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Improper Truck Cargo Loading

Truck accident

In the United States alone, semi-trucks and commercial vehicles move about 11 billion tons of cargo annually. In order to prevent catastrophic accidents, commercial vehicles and semi-trucks must comply with certain rules and regulations regarding how they load their cargo. Improper loading is very dangerous, as it can easily cause the truck to become imbalanced and difficult to maneuver. 

Accidents caused by improperly loaded cargo can result in various types of injuries, depending on factors like the severity of the wreck, the weight of the truck, the speed the truck was traveling at, and the number of vehicles involved. When pursuing a claim, it’s critical that the rules of proper loading are understood in order to determine whether a violation was the cause of an accident.

Truck Accidents Caused by Improper Cargo Loading

Due to the fact that such a tremendous amount of freight moves across the United States each day, properly securing all of this cargo is crucial. Loading and securing materials properly is the responsibility of the driver, as unbalanced or improperly loaded loads can result in catastrophic damage to other motorists. As a result of improper cargo loading, tucks can overturn, cargo can fall into the road, and numerous other problems can have detrimental effects. No matter what the reason may be, improper loading of cargo can lead to serious injuries and even death.

California truck accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates have a thorough understanding of both the legal and medical issues surrounding serious big rig accidents. If you or a loved one are involved in an accident involving a semi-truck,  it is important that you speak with an attorney who is experienced in helping clients with California truck accident litigation. 

With multiple offices located in Irvine, Anaheim, Los Angeles, El Segundo, San Diego, and Riverside, our personal injury attorneys represent truck accident victims across California. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation, please call 949-727-9300.

Federal Cargo Loading Guidelines

A shifting cargo load can change the center of gravity of a semi-truck, which can make the driver lose control of the vehicle. Loading incorrectly can result in the cargo shifting or moving during transportation, particularly if the driver has to maneuver or brake suddenly. In many cases, this can lead to the truck overturning, which is extremely dangerous for the driver themself, as well as other motorists. Because of these dangers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established a series of comprehensive rules and regulations regarding proper cargo security.

In accordance with the FMCSA, after 50 miles of driving, truck drivers should inspect their cargo, and then check again after an additional 150 miles have been driven. A truck driver needs to keep this in mind at all times, particularly when transporting liquids. Liquids are naturally prone to shifting and moving within containers during transit. This can cause fastening to become more easily loosened by the shifting liquids, making it essential that drivers check that the load is secure. Many different fasteners are necessary to secure truckloads, such as webbing, steel straps, and chains. Many times, inflatable bags are used to fill empty spaces, packing cargo in tightly and preventing it from shifting around too much. Overall, FMCSA regulations govern how cargo should be transported, regardless of the type of cargo.

Who is Responsible for Proper Cargo Loading?

Every person who interacts with a vehicle’s cargo is obligated by federal law to follow FMCSA safety regulations when it comes to loading. Of course, the driver of the truck is certainly included here, but also every person within the company who interacts with that truck’s cargo. 

Because of this, it’s possible that multiple people and entities may be legally responsible for the recovery of damages resulting from an accident involving an improperly loaded truck.

Any company that fails to adequately train their employees how to load a truck sufficiently could be liable should an accident occur. In the event of an incident, the people who loaded the cargo initially may be held responsible, but the driver is still responsible for regularly checking the cargo and making sure it is secure during transit.

Product Liability

In some cases, displacement and movement of cargo can occur despite the best efforts of drivers or trucking company employees to secure it down properly. In these cases, the equipment or device that secured the load may have been defective. A variety of securing devices may be used, including bungee cords, anchors, tie-down straps, and fasteners, but sometimes, these devices may fail. 

In the event that such equipment does not operate properly, a product liability case may be filed. Manufacturers and retailers in the supply chain may be liable for injuries caused by security device failures To determine whether such products are defective, a quality assessment may be necessary, where products will be tested to determine whether or not their failure was what caused an incident to occur. 

Common Freight Truck Loading Laws

As mentioned previously, regulations and laws have been put in place by the FMCSA specifically to try and deter or prevent accidents from happening due to improper loading. In a case where cargo has been improperly loaded, such guidelines and laws should be considered and carefully analyzed. According to these rules and regulations:

  • The right equipment must be used to secure cargo, such as pallet filling equipment, tie-downs of industrial strength, bars, and rods.
  • In transit, it is crucial to secure cargo from moving around excessively including preventing lateral movement, which may require packing spaces with inflatable bags.
  • To warn other motorists on the roads of overhanging cargo or loads that protrude, appropriate lighting and signs stating that the cargo is a “wide load” need to be posted on the truck. A wide load is also typically isolated from other drivers by two separate vehicles moving in front of and behind the truck.
  • Heavy machinery must be secured properly when transported using special equipment designed specifically for this job. Special restraints, such as steel beams, may be necessary to achieve this.

Results of Improper Loading

There is a reason why rules and regulations regarding cargo loading are so strictly enforced. A cargo truck that is improperly loaded is, quite simply, not safe to drive or maneuver. A truck’s balance can be affected by shifting, rolling, or movement of cargo during transit. If this is to occur, the semi can all too easily end up rolling over, jackknifing, or running off the road. 

Additionally, cargo may fall off the truck, causing an obstruction or crushing other vehicles. A truck that has been improperly loaded is also particularly hazardous given the cargo that is being hauled may also be quite heavy. In most cases, passenger vehicles suffer much more serious damage when they collide with fully loaded trucks since they are smaller and weigh much less. Vehicles that collide with cargo-bearing trucks can incur not only property damage but also serious injury to the driver and passengers. If the right loading laws were not followed, an investigation has to be conducted to determine whether these injuries can be claimed. 

Since trucks pose such a danger to other motorists if due diligence isn’t taken during the loading process, it’s critical that drivers, employees, and trucking companies understand and properly perform their responsibilities. If you or someone you know has suffered injury or a loss due to an accident caused by improper loading, a professional trucking attorney will be able to help you pursue a claim to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.

Contact an Experienced California Truck Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one has been in a truck accident involving loaded cargo in California, you should discuss your legal options with an attorney as you may be entitled to compensation. The California accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Samer Habbas & Associates can then help determine if you have a valid accident claim. 

With multiple offices located in Irvine, Anaheim, Los Angeles, El Segundo, San Diego, and Riverside, our truck accident injury lawyers represent victims across California. For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys, please call 949-727-9300.