When it comes to transporting road freight, efficiency matters. This is true at every phase of the process, from warehousing right through to delivery. In this article, we focus on loading. If time or space is mismanaged during this vital stage, you could end up wasting money, damaging goods and slowing down deliveries. Safety is paramount too. If you cut corners and overlook this important factor, your negligence could cause workers or members of the public to be harmed. You may also face legal action. 

Whether you want to ensure deliveries arrive at a distribution centre on time or safely maximise your vehicle capacity when shipping goods to retailers, read on for expert advice on how you can make truck loading a slicker process.

forklift operator using a forklift to load a pallet onto a truck

How to load heavy objects into a truck

First and foremost, you must make sure that the vehicle you’re using is safe to use and can take the weight of the goods that need to be hauled. You should inspect the condition of the truck, including your tyres, lights, brakes and anchor points. At Freightline Carriers, we have a fleet of vehicles of different sizes and can advise you on choosing the correct vehicle for your specific consignment.

Next, you must prepare for loading. This step is critical as nearly half of all driver-related injuries occur during loading and unloading. A risk assessment should be carried out to identify hazards and you should minimise the level of risk by adding control measures. You must ensure that the loading crew are wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and that everyone has been clearly briefed on their roles and responsibilities during the loading process. 

It’s important that the load is stacked against the headboard of the vehicle and the centre of gravity should always be as low as possible. You should also check that the freight is stable without the use of lashings. If the consignment could move about or topple over, you should consider ways to make it more secure. For example, you might put the goods in pallets or boxes. Once the load is stable, you need to secure it to the chassis of the truck using adequate load restraints, such as chains or webbing straps, Items or pallets that weigh more than 400kg should be secured with lashings, load-rated nets or tarpaulins with integral straps.

The type of loading equipment you will need will depend on the freight you are hauling. You may need forklifts, lifting slings, ramps or electric pallet jacks, for example. In the next section, we will look at how a forklift can be used for loading.

How to load a truck with a forklift

Using a forklift to load a truck is a high-risk activity so it is vital that care is taken when undertaking this job. The process usually involves a delivery driver and a forklift operator, however,  it is the delivery driver who is responsible for ensuring their vehicle is safe. They should brief the forklift operator on where to place goods based on the vehicle’s load capacity and what order the goods need to be loaded in, if any. The forklift driver, on the other hand, is responsible for actually loading the freight onto the truck and ensuring that it’s stable and secure. The delivery driver must not get physically involved in this part of the process.

Forklift operators must ensure that the loading vicinity is free of any pedestrians, including delivery drivers. They must make sure that the vehicle is on level ground and can be accessed easily from both sides. They must also check that the engine of the truck is off, the key has been removed from the ignition and that the brakes have been applied. They must make the driver aware that loading is about to commence, and they should check that the bed of the truck is free of any objects or debris. 

To minimise the likelihood of the truck capsizing, the forklift operator should start loading at the front of the vehicle and work their way to the back, alternating from one side to the other as they go. They should place the loads closely together as this helps to prevent the freight from moving around in the vehicle. Loading in this way also helps to maximise the carrying capacity of the truck. 

The operator must be suitably qualified to use a forklift and must always use the correct techniques for loading. For example, they should

  • Be fully aware of their surroundings before attempting to load
  • Make sure the load doesn’t exceed the forklift’s recommended weight
  • Adjust the width of the forks so that they are as wide as possible for the load
  • Ensure the load is evenly balanced on the forks
  • Insert the fork all the way under the load
  • Be careful not to move the forklift while raising or lowering the load
  • Tilt the load back a little to prevent it from tipping forwards
  • Never abandon the vehicle while a load is raised. 

If appropriate, the operator should load the vehicle in order of delivery by putting the first deliveries to be made on the vehicle last. This should be done to make the delivery stage safer and more efficient as it prevents gaps in the consignment and reduces the need to rearrange goods as they are delivered. However, operators must also ensure that the weight of the load is evenly distributed so may not always be able to work in delivery order. 

The operator must ensure that goods are loaded safely and are as stable as possible. However, the driver is responsible for ensuring the load is secure before transporting.

How to load a truck with pallets

Pallets can be loaded using a forklift or a pallet jack. The loading crew should take all the precautions discussed above and make all the necessary checks before undertaking this job. 

There are various ways that pallets can be configured in a truck so arrangement must be carefully considered in order to reduce health and safety risks, prevent goods from being damaged, maximise the capacity of the vehicle and make the delivery process as efficient as possible. You must check that the consignment does not exceed the weight limit of the truck and calculate how many pallets you can fit in the vehicle before you begin. 

Here are the main ways that pallets can be arranged:

  • Side by side – loading the pallets so that the short ends face forwards and backwards
  • Turned – loading the pallets so that the long ends face forwards and backwards
  • Pinwheeled – loading the pallets so that half the pallets are turned and half are side by side

However pallets are arranged, they must not exceed the maximum payload or axle weights of the vehicle.

Before loading, pallets must be thoroughly inspected for signs of damage or weakness. They shouldn’t be loaded if they are not strong enough to carry the load on them.

Pallets should be packed together closely to prevent sliding. Lashings should also be used to restrain them if there are spaces between the pallets or between the pallets and the headboard or the vehicle sides.


Loading goods can be a dangerous job and should only be undertaken by trained professionals. For expert help with road freight, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our friendly team.