Sharing the road with semi-trucks is inevitable in a large city such as San Antonio, Texas. Truck accidents, however, are not. A trucking company can prevent most truck accidents with proper care and adherence to federal safety laws. One of a trucking company’s legal responsibilities is to ensure properly loaded cargo.

What are the Risks of Improperly Loading or Securing Cargo in a Semi-Truck?

Every year, catastrophic truck accidents cause serious injuries and deaths throughout Texas. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the U.S. reported 4,862 fatal large truck accidents in 2018 alone. Many of these accidents were caused by improperly loaded cargo beds. Hazardous materials were present in 3 percent of these collisions, and were released from cargo compartments in 16 percent.

Improperly loaded or secured cargo can cause many dangerous and deadly conditions in transit. For example, improper load securement can lead to cargo dropping off of the bed and falling into the road. Lost cargo can bounce into cars that are following behind the large truck, potentially going through the windshield and injuring the vehicle’s occupants. These types of accidents can cause decapitations and other fatal injuries.

Lost cargo in the road could also force a driver to swerve to avoid hitting the object, potentially causing the driver to crash into another vehicle or veer off the road. If the improperly loaded cargo contains hazardous substances or materials that leak, this can injure drivers and surrounding residents from toxic fumes, gas leaks, fires or explosions. Finally, uneven cargo distribution can throw off the truck’s center of gravity, causing accidents such as rollovers or jackknife accidents.

Government Regulations for Securing Cargo

To protect motorists and the public in general, the federal government passed many rules and regulations that common carriers must follow when loading, securing and transporting cargo. All trucking companies in Texas and throughout the U.S. must follow these rules to reduce the risk of cargo-related truck accidents.

There are government regulations in place regarding the proper tiedowns for different types of cargo, the number of tiedowns that must be used, tiedown performance criteria, anchors, shoring bars, cargo placement, equipment inspection requirements, truck load weight restrictions, regulations for liquid and gas cargo, special rules for hazardous materials, and more.

Examples of Improperly Loaded Cargo

A careless trucking company or negligent employee could make many different mistakes that lead to an improperly loaded bed or trailer. Common cargo securement issues include:

  • Overloaded truck
  • Ignored height, length or weight restrictions
  • Lack of proper permits or safety measures for an oversized load
  • Unevenly distributed cargo load
  • Loading a truck in a way that obscures the driver’s vision
  • Lack of proper load securement
  • Improper load bracing
  • Using the incorrect type of tiedowns
  • Using frayed or worn tiedowns
  • Failing to lock the trailer of a truck
  • Breaking hazmat regulations

These errors can be prevented with proper adherence to federal cargo securement rules and safety regulations. If a trucking company or another party cuts corners and ignores these rules, that party could be liable for a wreck.

Liability for Improperly Secured Cargo Accidents

The company that is transporting the cargo is typically responsible for properly loading it onto the truck and securing it for a trip. This would mean the cargo company bears liability for any cargo-loading errors that result in a truck accident.

Other parties that could be liable, however, are the trucking company or one of its employees. Truck drivers, for example, are required to inspect cargo regularly throughout the trip. Skipping inspections could lead to truck driver liability for a related disaster.

Proving one or more parties liable for your truck accident could result in financial compensation for your past and future losses from the at-fault party’s insurance provider. You may need an attorney to assist you with the claims process. If you were recently injured in a semi-truck accident involving improperly loaded cargo, contact a San Antonio truck accident attorney for a free consultation.