A number of factors can cause a truck accident, many of which relate to the actions or behavior of the driver, conditions of the road, or equipment issues. However, the very way in which someone loads cargo can be the cause of an severe or fatal accident. Knowing what the laws require for cargo loading and securement is an important step in determining both negligence and liability in unsecured cargo accidents.
What are the laws for cargo loading?
Both the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) created rules regulating all facets of the trucking industry, including cargo loading. These regulations address a variety of issues, including weight limits on trucks as well as the proper ways to secure cargo. In addition to these federal regulations, the Georgia Department of Public Safety Transportation Rulebook details local regulations for trucks.
There are specific federal requirements for cargo securement depending on the size, type, and amount of cargo and with particular performance requirements that companies must test and measure. For example, the Handbook states that secured cargo must not:
- Obscure the driver’s vision or maneuverability
- Leak or spill
- Shift in a way that would affect the truck’s maneuverability
Federal and state regulations also require the driver to:
- Perform cargo inspections before taking off as well as periodically throughout the trip
- Stop at weigh stations if the truck weighs over 10,000 pounds
Why would truck companies overload their trucks?
While violating federal, state, or even local regulations seems like a bad idea on its face, especially given the nature of the safety risk involved, it still happens. Why do trucking companies do this? Well, the reasons essentially boil down to financials. It costs more to send more trucks so if they overload one they do not have to pay for two.
Who is responsible for an unsecured cargo accident?
The shipper (or any other separate entity) responsible for securing the cargo could be liable, however, the trucking company and the driver may also bear responsibility.
Even if the driver did not directly cause the accident, a failure to inspect the cargo before transit could lead to his liability. For example, if the driver is not at fault for an accident, but his unsecured cargo spills out on the road and injures another driver, victims may be able to find him at fault for injuries.
Note: If the driver is at-fault for the accident, you will most likely name the trucking company as the liable party in a claim or lawsuit under the theory of vicarious liability, which states that an employer is liable for its employee’s behavior.
How can an overloaded or improperly loaded/secured truck cause an accident?
If the truck exceeds weight limits, or if the cargo loader did not distribute the weight evenly, a dangerous situation can result.
One risk is that the truck could roll over. The risk of a rollover truck accident increases when the truck is traveling at a high rate of speed or takes a sharp turn while carrying an oversized load. As a result, the truck could end up crushing another vehicle.
An overloaded truck is also more likely to jackknife. This is especially true if the driver has to suddenly stop.
There is also the danger of a truck blowing a tire because of the excess weight. With more stress placed on tires with a large load, the tires can fail.
Veering into Other Lanes
Shifting or improperly secured cargo could also cause the truck to veer into other lanes of traffic.
When a cargo loader does not properly secure or stack cargo, it can cause a spillage. This can be especially dangerous if the truck is carrying hazardous or flammable liquids.
How can an Atlanta attorney help me prove fault in an unsecured cargo accident?
An Atlanta truck accident attorney from the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz can help you prove that your accident would not have occurred but for the unsecured or overloaded cargo by gathering evidence such as:
- Eyewitness statements (e.g., an eyewitness can testify that she saw the truck swerving directly prior to the accident)
- Data from the electronic data recorder (i.e., black box)
- Driver logbooks
- Post-accident drug and alcohol testing
- Cargo load records
Contact Jason R. Schultz at 404-474-0804 if you or someone you care about sustained injuries in an unsecured truck accident.