The nation’s highways are crowded with semi-trucks transporting goods from place to place. Without these truck drivers, most of us would not have access to food in grocery stores or even gasoline for our cars. But in spite of all the good that truck drivers do, their presence on the road is also a huge safety concern, especially because improperly loaded or unsecured cargo can cause serious truck accidents.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has strict rules regarding how truck drivers must load and secure their cargo. The rules differ based on the type of cargo, e.g., logs, metal coils, vehicles, boulders, etc.
The FMCSA also requires truck drivers to complete regular and thorough cargo inspections during trips, e.g., before the trip, in the first 50 miles, etc. These rules are in place to protect innocent drivers as well as truck drivers themselves.
When truck drivers fail to follow these rules, accidents happen. The most common ways that improperly loaded cargo causes accidents include:
Unsecured Cargo Shifts: An accident can occur anytime the driver or cargo loader did not properly secure the cargo. Drivers must ensure their cargo stays put by using high-quality ropes, chains, straps, friction mats, and other devices. When cargo is not secure, it may shift and fall off the truck.
For example, consider a truck transporting logs. If these logs spill off of the truck and roll onto the highway, the resulting injuries would be terrible. Many cars would not be able to stop in time to avoid crashing into the logs.
Cargo Obstructs the Driver’s View: Since many semi-trucks do not have rearview mirrors, their side mirrors are of the utmost importance for safety. If a driver cannot see nearby cars or pedestrians, collisions and life-threatening accidents are likely to occur anytime the truck driver simply changes lanes.
As such, the FMCSA prohibits truck drivers from loading their truck in any way that obstructs the driver’s view. This means that cargo cannot hang over the edge of the trailer because this would effectively make side mirrors useless. Additionally, any cargo within the cab of the truck must not impair the driver’s movement or block the windshield.
Unevenly Distributed Cargo: Unevenly distributed cargo can cause rollovers and jackknife accidents. For example, if a driver loaded 80 percent of the cargo on the left side, the entire truck could roll over during a right turn. It could also simply cause the driver to lose control of the truck and swerve into adjacent lanes.
Cargo Leaks or Spills: When liquids or loose items are improperly loaded onto a truck, serious spills or leaks can result. The most dangerous type of semi-truck spill is one involving hazardous or chemical materials, especially liquids. When this happens, other vehicles on the road may lose control of their cars in the slippery spill. Depending on the hazardous material, people a mile away could feel the effects.
While not all accidents are avoidable, those involving improperly loaded cargo are. If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck accident caused by improperly loaded cargo, call our truck accident attorneys of Goldstein & Bashner at 516-874-4362 to set up an appointment at our office in Long Island, New York.