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Imbalanced Cargo

Washington, DC Truck Accident Lawyers

If you have been on the highway when a tractor-trailer loses its cargo, you know what a scary and dangerous thing it can be. Small cargo can spill across the road, creating hazardous conditions, and large cargo can hit or even crush a car. But even if it remains on the truck, improperly secured cargo can be very dangerous. Imbalanced or shifting cargo can lead to serious truck accidents, causing injury or even death. If you have been hurt in a truck accident caused by shifting cargo, the Washington, DC truck accident lawyers at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, & Siegel, P.C. can help.

Dangerous Cargo

In its Large Truck Crash Causation Study (LCCS), the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) identified cargo shift as one of the most dangerous events in contributing to accidents. More than brake problems, more than driver fatigue, even more than a driver performing an illegal maneuver, when a cargo shift occurred, an accident was likely to follow. In fact, shifting cargo had the highest relative risk of any factor identified. This makes improperly secured cargo an important factor in many accidents.

The Importance of Balance

Tractor-trailer trucks have a higher chassis than passenger vehicles, especially in the trailer. The height of the truck is responsible for the likelihood of override/underride truck accidents, but it also makes balancing a truck very important. The majority of a tractor-trailer truck's mass is in its cargo, making the truck's center of mass high above the ground. Since all of a truck's ability to maneuver is at the ground, all the force of a maneuver must be conveyed through the truck up to the cargo.

Cargo resists changing speed and direction with force in the former direction of travel. This creates powerful forces during a turn or stop that are often directed laterally and high off the ground. The result is a tendency for top-heavy tractor-trailers to tip or sway, and can lead to rollover truck accidents or put severe stress on cargo restraints. Imbalanced cargo increases these negative tendencies and can make it more likely for a truck to roll over or jackknife.

Cargo Securement Standards

In response to the dangers of shifting cargo, the FMCSA has developed cargo securement standards. These standards are designed to ensure a load has reasonable resistance to tipping or loosening. However, they also show that cargo should be secured low to the bed of the trailer whenever possible, and that unbalanced cargo, or cargo otherwise liable to tipping should be braced from tipping or rolling. They also show that a driver is responsible for inspecting the cargo and securement before the trip, during the first 50 miles of travel, at the beginning of every period of driving, and at three hour or 150 mile intervals.

The driver is responsible for identifying off-balance or loose cargo and increasing load security whenever necessary. The only exception is if the driver is ordered not to inspect cargo or the cargo is sealed or loaded in such a way as to make inspection impossible. But sometimes drivers do not perform responsibly. Sometimes, the cargo is not secured or is secured improperly and can contribute to a truck accident. If you suffered an avoidable injury caused by imbalanced cargo, the Washington, DC personal injury lawyers at our firm have the resources, dedication, and skill to produce the case results that you need and deserve. Contact us today!

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