What Happens When Overloaded Trucks Spill Their Cargo?


Drivers on highways and local roads frequently see an array of trucks going about their daily tasks and activities. In some cases, motorists will share the road with 18-wheelers and other large commercial delivery trucks. These vehicles can cause stress or anxiety for drivers due to their large size and relative lack of maneuverability. In other instances, drivers may travel in close proximity to local delivery trucks that may make frequent or unpredictable stops at residences and businesses.

While there are many reasons for accidents involving large trucks, the improper loading or overloading of these vehicles can significantly increase the odds of an accident or incident. The driver of the overloaded or improperly loaded truck is more likely to experience a loss of vehicle control and a crash.

And that’s when the truck accident lawyers get called.

FMCSA Rules Set Forth Proper Truck Loading Procedures and Practices

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rules set forth proper loading standards for property-carrying commercial motor vehicles. These standards have been in effect since 2004 and apply to all property-carrying commercial vehicles as defined in 49 CFR 390.5. With the exception of goods that do not have a defined shape (such as liquids, gases, liquid concrete, grain, sand, and gravel) and are transported in specific vehicles, these regulations apply to all cargo in general.

Federal rules set forth performance standards concerning the forces cargo securement devices must be able to withstand. FMCSA performance requirements set forth criteria for acceleration and deceleration in the forward, rearward, and lateral directions. Generally, FMCSA standards require a cargo securement system to be capable of withstanding:

8 g deceleration in the forward direction;
5 g acceleration in the rearward direction; and
5 g acceleration in a lateral direction.

There are also FMCSA rules setting forth maximum vehicle weight, proper use of tie downs, proper use of anchors, cargo placement, and many aspects of the loading procedure.

Do Special Loading Rules Apply to Cargo?

Aside from hazardous materials, special rules can apply when a trucker is hauling certain cargo. Special rules apply in regard to the transportation of:

118 – Dressed Lumber and Similar Building Products
120 – Metal Coils
122 – Paper Rolls
124 – Concrete Pipe
126 – Intermodal Containers
128 – Automobiles, Light Trucks, and Vans
130 – Heavy Vehicles, Equipment, and Machinery
132 – Flattened or Crushed Vehicles
134 – Roll-on/Roll-Off or Hook-lift Containers

It is important to recognize that equipping trucks with adequate equipment merely provides the physical resources needed for safe operation. Drivers and individuals who load and unload trucks still need to be trained in proper cargo loading procedures. Furthermore, a company culture that values safety is also an essential element in preventing crashes and accidents. When a trucking company does not value safety, accidents can happen.

Accidents Caused by Improper Loading and Cargo Securement in Trucks

A number of accident types are made more likely due to improperly secured cargo in a large truck. For one, a truck where cargo can shift and shuffle as the vehicle travels is far more likely to rollover or jackknife. As a truck travels around a curve, cargo can move and shift causing unexpected forces to act on the vehicle. The driver may react by overcorrecting further destabilizing the vehicle. Alternatively, additional factors such as excessive speed, worn tires, and inattentiveness can make the likelihood of a rollover even more likely.

Aside from rollover accidents, overloaded trucks often suffer from a\n array of maneuverability issues. They take much longer to get up to speed and therefore also take much longer to bring to a halt. This increase in stopping distance can be the difference between a close call and a serious crash. Vehicles that are carrying excessive weight or improperly distributed weight may not be able to swerve or avoid a crash. If the driver does swerve to avoid a hazard on the road, the improperly secured cargo may shift and cause a loss of vehicle control.

What Types of Injuries Occur in Truck Crashes?

Accidents involving large trucks frequently cause severe and even life-threatening injuries. Frequently this is due to the fact that the size and mass of a large truck mean that extremely strong forces act on all parties in an accident. Drivers and passengers may experience severe shocks to their head, neck, or any body part. These impacts can cause concussions, whiplash, traumatic brain injuries, and a host of other serious and potentially life-threatening injuries.

Another type of serious injury that is, unfortunately, common in truck crashes are broken bones. Broken bones most frequently impact the appendages – arms and legs – but can impact any body part. Fractures of the clavicle and shoulder are also common in crashes. The severity of bone fractures can range from relatively straightforward simple breaks to complex breaks in the bone that break through the skin. While these injuries are not typically life-threatening, they are incredibly painful and limiting. In certain cases, blood loss due to a severe injury can be life-threatening.

Be safe out there, folks. Don’t end up like a scene from Final Destination.




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