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How Cargo Securement Violations Increase Truck Accident Risks

By: Allan M. Siegel

Tractor-trailers travel our roads and highways on a daily basis because they play an important role in transporting our goods and commodities. Not only does the size of commercial trucks alone pose risks to drivers with whom they share the road, the types of commodities they carry, as well as how those goods are loaded and secured, are also public safety risks that must be managed. That’s why government agencies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) strictly enforce regulations over cargo loading and securement.

Aside from regulations over truck driver fitness, vehicle maintenance and weight limits, and other safety standards, cargo securement rules are critical to reducing risks of preventable truck accidents. With extensive experience protecting the rights of tractor-trailer accident victims across the metro area, our personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. understand the cargo securement rules in place, the risks trucking companies create when they violate those regulations, and how to hold them liable for the injuries and damages they cause.

Risks of Loading & Cargo Securement Violations

Trucks transport all types of goods – some of which pose inherent risks in and of themselves, or increase the risks of preventable wrecks and injuries when loaded and secured improperly. These risks include:

  • Uneven Weight Distribution – The FMCSA enforces a number of strict rules for properly loading and positioning cargo onto commercial trucks. When goods are loaded improperly or not adequately secured using required securement devices and techniques (tiedowns, anchor points, blocking, bracing, etc.), they may shift during transit and compromise vehicle balance. This uneven weight distribution can lead to roll-over accidents, jackknifing, and wrecks where trucks are unable to slow, stop, or maneuver in time to avoid a crash.
  • Falling Cargo – Trucking regulations focus a great deal on correctly containing, immobilizing, and securing cargo. Not only do proper restraints help avoid issues of shifting products that can impact vehicle balance, they also reduce risks for falling cargo. When goods or products fall of tractor-trailers, they can strike passenger vehicles around them, or create hazards in the roadway that cause car accidents.
  • Large Commodities – Some commercial trucks transport our largest and most dangerous commodities. These include everything from wood logs, concrete pipe, and intermodal containers, to automobiles, machinery, and large boulders. Because these forms of cargo pose risks of causing more severe crashes and damages, the FMCSA requires specific securement techniques and devices based on certain loads of cargo.
  • Hazardous Materials –Hazardous materials are heavily regulated by the FMCSA and other state and federal agencies. Often, these types of loads (which can include crude oil, chemicals, and other hazardous materials) require special permitting and operational requirements. Truckers and trucking companies who carry these loads must be appropriately trains and must take a number of measures to safely load and secure vehicles. Should they fail to abide by the rules, they create risks not only for wrecks, but also spills and toxic exposure, release of pollutants, explosions, and fires.

Liability in Trucking Wrecks

Determining who can be held liable for a tractor-trailer wreck is a top priority for injured victims – and one that often requires a great deal of investigation. When it comes to cargo loading and securement violations, trucking companies are ultimately responsible for ensuring their vehicles are properly loaded, cargo secured, and risks are appropriately managed. They are also responsible for their employees, including their drivers, who have duties related to cargo management. In some cases, other parties may be liable for committing violations that lead to wrecks, including distributors or third-party companies tasked with loading a trucking operator’s fleet.

If you or your loved one have been involved in a truck accident anywhere in DC, Maryland, or Virginia, our legal team is available to help you learn more about your rights, whether safety violations (including those related to cargo) played a role, and how we can help hold the responsible parties liable for the injuries and damages you suffered. To discuss a potential case, contact us.