Cargo-related issues cause about four percent of all truck accidents, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). This does not seem like a lot initially, but cargo issues have the highest “relative risk” (56.3) than any other factors that cause truck accidents. A high relative risk means that accidents related to improperly loaded cargo may be relatively uncommon, but when cargo does shift, the risk of crashes is exceptionally high.
It is paramount for drivers, loaders, and carriers to ensure they properly secure their cargo and that their cargo-handling practices and equipment are up to snuff. Failure to load or secure cargo correctly can cause the truck to shift and rollover or jackknife and the driver may lose control, and it can also spill or fall from the truck, causing traffic mayhem and potentially devastating accidents and multi-car pileups.
What are the dangers of a cargo accident?
Cargo accidents can be extremely dangerous for many reasons, including:
- Improperly loaded cargo could cause the driver to lose control and swerve into other lanes.
- If cargo shifts during transport, the truck could rollover, crushing adjacent motorists.
- If the truck tips over, the cargo could spill out onto the road, causing accidents. If the driver is carrying hazardous materials, the accident could affect people miles away.
What causes cargo to spill or fall from trucks?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the agency that regulates the trucking industry, provides very detailed rules and regulations for cargo securement. In fact, the agency has an entire book on the subject that drivers must abide by. When the drivers and handlers do not carefully follow the rules, when securement equipment becomes defunct or defective, and when drivers and carriers are lackadaisical about checking and loading their loads, the risk of cargo-related accidents multiplies astronomically.
Below are some of the primary reasons cargo shifts or falls from trucks.
- Failing to ensure loaders/drivers loaded the cargo correctly before each trip.
- Overloading the truck past the legal weight limits.
- Not evenly distributing cargo, e.g., loading heavier cargo on top of lighter and making the load top-heavy.
- Failing to properly block and brace cargo.
- Using tie-downs that are not the proper size and strength.
- Using a shoddy securement system and not attaching the tie-downs to the truck correctly.
- Loading cargo in such a way that obscures the driver’s view or that overhangs the sides of bed.
- Failing to check the cargo throughout the trip.
Who is liable for damages from cargo-related accidents?
When people sustain injuries as a result of cargo-related accidents, in most cases, the truck company is the liable party. Carriers are responsible for ensuring they hire responsible drivers, that their fleet and equipment are in good working order, and that they abide by FMCSA securement regulations. Failure to do so is negligence – and injured victims can hold them accountable for that.
However, it is not always the carriers that are at fault; other parties may be responsible in certain cases. For example, the liable party may be a manufacturer of a defective tie-down or a third party loading company whose dock workers made mistakes in packaging or loading the cargo.
If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a truck accident due to improperly loaded cargo, consider speaking to an attorney about your legal options for recovery. For a free consult with a truck accident lawyer in Georgia, contact Brauns Law today at 404-418-8244.