Cargo Spills Can Change Lives in an Instant
When it comes to being safe on the roads, you can only control your own actions. You can stay to the right unless you are passing, follow speed limit signs, wear your seat belt, and signal when you want to turn or merge. Be staying awake and aware, you may be able to avoid being hurt in a collision with a dangerous driver.
There are some driving problems however, that drivers just cannot anticipate. One example is trucks that spill their cargo. Drivers rightly assume that the trucks’ cargo loads are properly secured and that the loads are not too heavy. Unfortunately, many truck drivers and trucking companies fail to take proper precautions. Unsecured loads can spill onto the highway in an instant causing catastrophe for anyone nearby.
An example of the dangers of unsecured cargo
A recent incident reported by Jalopnik illustrates why unsecured cargo is so dangerous. A truck was carrying wood and ladders while passing a Mitsubishi on the left. As the truck passed the car, two wooden planks flew from the truck. One missed the car; the other wooden plank “sliced clean through the windshield” – just missing the passenger seat. The video was recorded by two cameras on the Mitsubishi – one on the dashboard and one located behind the rear window.
The plank, fortunately, did not cause any injuries to the driver or the front-side passenger.
The truck driver did not even know the planks had flown from his truck. An Ohio state patrolman followed the truck driver. When the officer stopped the driver, the officer helped secure the remaining load with additional straps. The officer also gave the driver a citation – though the penalty is just a misdemeanor that carries a fine of $120 to $160 – with no jail time.
In this example, there was nothing the driver of the car could do; it was sheer luck that protected the women traveling behind the truck.
The dangers of unsecured truck cargo
Trucking companies and truck drivers haul all sorts of cargo. If the cargo is not secured properly, the cargo may shift (causing the driver to lose control of, or flip, the vehicle) or fall off of the truck (creating a hazard for drivers around the truck).
Cargo is especially likely to shift, spill, or fly off when the truck driver hits a bump, brakes suddenly, navigates a curve, turns quickly, or climbs up a hill.
If cargo spills or flies onto the roadway:
- The truck driver may be injured if he/she loses control of the truck.
- Nearby drivers and passengers can be killed or injured if the cargo directly strikes their vehicle.
- Nearby drivers and passengers may die or be seriously hurt as the drivers attempt to avoid whatever cargo spills onto the road.
What rules govern commercial trucks carrying cargo?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has specific laws that commercial drivers must follow to properly secure their cargo. The rules apply to most types of cargo. Some rules are general. Other cargo securement rules apply to the specific type of commodity being delivered.
Generally, the cargo must be secured by using strong materials, dunnage, inflatable bags to fill empty spaces, tiedowns, shoring bars, or a combination of these items. Cargo that may roll should be secured with wedges, chocks, cradles, or other devices to prevent rolling.
There are also rules for the:
- Minimum working load limit for cargo securement devices and systems;
- Minimum number of tiedowns;
- Special purpose vehicles; and
- Commodity-specific securement requirements – such as logs, concrete pipes, intermodal containers, cars, metal coils, light trucks and vans, equipment, machinery, roll-on/roll-off containers, and large boulders.
Tennessee truck drivers are also bound by Tennessee’s truck safety rules. These rules cover many items that truck drivers and owners need to know and address. For example, the safety laws require that truck drivers make steps to ensure the truck is not overload and that the cargo is secured and balanced before the driver goes on the road. If the cargo contains hazardous materials, the truck driver must conduct take additional safety precautions.
Some of the safety precautions drivers should consider when trucks are nearby are:
- Driving at a safe following distance to make sure you can stop in time if you are directly behind a truck and cargo may fly off.
- Keeping your eyes farther down the road so you can shift lanes if necessary.
- If an emergency occurs, carefully considering your options.
Who is liable for a crash caused by falling cargo and debris?
When debris spills or flies off a truck, the liable parties may include:
- The truck driver
- The trucking company that hired the driver
- A trucking broker that arranged the trip
- The company that requested the delivery
At Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, our Chattanooga truck accident lawyers file lawsuits against all responsible parties. We file wrongful death claims on behalf of families if a loved one tragically dies in a truck accident. We demand compensation for your pain and suffering, medical bills, lost income, and property damage if loose cargo strikes your car or causes your car to get into an accident. To assert your rights if a truck crash occurs, call us at 423-756-7923 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.
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