No one expects or can prepare for a heavy item suddenly being hurled at them when driving on a highway. Motorists share the road with many large cargo trucks that are loaded with all types of products that can come loose at any time if not properly secured.
When large trucks lose part or all of their cargo on the road, it can cause extreme damage to the unsuspecting vehicles that are unfortunate enough to be in their wake. In 2010, an estimated 51,000 accidents, 440 fatalities, and 10,000 injuries were caused by roadway debris that fell from unsecured loads.
Securing Large Loads: A Duty For All Shippers & Truck Drivers
There are specific regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and other trucking industry regulators on the proper loading of cargo. It is necessary for both the company that loads the truck and the truck driver to ensure that all cargo is correctly loaded and secured before it hits the road. Some requirements include:
- A minimum amount of tie downs, depending on size and weight
- Freight must be prevented from shifting or rolling
- Specific rules for hauling select commodities such as logs, vehicles, cement pipes and other large products.
- Cargo must be able to withstand acceleration, backing, and turning forces.
Saftey officers strictly enforce these regulations at weigh stations and checkpoints throughout the country. Fines of up to $5,000 can be accessed in many states for unsecured commercial loads. However, truck drivers often avoid interstate weigh stations whenever possible to save time and only a small amount of loads are checked by anyone but the loading warehouse and the driver.
Very Specific Federal Regulations about Safe Transport of Material
Recognizing the serious implications to motorists when material falls from a truck, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has developed regulations for how the contents are to be restrained. In particular, FMCSA regulates commodity-specific cargo that can cause significant harm should it fall from a truck onto a roadway or directly into another vehicle.
393.116 - Logs
The rules for the transportation of logs apply to moving almost all logs with the following exceptions:
- Banded or secured logs may be transported in accordance with the general cargo securement rules.
- Loads that consist of no more than four processed logs may be moved according to general cargo securement rules.
- Firewood, stumps, log debris and other such short logs must be transported in a vehicle or container enclosed on both sides, front, and rear and of adequate strength to contain them. Longer logs may also be transported in an enclosed vehicle or container.
393.118 - Dressed Lumber and Similar Building Products
The rules in this section apply to the transportation of bundles of dressed lumber, packaged lumber, building products such as plywood, gypsum board or other materials of similar shape. Lumber or building products that are not bundled or packaged must be treated as loose items and transported in accordance with the general cargo securement rules. The term " bundle " refers to packages of lumber, building materials or similar products which are unitized for securement as a single article of cargo.
393.120 - Metal Coils
The rules in this section apply to the transportation of one or more metal coils which, individually or grouped, weigh 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs) or more. Shipments of metal coils that weigh less than 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs) may be secured in accordance with the general cargo securement rules.
393.122 - Paper Rolls
The rules for securing paper rolls apply to shipments of paper rolls which, individually or together, weigh 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs) or more. Shipments of paper rolls that weigh less than 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs), and paper rolls that are unitized on a pallet, may either be secured in accordance with the rules in this section or the general cargo securement rules.
393.124 - Concrete Pipe
The rules in this section apply to the transportation of concrete pipe on flatbed trailers and vehicles and lowboy trailers. Concrete pipe that is bundled tightly together into a single rigid article with no tendency to roll and concrete pipe loaded in a sided vehicle or container must be secured in accordance with the general rules.
393.126 - Intermodal Containers
The requirements for intermodal containers cover the transportation of these containers on container chassis and other types of vehicles. Intermodal containers are freight containers designed and constructed to permit them to be used interchangeably in two or more modes of transportation. Cargo contained within intermodal containers must be secured in accordance with the general cargo securement rules or, if applicable, the commodity-specific rules.
393.128 - Automobiles, Light Trucks, and Vans
This portion of the new standards applies to the transportation of automobiles, light trucks, and vans which individually weight 4,536 kg (10,000 lbs) or less. Vehicles which individually are heavier than 4,536 kg (10,000 lbs) must be secured in the same manner as heavy vehicles, equipment, and machinery (see the rules under /393.126).
393.130 - Heavy Vehicles, Equipment, and Machinery
These requirements apply to the transportation of heavy vehicles, equipment, and machinery which operate on wheels or tracks, such as front-end loaders, bulldozers, tractors and power shovels and which individually weigh 4,536 kg (10,000 lbs) or more. Vehicles, equipment, and machinery which is lighter than 4,536 kg (10,000 lbs) may be secured in accordance with these rules, the rules for automobiles, light trucks and vans, or the general freight requirements.
393.132 - Flattened or Crushed Vehicles
These requirements cover the transportation of vehicles like automobiles, light trucks, and vans that have been flattened or crushed. Transporting automobiles that are flattened or crushed in a crash or accident, as opposed to being intentionally flattened or crushed in preparation for transportation to recycling facilities, is not subject to these requirements. However, vehicles damaged in a crash or accident are subject to the general cargo securement requirements.
393.134 - Roll-on/Roll-Off or Hook-lift Containers
These rules apply to the transportation of roll-on/roll-off or hook-lift containers. A hook-lift container is defined in 49 CFR 393.5 as a specialized container, primarily used to contain and transport materials in the waste, recycling, construction/demolition and scrap industries, which is used in conjunction with specialized vehicles in which the container is loaded and unloaded onto a tilt frame body by an articulating hook-arm. Section 393.134 is not, however, applicable to the operation of hoist-type equipment (or hoist equipment) as described in American National Standards Institute (ANSI) publication ANSI 2245.1. Hoist-type equipment should be considered separate and distinct from roll-on/roll-off equipment and, therefore, not subject to 393.134. Containers transported on hoist-type equipment must be secured in accordance with the general securement rules.
393.136 - Large Boulders
The rules in this section apply to the transportation of any large piece of natural, irregularly shaped rock weighing more than 5,000 kg (11,000 lbs) or with a volume more than two cubic meters on an open vehicle, or in a vehicle whose sides are not designed and rated to contain such cargo. Pieces of rock weighing more than 100 kg (220 lbs), but less than 5,000 kg (11,000 lbs) must be secured, either in accordance with this section or according to the general cargo securement rules. These rules include: (1) rock contained within a vehicle which is designed to carry such cargo; or (2) secured individually by tie-downs, provided each piece can be stabilized and adequately secured. Rock material that has been formed or cut to a shape and which provides a stable base for securement must also be secured, either in accordance with the provisions of this section or in accordance with the general securement rules.
Who Is Liable For An Accident Caused By Material That Came Off A Moving Truck?
When cargo comes loose and causes an accident, it is not always a cut and dry case of who is liable. The truck driver, the company they work for and the warehouse where it was loaded may all be partially to blame. While the warehouse may be responsible for loading the cargo, it is ultimately the truck driver who is responsible for inspecting the load to make sure it is safe to haul. Unfortunately, each may try to push blame on the others, trying to avoid being held responsible for the damage it caused.
For those harmed in an accident caused by falling cargo, it is crucial to have legal representation on their side to investigate which parties are liable and to ensure that the victim is compensated for their losses. These cases can be complicated. However, hiring a law firm that understands the law and is experienced in handling trucking liability cases can make a significant difference in the financial outcome of the case.Illinois Lawyers Representing People Who Were Injured Due To Falling Cargo From Trucks
Our team of truck industry experts and Chicago commercial vehicle accident lawyers have successfully handled many trucking liability cases for our clients, including falling cargo accidents. We will use our knowledge of the law and trucking industry standards to ensure that all the parties responsible are held liable for any injuries that occurred from their negligence.
If you or a loved one has been injured due to unsecured cargo from a tractor-trailer on an Illinois road or highway, we will pursue the highest amount of financial compensation for your losses. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your case, and we will not charge any fee until we have secured a monetary award for you and your family.
Resources for falling material and loads from trucks: