Trucking plays a vital role in the shipping of products across the nation. Due to its central location and its concentration of business, the greater Chicago area experiences a large truck volume annually through its expressways, interstates, and local roads.
These trucks bring necessary products to the city. That said, improperly loaded trucks can also pose a safety threat. This can and does cause truck accidents.
Improperly loaded truck accidents are some of the most devastating collisions involving trucks because a trucker may lose control of the truck due to improper cargo loading. Speak with a Chicago truck accident lawyer to help you investigate what caused the accident and obtain the compensation you deserve in your case.
Table of Contents
- Signs of an Improperly Loaded Truck
- Common Truck Accidents Due to Improper Loading of Cargo
- FMCSA Regulations for Safe Truck Loading
- Loading Requirements for Different Types of Trucks
- When Should Truck Drivers Inspect Cargo?
- How Improper Loading Leads to Truck Accidents
- Who Is at Fault for Improperly Loading a Truck?
- Client Testimonial
The vast majority of improperly loaded truck accidents are preventable by timely detection of loading issues before or during the trip. Unfortunately, not all truck drivers have the training to recognize improperly loaded cargo.
Some of the most common signs of improperly loaded trucks to watch out for include:
- Uneven distribution of weight in the trailer
- Loading with a high center of gravity, increasing the risk of a tip-over accidentcargo
- Overloaded trailer
- Improperly secured or blocked cargo, which makes it likely to fall from the trailer and become a road hazard
- Cargo not secured with the required number of tie-downs
- The tie-downs used for cargo securement are not appropriate for the type or weight of the cargo
- Improperly covered cargo
- The lack of header boards, which contribute to cargo spills
When there are signs of improperly loaded cargo, the truck driver must stop driving until the cargo is properly secured and meets the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requirements.
When cargo is not properly loaded or distributed in the truck’s trailer, the risk of a truck accident increases.
Some of the most common types of truck accidents associated with improper loading include:
- Rollover accidents. Trucks have a higher center of gravity, which makes them more prone to rollovers than passenger cars. However, improperly loaded or secured cargo can further increase the risk of a rollover accident. Cargo shifts inside the trailer can cause the truck to become less stable when performing certain maneuvers, including turns and lane changes.
- Jackknife accidents. Because the trailer is not fixed to the rig, trucks are prone to jackknifing. The term jackknifing refers to the truck skidding out of control, causing its cab and trailer to go in different directions. Jackknifing can cause devastating damage and injuries on the road. Improper cargo securement and loading is often the cause of jackknife accidents.
- Cargo spills. Materials transported by the truck are likely to fall out of the truck and spill onto the roadway, becoming road hazards for everyone on the road. Cargo that falls from the trailer may strike other vehicles, resulting in severe injuries and causing damage to vehicles. Often, cargo spills because of shifting can result in multi-vehicle accidents.
Speak with an experienced truck accident attorney to review your accident and identify the liable parties in your case.
Improper loading of a truck poses a serious risk to the drivers around the truck. That is why FMCSA imposes regulations on loading truck cargo. Cargo may threaten the safety of the trucker and other people on the road when it is improperly loaded and secured.
That is why FMCSA has strict regulations for safe truck loading to minimize the risk of improperly loaded truck accidents.
Some FMCSA rules for safe cargo loading on trucks include:
- The loaded cargo cannot exceed a specific weight.
- A specific number of tie-downs must secure the cargo and prevent shifting while in motion.
- Certain types of cargo, including hazardous materials, must meet specific transportation requirements.
- The driver must re-check the securement of cargo during the trip (the requirement is to inspect the loaded cargo every three hours or 150 miles).
Trucking companies often hire loading companies to ensure the safe loading of cargo that meets the FMCSA regulations. When the trucking or loading company fails to load the cargo properly and does not comply with federal laws, they can be liable for any resulting injuries and damages in an improperly loaded truck accident.
Trucking laws are hard for an average driver to understand, between federal and state rules and regulations, coupled with the many different types of trucks. Let’s review the cargo loading and securement requirements for different types of trucks:
For example, flatbed trucks hauling products may be subject to a minimum tie-down rule. Here, an appropriate number of straps must be in use to secure a load, depending on the size and type of the load. Failure to use enough straps or ties may lead to a partial load displacement or roadway spill. This can create a hazardous situation that causes a crash.
In place of straps, tarps attached to anchored points on the trailer bed may secure some flatbed loads. Snug tarps can work without defects. However, use and normal wear and tear can cause a tarp to snag, fray, or otherwise break down. This can lead to a less secure fit and possibly some unsecured product when someone uses a tarp to tie down a load.
But flatbed-style trucks are not the only type of truck that poses a threat due to improper loading and securing. Traditional semi-trucks with covered and enclosed trailers are often loaded hastily. There sometimes is little attention to the weight distribution.
Ideally, cargo loaders should do their jobs with the makeup of the cargo in mind. Weight distribution should ensure an even acceleration and deceleration of the truck when the driver attempts to do so. Further, weight should not be just on one side of the vehicle over the other, as it can cause a rollover accident.
Tanker trucks work to transport liquids. This includes gasoline, oil, petroleum, and even milk. Some handling the loading of these trucks do not worry about the amount of the product within the tanker. They may believe that the liquid nature will cause it to level out as the product disperses.
But in fact, the volume of a liquid within a tanker has a direct impact on the safety of the truck. A partially full tanker can lead to the liquid splashing around inside its container. That causes serious shifts in the weight distribution of the trailer. It can potentially lead to a tip-over incident.
Many truck drivers believe that they only must inspect cargo before the trip. However, the FMCSA also requires truckers to routinely inspect the cargo during the trip. Truck drivers must ensure that their cargo is properly secured. Failure to inspect cargo according to FMCSA requirements may make the driver liable for any resulting improperly loaded truck accidents.
The FMCSA requires mid-trip inspections within the first 50 miles after loading the cargo. Then, the driver must inspect cargo every three hours or 150 miles traveled, whichever comes first, and after a duty change. During the inspections, the truck driver must confirm that the cargo is properly secured and the securement equipment is in good condition.
If the driver identifies any issues with cargo, the driver must replace the broken securement equipment or add additional securing devices and notify the carrier before continuing to drive.
There are many types of truck loading violations that can result in devastating and preventable accidents.
The most common causes of improperly loaded truck accidents are:
- Unbalanced loading. Failure to distribute the weight of the load evenly makes the truck more likely to roll over. Unbalanced loading makes it more difficult for the trucker to control the vehicle and may increase the center of gravity. In addition, the uneven distribution of cargo loads makes some parts and components of the truck, including tires, more likely to fail due to the unbearable strain.
- Heavy loading. Every truck has a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) assigned by the manufacturer. In other words, a GVWR is the maximum weight that the vehicle is permitted to transport. States also impose truck weight limits to prevent overloaded truck accidents. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), the truck weight limits in Illinois are 80,000 pounds in gross weight, 20,000 pounds for a single axle, 34,000 pounds for a tandem axle, and 42,500 pounds for a tridem axle. An overweight truck can perform poorly and a driver may lose control of it.
- Improperly secured loading. Finally, many loading-related truck accidents occur because of improperly secured cargo. The FMCSA requires a specific number of tie-downs for different types of cargo. When the cargo is secured improperly, it can move around the trailer while the truck is in motion, making the vehicle’s movement unpredictable.
Loading products onto a truck can fall on many individuals. Further, these individuals may work for different companies. In some cases, the semi-truck driver will load the rig with products. There, the driver and their employer take responsibility for properly distributing and securing a load before driving.
In other cases, a corporation producing and holding the product for transport may assign an employee to load a semi-truck driven by another individual. And yet, in other situations, it may be up to a third party to load a semi-trailer. This loading might take place without the knowledge or assistance of the driver or the company producing the product.
The individual and/or the corporation that improperly loads a trailer will be liable for any damages that result from the loading. This includes any injuries that result from a collision.
Thus, when a truck accident occurs because someone failed to follow FMCSA regulations for safe loading, you may hold these parties responsible for the accident:
- The truck driver. Truckers are liable for improperly loaded truck accidents when they fail to regularly inspect the cargo during the trip and confirm proper loading pre-trip.
- The trucking company. You may hold the trucking company liable for an improperly loaded truck accident if its negligence contributed to your accident.
- The loading company. Often, trucking companies hire loading companies to follow all federal regulations for loading and securing cargo. However, even a tiny mistake when loading cargo can result in a devastating crash.
- The manufacturer of securement equipment. Sometimes, because of faulty securement equipment, truck accidents occur even though the loading company used the required number of tie-downs and followed other FMCSA cargo securement rules. In that case, the injured party may sue the manufacturer of faulty securement equipment.
Identifying liable parties after any truck accident can be a daunting task, especially when you want to focus on feeling better and getting back on your feet.
For this reason, you may want to contact a Chicago truck accident lawyer to investigate your accident and gather the necessary records and documentation to prove negligence on the part of the truck driver, trucking company, loading company, or other parties.
Your truck accident lawyer will work on your legal case to obtain the compensation you deserve while you focus on your physical recovery.
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