Improperly Loaded Cargo Truck Accidents
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In addition to an overloaded truck that may have difficulty stopping or maneuvering, a truck with improperly loaded cargo can shift and cause a truck accident. Cargo shift is not the most common cause of truck accidents, but when a cargo shift occurs, it is very likely to cause a crash, which often results in serious injury or death.
Following a crash with a large truck in Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, DC, you may find that many people—the trucking company, their insurance company, even your insurance company—are telling you what to do. However, they may not have your best interest at heart.
Protect your rights after a truck accident by contacting the Washington, DC truck accident lawyers at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, & Siegel, P.C.
Truck Accidents Caused by Shifting 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.
Characteristics of Improperly Loaded Cargo
Cargo shift is so serious a risk that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and regulatory agencies in Virginia and Maryland have published guidelines and handbooks on loading cargo.
Drivers should be able to recognize these types of improperly loaded cargo:
- Weight unevenly distributed in trailer
- Weight distributed with high center of gravity
- Underloaded or overloaded trailers
- Cargo that is improperly braced or blocked
- Cargo secured with too few tiedowns or with tiedowns that are not rated for the weight of cargo
- Lack of edge protection when cargo could cut tiedowns
- Cargo that is improperly covered
- Cargo that does not have header boards to prevent spilling during stops or accidents
- Small livestock loads that are not separated with false bulkheads
In any of these cases, cargo can either break loose or shift, making the truck unstable and increasing the likelihood of truck accidents.
Who Is Responsible for Loading Cargo?
If your accident was caused by poorly loaded cargo, our team can help you establish negligence. In many cases, cargo goes through many hands before it gets loaded on the truck. A truck may be loaded by one or several freight handlers, sometimes over multiple sessions or at multiple locations. But responsibility for ensuring that the cargo is properly loaded before the truck begins to move also rests on the driver.
Every truck driver should be properly instructed in proper loading procedures and be able to identify when cargo is improperly loaded. A trucking company that hires or fields a driver without sufficient training to recognize improperly loaded cargo also shares culpability in a cargo shift accident.
Sometimes a driver recognizes improperly loaded cargo, but does not instruct loaders to shift or reload the cargo, fearing that doing so will put him behind schedule. In this case, the driver is at fault for not requesting the cargo shift, but the trucking company may share part of the blame for imposing an unrealistic schedule.
What the Law Says About Cargo Securement
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 these duties responsibly.
Overloaded & Overweight Trucks
Trucking laws dictate how much weight a commercial truck can carry, how heavy the truck itself can be, the combined weight of a truck and its load, weight on each axle and weight on the tires. The amount of weight is not the only factor. Distribution of the weight also affects the handling of the truck and is governed by these laws.
Roads, bridges and overpasses often have a maximum weight limit for vehicles which travel on them to prevent damage over time or immediate collapse. Weigh stations are set up along highways, at state lines and other intervals, and at checkpoints where commercial vehicles are weighed and inspected.
Weigh stations check for overweight loads, illegal or falsely reported cargo, and compliance with Hours of Service laws. Discovery of an overweight truck does not necessarily mean that it will be prevented from returning to the road. In some cases drivers are merely issued a ticket and sent on their way. Others may be detained until an overweight permit is issued.
Some of the main reasons why overloaded trucks cause accidents are:
- Too much weight can cause tires to burst
- Overloaded trucks travel uphill very slowly posing a hazard to approaching vehicles on blind corners
- Going downhill, trucks which are too heavy travel too fast
- Added momentum going downhill can mean too much stress on the brakes causing them to fail
- More weight means more longer stopping distance
- overloading raises the center of gravity making the truck more likely to roll over
- Overloading can shift the weight to the rear of the truck taking weight off of the front tires and making steering very difficult, much like driving on ice
- Trucks that exceed weight ratings for certain roads, bridges, and overpasses can cause roads to collapse
Contact Our Washington, DC Truck Accident Attorneys
If you suffered a serious injury from improperly loaded cargo, the Washington, DC personal injury attorneys at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata, & Siegel, P.C. can help you file a claim or lawsuit to help you collect damages for medical bills, doctor’s visits, hospitalization, pain and suffering, and non-economic damages.
When you work with our firm, you can have peace of mind knowing that your case is in good hands. Contact us today to see what we can do for you. The sooner you request a free consultation, the faster our team can start working on your case.