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There are far too many reports of ladders causing accidents on roads. Barely a week goes by without some report of a ladder falling off a truck and causing an accident behind it, or reports of a ladder being carried alongside a car by two passengers with their arms out of the window. Officers from the Central Motorway Police stopped a vehicle on the M6 recently, as the ladder it was carrying protruded from the front and the rear of the vehicle, and was visibly slipping out of its fixings.
The sectional roofing ladder had been secured with a bungee cord around the sections sticking out of the rear, but as it was also resting on, and protruding over the cab roof it could easily have come loose and several sections could have slid off. The images of the vehicle and ladders appears to show that the ladder protruded by between one and two metres from the rear of the vehicle, which legally requires the driver to hang a bright piece of cloth or some hi-vis clothing from the back of the ladder to alert other road users to the danger.
If the ladder overhangs by more than two metres then rear and side markers must be displayed to show other road users the extent to which the ladder protrudes. Ladders which extend by over three metres must also be marked, but there must also be a second person in the vehicle to keep an eye on the ladder, and 48 hours’ notice must be given to police. Ladders overhanging at the front of a vehicle also need marker boards and attendants to ensure the load is secure.
While it's a legal requirement to make other road users aware of the dangers of an overhanging ladder, there are some best practices that should be followed to ensure that the ladders do not pose a risk to others. These practices also ensure that the ladders are stored properly and will not sustain any avoidable damage. A buffer, such as a roof rack or a thick blanket will protect the roof of your vehicle and stop any accidental knocks to the ladder.
Ladders should also be secured to the roof rack or the vehicle using ladder clamps, ropes or bungee cords. While all these are options, we would recommend using purpose built ladder clamps, as these are the most secure way of fixing a ladder to a vehicle. Not only do they keep the ladders in place during transit, but the padlocks on ladder clamps keep the ladders safe from theft when you stop and leave the vehicle.
Once you have secured your ladder and are happy with it, it's advisable to test the integrity by going on a short drive, or ideally finding an empty car park where you can perform some sharp turns and emergency stops. This way you will know you whether the ladders are secure enough to withstand every manoeuvre you might have to make on the road.
Taking these steps ensures you keep your ladder in good shape, safe from theft, and away from the attention of the police.