Commercial Truck Accidents: The Dangers of Unsecured and Overloaded Cargo

Commercial Truck Accidents: The Dangers of Unsecured and Overloaded Cargo

Accidents involving semi-trucks and other commercial cargo-carrying vehicles are among the most devastating wrecks on public roadways. As statistics show, the sheer size of these vehicles and their inability to quickly stop and avoid collision-critical situations create a dangerous recipe for serious accidents, serious injuries, and death. While those risks exist for any commercial truck, they can be increased exponentially by truckers and trucking companies which fail to properly secure and load the cargo they transport.

As a personal injury law firm with decades of experience handling cases involving truck accidents, serious injuries, and wrongful death, our team at Biren Law Group is well aware of the substantial safety risks posed by these massive machines. We’re also familiar with the many laws and trucking regulations designed specifically to ensure operators responsible for these large trucks take appropriate steps toward ensuring safety. Unfortunately, we know truckers and trucking companies don’t always uphold those obligations.

On our blog, we have discussed many issues pertaining to the trucking industry. This includes blogs focusing on the various trucking regulations with which commercial carriers must abide – from laws regulating hours of service and the amount of time truckers can be behind the wheel to rules over vehicle maintenance, driver hiring and training, drug and alcohol testing, and more. It also includes regulations over the proper loading and securement of cargo.

Unsecured Cargo Crash Risks

Trucks and tractor-trailers transport a range of goods and products, some of which can be inherently dangerous in and of themselves, or pose risks when improperly loaded and secured. For example, improperly loaded cargo can create a number of crash risks:

  • Balance and weight distribution – Cargo that is improperly loaded on a commercial truck may be prone to shifting during transit. This can greatly compromise the balance of trucks and create uneven weight distribution that makes them more prone to jackknifing, tip-overs, and other types of accidents.
  • Falling cargo – When cargo is not properly secured, especially on flat-bed tractor-trailers, they are at risk of falling off trucks. Falling cargo may strike vehicles nearby or create considerable roadway hazards that lead to accidents, especially on highways and roads where vehicles travel at high speeds and have less time to react.
  • Hazardous materials – Hazardous materials are transported in trucks throughout the country, which is why proper securement of these materials is critical to reducing risks of not only crashes caused by spills or other roadway hazards, but also risks associated with explosions, fires, or exposing local motorists or communities to toxic substances.

To address cargo risks, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) enforces a number of Cargo Securement Rules stipulating the proper loading and securement of cargo. This includes regulations based on the type of commodity being transported (from wood logs and concrete to vehicles and more), as well as the use of proper securement devices, such as tie-downs and anchor points. Vehicles that transport hazardous materials are also required to abide by strict regulations regarding loading and securement.

Weight Regulations & Overloaded Cargo

Aside from ensuring cargo is properly loaded onto trucks and properly secured, trucking operators must also abide by regulations over vehicle weight limits. Although the weight of interstate trucks is generally capped at 80,000 pounds, weight limit regulations may vary depending on the type of truck being used (such as a box truck) or the cargo being transported.

Overloaded trucks pose considerable risks to public safety, including:

  • Reduced responsiveness – Trucks which exceed weight limits will be more difficult to stop and maneuver quickly, and more prone to tip-overs or jackknife accidents caused by balance issues. Even if cargo is properly secured, added weight can substantially detract from a driver’s ability to safely steer and control their rig.
  • Mechanical problems – Excessive weight may lead to mechanical problems and failures that can cause devastating sudden accidents, compromise a driver’s ability to control their truck, and prevent them from avoiding collisions that could have been avoided. This includes issues such as engine failure and sudden stalls on high speed roads, tire blowouts, brake failures, and more.
  • Rear-end collisions ­- Commercial carriers that weigh 80,000 pounds (and meet federal weight restrictions) already take 20 to 40 percent longer to stop than average passenger vehicles. When they exceed these limits, they substantially increase risks of rear-end accidents caused by failures to stop a truck from avoiding a collision, especially in congested traffic, construction zones, and when there are stalled vehicles or hazards on the road. In some cases, overloaded trucks may struggle on steep grades, posing the risk of runaway trucks and rear-end collisions.
  • More severe crashes – One of the most significant dangers associated with excessive truck weight is its increased potential for causing more severe and devastating accidents. Heavier trucks not only create risks for more crashes, but also risks involving increased vehicle damage, and in turn more serious or catastrophic injuries suffered by occupants of those vehicles.
  • Damage to infrastructure – Heavy trucks take a toll on our roads, bridges, and infrastructure. While the impact and damage may be cumulative, there is still always the risk that excessively heavy vehicles will damage roads as they travel over them, creating hazards that can lead to accidents (i.e. roads giving way, bridge collapse, and others).

Holding Trucking Operators Accountable

Cargo and weight violations should never be tolerated. Whether they result from the negligence of trucking companies (or distributors and companies that work with trucking operators to load their vehicles), or stem from companies that want to increase their profitability by transporting more goods, victims have a right to hold at-fault parties accountable for violating the law, and liable for the damages they suffered as a result.

Biren Law Group has spent more than 40 years advocating for injured victims and families across Southern California – including those who have been harmed in preventable truck accidents. By leveraging our experience and resources, as well as insight into how trucking companies and their insurers defend against claims, we have been able to recover millions of dollars in compensation for clients. Discuss the facts of your own accident with a Los Angeles truck accident attorney by calling (310) 896-4345 for a FREE consultation.

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