The Low-down on Chain Tie-Downs

The Low-down on Chain Tie-Downs

Chain Tie-Downs
Chain has been used by people to pull, fasten and pick things up for over 2000 years. The form of chain has not changed much over the years, whereas the manufacturing of chain has. With the modern advances in metallurgy and manufacturing techniques, chain is a much better quality today. During these advances we have come to realize that we can control the quality of chain. Even though all chain has the basic same shape it does not mean all chain has the same properties. For example, we have several grades of chain; 30, 43, 70, 80 & 100. Each grade has different properties.

Understanding the Different Grades of Chain

Grade 80 & 100 chains are manufactured with alloys that allow them to stretch or elongate. This visible deformation alerts the operator that the chain must be removed from service. Alloy chains are designed for overhead lifting. The lower grades (30, 43 & 70) are carbon chain designed for pulling, agricultural & load securement applications. These grades are not designed for overhead lifting.

Determining a Chain’s Grade, Size and WLL

The best way to know what grade of chain you have is to look on the links themselves. Each chain link should be embossed with the grade, size & manufacturer’s name. All manufactured chain should have these markings, which will allow the user to determine the working load limit (WLL) of the chain.
WLL charts are available from the US D.O.T. or the chain manufacturer. Columbus McKinnon offers an online WLL calculator here.

Chain Tie-Downs

Using Chain as Tie-Downs

The one thing all of these chains have in common is that all can be used as tie-downs. The majority of chain used for tie-downs is Grade 70, also known as transport chain. It is easily recognized because of the gold colored plating which distinguishes it from other chains; however, we recommend that the operator verify the grade by its embossed identification.

A Typical Application for Chain Tie-Downs

Let’s say Phil picks up a load and uses the tie-downs he has had on his truck for years. When he purchased them new they were Grade 70, 3/8” chain with a WLL of 6,600lbs. Over time the plating has worn off and the embossing has become illegible, but Phil knows what the tie-downs are. So Phil finishes securing his load and starts down the highway. He drives for a few hundred miles and pulls into a truck inspection station, confident he has the proper size and number of tie-downs for the load he is carrying.

The inspection is going well until the inspector starts looking at the load and the securement. The markings on the chain are not legible so he uses the Grade 30 WLL rating for 3/8” chain. This is less than half of what Grade 70 3/8” chain is rated for. Phil argues that the chains are Grade 70 but the inspector can only go by what he has in front of him and has to grade them as Grade 30. Citing it as a lower grade chain reduces the WLL below what is required for Phil’s load.

According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) 393.108d, if the marks are not visible or not legible the inspector will consider this tie-down to be the lowest grade (Grade 30). This reduction in grade can result in taking you out of service and possibly a citation.

When it’s all said and done, let’s be safe.

Make sure that the tie-downs you are using are the proper size and grade for your load, are clearly identified as such, and are not damaged or deformed. After all the tie-downs do not belong to your customer, they belong to you. If you’re not sure whether to use 4 or 5 tie-downs, use 5 — the worst case scenario is that you’ll have more rather than less.

It’s Always Good to Get Trained

Whether you’re a road-hardened veteran or new to the industry, we encourage you to get properly trained on how to use & inspect load securement equipment, and stay up to date on regulations and requirements. As an additional resource, check out our Load Securement Safety Webinar.

Henry Brozyna

Henry Brozyna is a Corporate Trainer specializing in Rigging & Load Securement for Columbus McKinnon Corporation.

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13 Replies to “The Low-down on Chain Tie-Downs”

  1. Hi Greg,

    The requirements for cargo securement are based on the weight of the load and what characteristics gravity has on the cargo, 80% securement in the forward direction. As for what size tie downs to use, that is completely in your control, as long as you have enough securement to satisfy the FMCSA requirements.

    Heavy equipment, over 10,000 lbs, must have a minimum of four tie downs plus at least one for every articulation, such as a hoe on excavators.


  2. Looking for information, whether large chains ie 5/8 as opposed to more 3/8 chains to tie heavy loads is better

  3. I have purchased transport chain that is brand new but is probably 20 years old possibly 30. So there’s no markings on them it’s a gold chain quarter inch 9 foot long with an offset hook and between the hook and the chain link there’s a big silver link can you tell me what this chain is rated at

  4. Joe,
    There is a huge difference between aircraft cargo chain and transport chain.

    Standard cargo securement chains are typically Grade 70 and have a 4:1 safety factor. These chains are proof tested at 2 times the recommended working load limit.

    Aircraft Cargo tiedowns are manufactured to a specific Government specification. This specification requires testing at the working load limit of 10,000 lbs. on the small ones. These chains have a minimum break of 14,100 lbs. As you can tell, they do not have as much of a safety factor built into them as the standard cargo securement chains. They do, however, have a much higher working load limit that typical 9/32” chain.

    The major issue in the U.S. is that if the tag is removed from these chains, they will get the same rating as Proof Coil chain by a roadside inspector since they are not marked with a grade of chain.

    Thanks for reaching out to us.

  5. Hi Brad,
    Sorry for my delay in response. The tie downs need to have a grade on them to avoid an automatic Grade 30 rating. Make sure that the chains have an embossed grade marking on them. When you contacted AWDirect, they automatically assumed that the tag was for slings – if grade 100 or grade 80 – which is what prompted them to send you a sling tag. Slings must always be tagged. Tie downs do not. That is why we rely on the embossing on the chain to indicate the grade of that tie down. So, if you get a tag, you can put in on the tie down, but know that it will get worn very quickly. Tie down chains do not require tags. If the embossed grade is worn, it may be time to replace your chain.
    Thanks for reaching out to me with your question.

  6. Henry,
    Recently I wrote AWDirect and inquired about chain tags. The gal replied that all they had in stock were CHAIN TAGS even though they listed CHAIN and SLING tags made by CM.
    They sent me their P/N 2YV44AW which I think is a sling tag . Something is awry. Am I ok to use that tag for my Grade 100 chains? They are not slings, just chains. As I understand it my grade 100 chains HAVE to be labeled to prevent a Grade 30 rating by inspectors roadside.

  7. Hello Nancy,
    We are not familiar with HP4 marked chain. From what we could research, this chain does not appear suited for rigging.
    If this manufacturer is following the pattern that the rest of the chain makers are, then I would say the HP4 is a grade 43 chain, not suited for rigging.
    The industry does not have a common capacity given the grade & size of the chain. You may need to contact the manufacturer for additional information. Otherwise, please provide us with more information and we can try to help.

  8. What can you tell me about chain that is embossed with HP4. What do these letters and numbers mean? The diameter of the link appears to be .377″. Can you determine the breaking force?
    Thank you

  9. Hello Allan,
    Thanks for your comment.
    As a chain manufacturer, Columbus McKinnon has to manufacture Grade 80 & 100 chain per the ASME B30.9 standard.
    In this standard it requires alloy chain, which is Grade 80 & 100, to have the ability to stretch a minimum of 20% before it breaks. This is designed to be a visual indicator of an overload. Since any stretch would indicate the chain has been overloaded & must be removed from service, no stretch is acceptable.
    When things stretch they exceed their elastic limit & are not the same as the original material – they have been weakened.
    We appreciate your engagement!
    All the best,

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