The entire purpose of flatbeds and semi-trucks is to transport cargo and get it safely to its destination. Cargo can range from crates to liquids to large equipment like cars and trucks. Safely driving to the delivery point is only part of the job for the driver. They must get the cargo there safely too.
When the driver and the trucking company do not use the proper care, the payload can fall off the truck. This can either directly injure other drivers or can cause things like a rollover accident. Whoever improperly loaded the truck must pay for all of the damages related to your accident.
Recently, the amount of freight shipped by trucks had grown to almost 12 billion tons annually. After a brief drop due to the pandemic, the amount of cargo continues to grow as American consumers do much of their shopping online. The roads are busier with trucks, and more freight moves on the highways than ever before. With so much cargo moving, accidents will happen. However, we don’t need to tolerate these mishaps.
Common Mistakes That Trucking Companies and Cargo Loaders Will Make
There are several ways that cargo can cause an accident. Those who load cargo onto a truck need to be deliberate in taking the time to properly load the cargo. They need to choose a safe configuration for the freight and make sure that it is adequately secured.
With that in mind, here are some common cargo loading mistakes:
- Overloaded cargo – Overloaded does not just mean exceeding the weight limit on the truck. For example, it can mean loading far more cargo than a flatbed truck can safely carry.
- Improperly balanced cargo – Cargo crews must properly balance the truck’s load. How a worker loads the cargo onto the truck affects its center of gravity. Improperly balanced cargo also makes it far more likely that shipment can come loose while driving.
- Underloaded cargo – When the truck is not loaded enough, cargo may move around, increasing the possibility that it can fall into the road.
- Unsecured cargo – The cargo must be properly tied down and secured, or else it can fly off the truck or fall onto the road.
Not only must the cargo be properly loaded and secured, but the equipment must also work. Either the driver or another worker needs to check all of the tie-downs, straps, and other things used to secure the cargo. If they are not structurally safe, they must replace or repair them. Otherwise, they cannot effectively keep the load on the truck. They must do this before the truck sets out onto the road and every day.
The Rush to Deliver Cargo on Time Causes Trucking Companies to Cut Corners
Truckers and their companies are almost always in a hurry when transporting cargo. They have pressing delivery schedules and customers who are waiting for their deliveries. If they are late, they face an angry customer who may switch to a different trucker next time. They cannot take too much time to get the truck out onto the road because mandatory rest rules do not allow drivers to make up time on the road. Any delays can mean that the truck driver is late.
As a result, trucking companies and cargo loaders may try to cut corners when loading cargo in the interests of time or profits. Since they are paying for the driver and gasoline, they sometimes have the incentive to get as much as possible onto the truck, despite federal rules that limit weight. They can stack cargo too high or simply put too much onto the truck. Even if the truck is under the weight limit, improperly loaded cargo can stress the truck and ties.
In general, trucking companies want to make as few trips as possible because each trip costs them money. They want to maximize the space on the truck because it makes them the most money. They are already spending more money on the driver than they were in the past, so they need to maximize profits in any way they can
Trucks That Can Have Cargo Accidents
Cargo accidents can occur on:
- Flatbed trucks – these vehicles are the most at risk of cargo accidents since nothing but the tie secures the cargo.
- Tankers – these trucks will cause cargo accidents when fluids leak or spill onto the roadway. Improper cargo loading can also cause these vehicles to tip over.
- Tractor-trailers – even when the doors close on these trucks, it does not secure the cargo. Overloaded trucks may cause tire blowouts and rollovers.
Federal Regulations About Cargo Accidents
Federal regulations require the following when loading cargo onto trucks:
- Cargo must be firmly immobilized or secured on or within a vehicle by structures of adequate strength, dunnage or dunnage bags, shoring bars, tie-downs, or a combination of these.
- There are a minimum number of tie-downs for cargo depending on its weight and length.
- Each tie-down is to be attached and secured in a manner that prevents it from becoming loose, unfastening, opening, or releasing while the vehicle is in transit.
- All tie-downs and other components of a cargo securement system used to secure loads on a trailer equipped with rub rails must be located inboard of the rub rails whenever practicable.
Regulatory agencies can fine trucking companies for failing to comply with these rules in an inspection. If your lawyer’s investigation reveals that a trucking company broke these rules, it can be enough evidence on its own to prove negligence in your case.
Causes of Falling Cargo
In addition to the possible types of cargo mistakes listed above, driver error can also lead to a cargo accident. One significant way that a driver can cause a cargo accident is by speeding. When a driver travels far above the speed limit, there is a greater chance that they will lose control over their vehicle, causing things like rollovers or jackknifes. When these crashes happen, the cargo can spill onto the roadway.
Another way that a driver’s carelessness can cause a cargo accident is through their distraction and inattentiveness. When a driver does not keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel, they can lose control of their vehicle. Phone calls or text messages can be an alluring distraction during their long drives. They may also eat while driving, which can also distract their focus from the road. This can force them to make sudden swerves or movements that can cause cargo to break loose from its ties.
What Happens After Cargo Falls Onto the Road
Falling cargo means something falling from the truck onto the road. This can either strike a car directly or fall into the car’s path on the road.
The following can happen after cargo falls from a truck:
- Cars can directly run over it on the roadway, causing severe damage to the vehicle.
- Drivers may swerve to avoid objects on the roadway, either losing control of their car or moving into the path of another car.
- The falling cargo can strike the car directly, impacting the windshield or another part of the car. If cargo hits the windshield, glass or the cargo itself can kill or seriously injure a driver.
- If the cargo is a liquid or hazardous material, it can make the roadway slippery and treacherous.
Partially loaded cargo can be hazardous. In many cases, it is even riskier than a fully loaded truck. When cargo can move around, or the person who loaded the cargo did not evenly distribute the load, the truck’s center of gravity can shift. This can cause a truck to tip or roll over, sending cargo onto the roadway.
This is even more hazardous when dealing with liquid cargo, such as petroleum and other dangerous material. Depending on the way someone loaded the tank, it can slosh around in the truck. This can make it difficult for the driver to control the truck.
Who Is Responsible for the Cargo Loading Accident?
Many parties may bear responsibility for the cargo loading accident.
You can sue all of the people and parties listed below if they are responsible, so you can recover against each of their insurance policies.
- The truck driver is responsible for ensuring that all cargo is secured and everything is safe when they head out.
- The trucking company – if the truck driver causes the accident, the company that employs them is also legally accountable for the operator’s actions.
- A third-party cargo loader – a broker or specialized cargo loading company may have loaded the cargo onto the truck. They will also bear responsibility when they did not use due care when loading and securing the cargo.
- The shipper – They can have also given the truck driver and trucking company wrong or incomplete instructions about securing the cargo and precautions they need to take.
Truck Related Accidents Have Many Variables
When you or a loved one have suffered an injury in a cargo-related accident, you may file a legal claim against the responsible party or parties. First, you need an attorney who can get to the bottom of your claim quickly.
Truck-related accidents, by their nature, are more difficult claims than car accidents. So many things happen in truck accidents that investigations grow much more complex. In addition, you are likely dealing with higher damage figures, requiring more extensive negotiation with the insurance company and the defendant.
Proving Your Truck Cargo Case
You are likely wondering how you will prove that improperly loaded cargo caused your accident. First, something is wrong when cargo falls out of a truck onto the road or strikes a car. The fact that cargo fell off or out of the truck will usually speak for itself. Nonetheless, your lawyer will perform a full investigation of your accident to establish the exact cause before you file a claim or a lawsuit.
You will still want the truck’s records and need eyewitness testimony, especially regarding the damages part of your case. If the trucking company was extremely careless, it can improve your chances of recovering punitive damages in your case. Here, your lawyer will request the cargo loading records and driver logbooks. The driver’s notes will indicate whether they checked if the shipping company properly secured the cargo.
An attorney needs to cast an extensive net after your truck accident. You need as much evidence as possible when you file a lawsuit or a claim. Given the amount of money at stake, you must be extensively prepared for the legal process. You can’t do this on your own.
The first thing to do is make the phone call to an attorney who has the experience and toughness needed to win truck accident cases. A knowledgeable truck accident attorney knows that time is valuable in your case, and they will work smartly and efficiently when time is of the essence. Do not let money worries get in your way. You will not need to pay an attorney anything out of your pocket upfront, and you will not need to pay anything at all unless you win your case.