste valuable time calling around to multiple suppliers trying to fill the order. Even then, they may have to wait days for the required gear to ship from another location and be subject to extra shipping or rush order fees.

To help make equipment rental and trucking professionals more competitive, proactive tie down and cargo control gear suppliers are following a new, more responsive purchasing model. They are offering a host of vital capabilities, including Amazon-style variety, emergency response, expert engineering support and custom-made capabilities.

One-Stop Shopping and Same-Day Shipping

In response to the need to streamline purchasing, a growing number of suppliers are implementing an Amazon-style approach to inventory by stocking the vast majority of required tie down and cargo securement items in-house, ready to ship. This enables busy equipment rental and trucking professionals to order all tie down and cargo control-related equipment without going to multiple vendors.

The trend is toward simplifying purchasing by offering the entire spectrum of products used for tie down and cargo securement. It also can include chain gauges for drivers to determine if their chains are safe to use — free of cracked, stretched or fatigued links — before securing the load.

This one-stop model prioritizes stocking the variety, quantity and selection of tie down and cargo control supplies most commonly required so they can be shipped immediately in one transaction.

This requires having all needed part numbers and specifics available at the point of order. It also requires having all products under one roof, logistically prepared to ship nationally as well as tracking without delay.

For most retailers, having a wide variety of tie down and cargo control items is not their focus, so they have spotty selection and have to special order them from distributors, if they can be found at all. With many online retailers, if you need something other than standard, you are out of luck.

Because thousands of in-stock tie down and cargo control items are held in inventory by some wholesalers that implement the Amazon-style approach and deliver nationally, same-day shipping can be offered on up to 90% of all typical cargo securement orders.

Rush and Emergency Response

While any vendor can rush a single order, few traditionally have organized their processes to expedite orders for the majority of their customers, including rush and emergency situations. Some tie down and cargo control item suppliers are streamlining their entire process from order to delivery around speed of response. While some websites are set up to enable one-click shopping for routine items, for instance, some suppliers for the equipment rental and trucking industry go well beyond this approach.

When a rapid response is required, too often it may take a supplier several hours to reply to a request. If a supplier has its act together, its service reps should be able to respond to a request within minutes to an hour. They should know what their customers will likely need and have it in stock, and in most cases ready to ship the same day. Speed is critical.

While there is a trend to stock all tie down and cargo control equipment under one roof, this does not mean that it cannot be modified. When equipment customization is required, such as in length, size or capacity, this can be done quickly to suit unique circumstances.

As the industry continues to adapt to surprises and ever- tighter schedules, the new one-stop shop model will help industry professionals stay ahead of the competition.

Murphy Industrial Products, headquartered in Houston, is a rigging supplier specializing in the entire spectrum of products utilized for lifting, pulling and tying down.