When an accident involving a semi-truck comes to mind, we usually picture a car pinned underneath a semi-truck or a car that’s been completely totaled by a massive 18-wheeler. But sometimes the accident isn’t a direct collision with the truck at all but a collision with the contents of the truck… it’s cargo.
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), over one 4-year period, falling cargo and road debris caused over 200,000 auto accidents on U.S. roadways. Two-thirds of these accidents were caused by cargo that fell from a commercial vehicle because of improper maintenance and unsecured loads. The remaining third were caused by drivers swerving to avoid debris on the road.
Federal Regulations for Securing Cargo
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) regulates how loads are to be secured for commercial vehicles. Truck drivers must ensure that their rigs are not overloaded and that all cargo is properly secured.
The FMCSA says that all truck drivers must use equipment specific for each type of cargo so it remains secure throughout its transport. There are different regulations for securing logs and boulders than there would be for wood and metal pipes.
Based on testing, the FMCSA has standards for equipment that is used to secure truck cargo, like ropes, chains, webbing, and other tools used to support the cargo. The FMCSA also publishes a truck driver’s guide to cargo securement to provide truck operators information about how specific types of cargo should be secured.
In addition, trucking companies are required by the FMCSA to train their drivers in the proper method for loading and securing cargo. When trucking companies fail to adequately train their employees, they can be liable for damages caused by an accident with an improperly loaded truck.
Common Causes of Cargo-Related Accidents
Overloading Cargo on a Flatbed
In order to cut costs, trucking companies have been known to pack as much cargo as they can in trailers and on flatbeds. Companies in the trucking industry believe the more cargo they load onto a truck, the fewer trips their drivers have to make which means less money spent on gas, maintenance, and employees.
Of course, when cargo is stacked too high on a flatbed, it is more likely to be unstable and fall off. Debris from semi-trucks has been known to smash windshields and completely crush other vehicles. If the cargo hits the road, cars must swerve to avoid it and possibly crash into other vehicles.
Unsecured Hazardous Material
Some trucking companies transport hazardous materials like oil, gas, and other flammable or poisonous chemicals. If such materials are not properly secured, they can fall off the truck and create dangerous road conditions.
If these chemicals catch fire, they can create a significant threat to people on the road and cause serious property damage. And perhaps even more dangerous, if toxic chemicals are being transported, a spill could lead to entire areas being evacuated.
Unevenly Distributed Cargo
When cargo is unevenly distributed in a trailer, truck drivers can find it difficult to brake and turn safely. The uneven cargo has a tendency to shift inside the trailer and cause the truck to quickly veer out of control. Oftentimes this is why you will see a truck roll over or jackknife.
Using Faulty Equipment to Secure Cargo
Many times, trucking companies will use steel straps, tie-downs, and webbing to securely fasten cargo to a flatbed. This equipment is often old and worn out, causing cargo to fly out onto the roadway.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for Falling Cargo?
In a case where cargo falls from a truck and causes an injury or death, the trucking company, the driver, the shipping company, and the person loading the truck can all be held responsible. The equipment manufacturers might also be liable.
Just about all trucking companies and drivers will carry some sort of commercial insurance policy, and most of these policies will cover claims when accidents are caused by falling cargo. But to properly understand the role of insurance companies when one is involved in an accident with a commercial vehicle, it is always best to consult with a truck accident attorney.
Have You Been Injured In A Texas Truck Accident?
If you've been hurt in a Texas truck accident you need to speak with an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Colleyville office directly at 817.485.8888 to schedule your free consultation.