Accidents Caused by Improperly Loaded Trucks
Fighting for People Injured by Poorly Loaded Trucking Cargo
Not only do commercial trucks need to be driven safely, they must also be loaded properly. Unfortunately, many truck accidents are the result of improper loading methods. A fully loaded semi can carry tens of thousands of pounds of cargo. If this cargo is not secured or loaded properly, it can get loose and fall, endangering motorists. In some cases, improperly secured cargo can even cause a truck to become involved in a devastating collision. If you or a loved one was hurt in an accident caused by an overturned truck or any other type of big rig accident, you should know about your legal rights. Federal regulations require truck drivers to secure cargo carefully. Contact a top-rated Houston truck accident attorney at Arnold & Itkin right away for effective, knowledgeable counsel.
Why Improperly Loaded Trucks Are Dangerous
Improperly loaded trucks are dangerous for a number of different reasons.
Below are a few potential consequences of a truck that is improperly loaded:
- Braking Problems - Overloaded trailers can have an impact on the effectiveness of the truck’s braking system. The brakes were designed with a maximum weight in mind. Loading the trailer above that weight can affect the truck’s ability to brake as quickly as normal.
- Tire Problems - Like the brake system, the truck’s tires are only designed to carry a certain amount of weight. Overloading the trailer puts additional pressure on the tires and can cause them to burst.
Regulations Regarding Secured Cargo
According to a 2004 survey conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA), more than 25,000 motor vehicle accidents are caused by unsecured cargo every year. This is why the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has established regulations for allowable weight limits for truck cargo as well as proper procedures for securing that cargo. To help enforce these regulations, weigh stations and truck scales are dispersed along America's highways. Here, law enforcement officials can ensure that truck drivers adhere to applicable commercial trucking regulations.
For example, in Texas, a truck cannot weigh more than 80,000 pounds, but that limit varies based on the size of the truck. Here are the weight limits for smaller commercial trucks:
- Quad Axle Trucks – 50,000 lbs.
- Triple Axle Trucks – 42,000 lbs.
- Two Axle Trucks – 34,000 lbs.
- Single Axle Trucks – 20,000 lbs.
In addition to the regulations outlined above, there are also laws set forth by the FMCSA. The Cargo Securement Rules by the FMCSA have been adapted based on the North American Cargo Securement Standard Model Regulations and have been in place since 2004. All rules are based on a multi-year research program that evaluated cargo securement in both the U.S. and Canada. In general, the rule requires motor carriers to change the way that they secure their cargo. The rule states that the cargo must be "firmly immobilized or secured" on the vehicle by tie downs or another structure of adequate strength, shoring bars, or any combination of these. Inflatable bags, called dunnage bags, can be used in addition to fill space between articles of cargo. A truck driver must meet a certain minimum of tie downs depending upon the length and weight of their cargo. Commercial trucks carrying certain types of cargo have specific rules regarding cargo securement as well.
Types of Accidents Caused by Improperly Secured & Loaded Cargo
- Overturn Accidents: One type of accidents caused by improperly loaded trucks is overturning. When a truck is attempting to make a turn, it may be thrown off balance by loose cargo. When the load shifts, the weight of the truck is no longer evenly distributed, which makes it more likely to turn over.
- Jackknife Accidents: One major reason why the NHTSA has established load weight limits is that heavy loads can impair a driver's ability to brake quickly. The heavier the load, the longer it can take a commercial vehicle to come to a complete stop. If a truck driver slams on the brakes suddenly, the driver risks having the load shift in such a way that the truck jackknifes or tips over. A jackknife accident is when the cab remains parallel with the road, while the trailer loses control and is dragged perpendicular to the road, so that the cab is facing the opposite direction of the trailer. The trailer can wipe out surrounding passenger vehicles in the process. Jackknife accidents are all too common and can cause serious injuries and even death for surrounding motorists.
- Hazardous Materials Spills: Truckers responsible for carrying hazardous cargo must be even more careful when loading. Accidents involving these trucks can be even more dangerous, as a hazardous materials spill off of a truck and onto the highway may present a heightened risk of fire or explosion. Commercial vehicle drivers must be specially licensed if they wish to operate trucks that carry hazardous materials. These truckers have to pass specific skills test in order to show that they understand the proper safety procedures involved in carrying hazardous materials. Even with these safety precautions in place, however, trucks carrying hazardous materials still cause roadway collisions.
- Accidents Caused by Spilled Cargo: When cargo is not secured in a trailer, but rather on top of a flatbed, there is an increased risk of the cargo flying onto the road in the event of an accident. Bungees or strong tethers typically secure cargo. If a trucker uses tethers that have been worn down by use or sun damage, the ropes could break and cause cargo to spill. Debris on highways can either fly off of a truck bed and cause direct damage to a vehicle, or fall onto the road and present a traffic barrier that vehicles must swerve to avoid. Both scenarios are dangerous and can result in serious collisions.
Are Cargo Loaders Liable for Truck Accidents?
Loading a truck involves multiple parties. Carriers, cargo loaders, and truck drivers might share liability for an accident depending on their level of responsibility for the cause of one. While some incidents might seem like negligence on the part of a cargo loader, the FMCSA requires truckers to check specific aspects of their cargo.
The FMCSA requires drivers to periodically check items such as:
- Spare tires
- Equipment securing cargo
The FMCSA requires drivers to periodically check their cargo to make sure it is secure and ready for safe transport. In many instances, it’s the responsibility of a driver to be the final decision maker on whether or not the cargo is ready for safe transport. However, in some instances, a driver will not be able to check their cargo. This might be true when they are transporting a sealed container and are unable to verify that the contents are safely stored. In these instances, it’s unreasonable to expect that a trucker can inspect the safety of loaded cargo.
Liability for a truck accident can be split among parties depending on the situation. In some instances, a driver might be fully responsible for failing to confirm the safety of their loaded cargo. In other instances, a combination of cargo loaders, a driver, and a truck company can be responsible for unsafe transport procedures.
Ultimately, it’s useful to speak with an experienced truck accident attorney if you’ve suffered from a serious crash.
Injured in a Truck Accident? Call (888) 493-1629 Now.
At Arnold & Itkin, our first priority is to help clients recover financial losses by holding those responsible for them accountable. No one should suffer because of the reckless actions of a trucking company, driver, or cargo loaders. When you call our firm, we’ll listen to what happened to you and help you decide if you have a case at no cost. Our team has recovered billions of dollars on behalf of clients and we’re ready to use our experience to fight for you.
Reach out to Arnold & Itkin at (888) 493-1629 to arrange a free review. We will fight for the best possible results.