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How Big a Factor is Improper Cargo Loading in Truck Accidents?

In 2015, there were 4,050 large trucks involved in fatal vehicle accidents. This marked an increase of 8% from 2014. Another 87,000 large trucks contributed to injurious crashes in 2015. The frightening number of accidents involving trucks raises the question of what causes these crashes and what people can do to prevent them. Large trucks can cause accidents in many ways, from driver error to poor vehicle maintenance. One such cause is improper cargo loading.

What Are the Rules for Cargo on Trucks?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enacts and enforces laws for the country’s trucking industry. The FMCSA has rules regarding trucking hours of service, vehicle measurements, and load requirements. The most recent cargo securement rules from the FMCSA stem from years of research to evaluate and optimize cargo regulations in the U.S.

The FMCSA based the rules on the North American Cargo Securement Standard Model Regulations, industry best practices, and recommendations from meetings among industry experts. The goal of the cargo rules is to prevent items from shifting on the truck or falling from vehicles. Here is an overview of the basic cargo securement laws as of today:

  • Cargo securement systems must withstand certain deceleration and acceleration movements in forward, rearward, and lateral directions.
  • All systems used to secure cargo must have no weakened or damaged parts that could affect their performance. There are manufacturing standards tie-downs must meet, including working load limit values.
  • Cargo loaders must attach and secure each tie-down in a way that prevents it from opening, releasing, or loosening during transport. Anytime a sharp edge might cut the tie-downs, loaders must use edge protection.

These rules apply to all commercial motor vehicles that carry cargo and operate in interstate commerce. There are many other cargo and load rules, including commodity-specific requirements for certain types of materials. Failure to obey these rules and/or load a truck with proper care, resulting in an accident, is negligence.

Improper Loading and Truck Accidents

Improper loading is detrimental to the safety of the truck driver and all other drivers on the roadway. In an open bed, improper loading could lead to tie-downs coming loose and material falling off the truck and onto the roadway. This can easily cause a major accident, vehicle pileup, and fatalities. If the items are combustible, such as gas or propane tanks, improper loading could cause dangerous fires and explosions if the items fall off the bed and into the road. In a closed truck bed, improper weight distribution and rolling loads could cause the truck to roll over during sharp turns. There is no end to the ways improper loading can cause a truck accident.

After a truck accident occurs, police will investigate the cause of the crash. If police find that improper cargo loading contributed to or caused the crash, the victim(s) of the accident may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. Defendants could include the trucking company for failing to train its cargo loaders, the loaders for negligently securing the cargo, the manufacturers of the tie-downs for dangerous defects, and other parties. An attorney can help accident victims determine the defendant(s) and file a claim with the civil courts.

Improper loading is a common form of negligence involved in truck accidents. Because of their excessive size and weight, these vehicles pose major threats to passenger cars. Negligent cargo loading can be devastating, causing other vehicles to swerve or strike items falling into the road. Loads that are too heavy or secured in ways that are not acceptable under FMCSA rules constitute negligence. Find out who may be liable for your cargo-related truck accident. Speak to an attorney at the Law Offices of Randolph Rice today. 410-844-5333

Feature image courtesy of zeevveez

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