Cargo Securement and the 10-foot Rule

If you haul cargo — especially on a flatbed — you’ve undoubtedly heard of the 10-foot rule: You need at least one tiedown for every 10 feet of cargo, plus an extra if the cargo is not placed against a bulkhead.

Although this “10-foot rule,” found in §393.110, addresses only how many tiedowns you need, it is generally understood to be a directive about where to place your tiedowns as well. That is, most drivers believe you must have a tiedown situated within each 10-foot section of the load. As discussed below, that belief is not necessarily true.

Cargo Securement Rules:

First, let’s examine the rules themselves. In general, the North American Standard Cargo Securement Rules require you to use enough tiedowns so that their combined working load limit (WLL) is equal to at least one-half the weight of the cargo (or, the full weight when using “direct” tiedowns). Then, you may need additional tiedowns based on the cargo’s length and weight, and whether or not the cargo is placed up against a bulkhead. As indicated in the following chart, you need at least one tiedown for every 10 feet of cargo length:

If the cargo:

and it is:

then use at least:

Is NOT prevented from moving forward by a bulkhead or other front end structure

  • 5 feet (1.52 m) or shorter, AND
  • 1,100 pounds (500 kg) or lighter

1 tiedown.

  • 5 feet (1.52 m) or shorter, AND
  • over 1,100 pounds (500 kg)

2 tiedowns.

longer than 5 feet (1.52 m) but is 10 feet (3.02 m) or less, no mat­ter the weight

2 tiedowns.

longer than 10 feet (3.02 m)

2 tiedowns, plus 1 additional tiedown for every additional 10 feet (3.02 m) or part thereof.

Is prevented from moving forward by being placed against a front-end structure

1 tiedown for every 10 feet (3.04 m) or part thereof.


So how is the 10-foot rule enforced? Historically, the rule has been open to interpretation, with some officers claiming that tiedowns must be positioned every 10 feet no matter what, and/or that you must have two tiedowns within the first 10 feet if you don’t have a bulkhead.

But guidelines from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) should help clarify the rule and make enforcement more uniform. The CVSA produces the Out-of-Service (OOS) Criteria, which are used to guide inspectors in determining whether a vehicle is safe to be on the road. The OOS Criteria say that tiedowns can either be:

  • Spaced 10 feet apart along the length of the vehicle; OR
  • Positioned in every 10-foot segment of the cargo; OR
  • Spaced or grouped at lengths greater or less than 10 feet, to accommodate anchor points or prevent cargo damage.

This guidance is in agreement with the regulations which, again, do not specifically state that tiedowns must be positioned every 10 feet.

Of course, tiedowns should be evenly spaced whenever possible, and having one every 10 feet may make sense in most cases. But at least the CVSA recognizes that (a) the rules provide some flexibility in tiedown placement, and (b) drivers sometimes need that flexibility.

It’s a good time to review your cargo securement practices and make sure your drivers are aware of the 10-foot rule and the enforcement guidelines.

Other factors

Keep in mind that there are many factors affecting cargo securement — and many ways to secure cargo — in addition to the information presented above. Refer to the federal cargo securement rules in Part 393 for all the details. And remember that it never hurts to go beyond.

About the Author: Daren Hansen – Senior Editor, Transportation Safety for J.J. Keller & Associates Inc.

Copyright 2011 J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.®, P.O. Box 368, 3003 Breezewood Lane, Neenah, WI 54957. Copied by permission.

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