Since I was a little kid, the fear that a car can work itself loose on an auto transport trailer has crossed my mind. Now that I’m a grown up now with the ability to rationalize logically (tongue-in-cheek), it still creeps into my thoughts when I’m passing or being passed by a car shipping trailer with double-stacking racks. So for my peace of mind and yours, I researched it. Here’s what I have discovered:
Due to cost efficiencies, there are many more open carriers than enclosed carriers. Both the owner of the vehicle and the car shipping company benefit from this technique. These double-stacked racks where originally designed for train cars to transport as many new cars as possible from the factories in Detroit during the 1940s and 1950s. After World War II, motorists started branching out in larger numbers where trains could not reach. The economy began to boom and it became easier for the average family to buy a brand new car off the car dealer’s showroom floor. Thus, the open autorack (carrier) was born. The double stacking was known as “circus style” due to its frequent use by traveling circuses. Car shipping trailers can hold up to eight to ten cars or trucks in one load.
There are stringent processes to ensure a car cannot come off the racks. On the racks are anchor points to connect the tie-down chains. They are secured to the front and rear axles and the chains are tightened by using a tension bar. The chains do not have slack in order to prevent the car from slipping. The tires are secured by straps securing each wheel. It takes approximately one hour (if everything goes according to plan) to load one car or truck. Then the driver performs a checklist to ensure none of the safety steps were overlooked or any step is unsecured.
Although it may seem that the cars can come off, but it will not happen. The carrier takes every measure to protect your vehicle and his livelihood. In fact, in the few cases documented where a carrier truck has overturned, the cars remained on the rack and never came loose from the carrier. The trailer and the cars may have been jacked up, they never moved. They’re really on there!
In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has established laws and oversight by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Association (FMCSA). They have stringent requirements for the driver to adhere to and routinely perform audits to ensure safety standards are in compliance.