Rail Tiedown Lessons Learned

During circus loading of wider vehicles on commercial railcar, wheels can catch on hand hold rails that extended above the top of the deck on the sides of the flatcars. 

Be advised of above deck obstructions prior to circus loading when using commercial flatcars.  Have drivers/spotters aware of hand holds that stick above the deck on the sides of flatcars for wider loads.  Use commercial flatcars with hand holds for narrower vehicles to help avoid damage to vehicles during loading and unloading operations.


Unarmored wheeled vehicles that weigh over 40,000 lbs were secured with 3/8” chains.  Chains were also not applied at 45 degrees.

Unarmored wheeled vehicles are NOT permitted to use 3/8” chains once vehicles exceed 40,000 lbs according to AAR OTLRs Section 6 Figure 88B.  IF the vehicle was 40,000 lbs, it would require 12 chains instead of the 8 chains shown.  Additionally, the M1070 tractors shown have a specific page in TEA PAM 55-19, 6th Edition, page A-5 which states to use only 8 of the 1/2" chains.   Additionally the chains need to be applied at 45 degrees per TEA PAM 55-19, page 4, Figure 2.


Door was not properly secured, swung open during rail transport and struck a bridge.

This was primarily an issue with up-armored PLS and HEMTT vehicles but this occurred on an unarmored vehicles as well.  A SDDC Customer Advisory (CA-12-05/07-0082) has been issued and recommends securing doors on retrograde vehicles with web straps.  Web straps need to be at least 10,000 lbs breaking strength straps.   Appears straps have worn on edges in route and failed and doors therefore open in route.  Suggest using edge protectors on all edges when using straps.


​Secondary Loads for rail transport are possible, but unlikely because many conditions need to be met.

Rail Tiedown Lessons Learned - Secondary Loads

In general, there are four things to consider:

  1. Has the vehicle or trailer been tested and approved to carry a payload for rail transport?
  2. Is the secondary cargo or vehicle within the approved payload capacity of the vehicle or trailer?
  3. Can the secondary cargo be adequately secured to the primary vehicle or trailer?
  4. Is the load on the vehicle or trailer still within the transport envelopes required?

See the full article on secondary loads for more information.


The HIPPO (Load Handling System Compatible Water Tank Rack System) does not have holes in the frame to allow it to accept the PLS/LHS (Palletized Load System/Load Handling System) transport pin.​

Rail Tiedown Lessons Learned - HIPPO Water Module

​The HIPPO Water module is only approved to be rail transported when empty or full on a COFC (Container on Flatcar) or DODX railcar using the 20ft ISO locks.

  • The HIPPO cannot be transported by rail while on a PLS/LHS truck or trailer.
  • The HIPPO on PLS/LHS truck or trailer has not passed a rail impact test.
  • The Program Office clarified that the HIPPO only has a requirement for rail transport on a COFC.

Tank skirts got loose, swung out, and damaged side train signals.​

Rail Tiedown Lessons Learned - Ballistic Skirts
  1. ​Replace six spring locking pins on the end of the skirt mounting pins with approved anti-pilferage seals.
  2. The approved anti-pilferage seals for purchase are identified as NSN 5340-01-260-9935 and cost roughly $2.00.
  3. Ensure vertical skirt hinge pins are present and secure.
  4. Ensure the bolt on the swing latch on skirt one is tensioned properly.
  5. See TMs 9-2350-264-20-1-1 or 9-2350-388-23-1-2 for more details.

More details can be found in this excerpt of the SDDCTEA Modal Instruction 55-19.


Recently trailers and towed howitzers have be lost off the side of the flatcars during circus loading.

Rail Tiedown Lessons Learned - Rail Loading Safety

Below is the Railway Operations Safety Tips of the Month for March 2016.  Also listed are the width specifications on railcars that are used to deploy our Soldiers.

  1. Ensure a thorough safety brief is conducted and ensure all Soldiers understand the risk involved.
  2. Ensure all drivers are certified and experienced on the equipment.
  3. Ensure the last railcar is chalked to prevent movement.
  4. Ensure spanners are properly positioned and secure.
  5. Ensure there are a minimum of three ground guides present. One on the railcar ahead of movement and one on each side observing the spanners.
  6. Never move a vehicle without ground guides present.
  7. Ensure that the railcar is wide enough for the equipment being loaded.
  8. If the prime mover is narrower than the towed equipment ensure that the spanners are repositioned to accommodate the wider equipment.
Railcar Widths:
DODX 40000’s - 10’ 5” or 10’ 3”
DODX 42000’s - 9’ 6” or 9’ 4”
DODX 41000’s - 10’ 6”
HTTX - 10’ 4” or 10’ 6”
ITTX - 9’ 0”
TTX - 10’ 4” or 10’ 6”
TTDX - 8’ 6” or 9’ 0”

Improper spotting of flatcars caused wheel damage to military vehicles.  Commercial flatcars can have above deck obstructions (side rub rails, raised hand holds, etc.) that need to be accounted for when planning a rail movement.   Commercial flatcars that were ordered for lighter/smaller vehicles but where improperly spotted close to the rail loading ramp and numerous vehicles were damaged rolling over these narrower cars with side rub rails.

Rail Tiedown Lessons Learned - Car Spotting Issue

The narrower flatcars can be spotted together behind one ramp.  If that is not practical, the narrow cars can be spotted the farthest away from the rail loading ramp.  Wider flatcars without obstructions should be next to the ramp.

MI 55-19, 7th Edition states under Section XII. Practical Tips:

D.  Ramp Spotting Guidelines for Loading

3.  Some commercial flatcars have side sills, handholds, and so forth, that project above the deck.  These hinder loading and may prevent loading these flatcars with central tire inflation system (CTIS) vehicles.   Flatcars without projections above the deck should be placed next to the ramp, so that CTIS vehicles can be loaded on them without being damaged.


​Missing or improperly installed JLTV suspension lock-out braces have been noted at the railheads during railcar loading for transport.


​The JLTV requires suspension lock-out braces between the upper control arms and the jounce bumpers at each corner of the vehicle suspension (4 total) prior to tiedown for rail transport.  The braces are carried in a compartment on the vehicle and rely on manual removal and replacement of the (four) braces to lock out the adjustable suspension for rail transport.   Rail movement should not be attempted unless all four of the braces are properly in place prior to tiedown to the railcar and the suspension is positioned in the tiedown setting such that the (four) struts are in compression by the jounce bumpers to eliminate vertical movement in the suspension that could cause slackness in the tiedown chains during transport.  The struts should be removed and returned to their storage compartment once the railcar restraint and rail movement is complete to restore suspension movement for normal vehicle operation.



For questions or more information, please contact the DoD AAR (Association of American Railroads) representative at usarmy.scott.sddc.mbx.tea-dpe@mail.mil or by phone at DSN 770-5271, 618-220-5271, or 1-800-722-0727.

 AAR Open Top Loading Rules

​To request a copy of the Association of American Railroads Open Top Loading Rules, Section 6 - Military Materiel, click here to request a copy and complete the requested information.

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