The Dangers Of Overloaded Or Improperly Loaded Trucks
Fatigue is the leading cause of commercial truck accidents in the U.S., but it’s far from the only cause. Another common cause of truck accidents is overloaded or improperly loaded cargo. How can the cargo on a truck cause accidents? Here are some of the ways:
Too Much Cargo Can Cause Problems
Companies must be very careful when loading cargo onto a truck to ensure they do not exceed weight limits established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Trucks are designed to safely carry a certain amount of weight, which should be printed on the truck’s identification plate. Therefore, if a truck is carrying too much cargo, the truck’s performance will begin to decline. Furthermore, the driver may find it difficult to safely turn or change lanes if there is too much cargo. It can also be more challenging to apply the brakes when a truck is overloaded for cargo, especially when going down a steep hill. Drivers who hit a minor bump in the road may completely lose control of their truck if it’s overloaded. In other cases, the cargo may be heavy enough to pop the tires.
Despite these potential dangers, many trucking companies continue to send trucks on the road that are well over the legal weight limits. By overloading the truck, trucking companies can ship more cargo at once to reduce operating costs. However, they also put everyone on the road in danger.
The Importance of Properly Loading Cargo
Besides the weight of the cargo, trucking companies also have to pay close attention to how the cargo is loaded onto the truck. To prevent accidents, the weight of the cargo must be evenly distributed on the back of the truck. If too much cargo is placed on one side, the driver may be unable to control the truck. Making a turn or changing lanes could cause the truck to roll onto its side, and the driver would not be able to do anything to stop it.
The Dangers of Unsecured Cargo
Once the cargo has been weighed and properly loaded onto the truck, it must be secured to prevent it from moving around during the trip. If the cargo is not secured, this can cause a number of problems. Cargo that is not secured in place can begin to shift as the truck moves, which affects the weight distribution. If enough unsecured cargo shifts to one side, the truck could roll on its side the next time the driver turns or changes lanes. In addition, shifting cargo can be rather noisy, and the sudden, unexpected noises could startle the driver and cause him to lose focus on the road.
But, that’s not all. Unsecured cargo can also fly off of the truck and land on another car, which could lead to property damage and severe injuries if the cargo is heavy enough to crash through the car’s windshield. Even if the cargo does not land on another vehicle, it will still end up sitting in the middle of the road, where it becomes a hazard to any driver that passes by it. A driver may not see the cargo until it is too late to get out of the way, or a driver may be unable to move out of the way due to heavy traffic. Running into a piece of debris can cause a significant amount of property damage and serious injuries.
Who is Liable in Truck Accidents Caused by Improperly Loaded or Overloaded Cargo?
Determining liability in a truck accident case can be challenging since there are so many parties that could be held liable. If the accident was caused by improperly loaded or overloaded cargo, the first step is finding out who was responsible for loading the cargo onto the truck.
Sometimes, cargo is loaded onto a truck by the company that is shipping it without someone from the trucking company present. In this case, the liable party would be the company that is shipping the cargo since they were the ones who loaded it onto the truck. But, if someone from the trucking company was present at the time the cargo was being loaded, then they may assume or share liability since they should have known to correct the issues.
Truck drivers and their employers can also be held liable for cargo errors. Why? A truck driver has to follow certain rules while he is on the road. One of these rules is inspecting the cargo at certain checkpoints to ensure that everything is still secure. Drivers must also check the weight of their trucks at weighing stations, and then lighten their load if they exceed their truck’s weight limit. Unfortunately, many truck drivers fail to fulfill these obligations. If a truck driver does not do as he is supposed to while on the road, he can be found liable. Whenever a truck driver is liable, the trucking company will most likely share liability because of the “respondeat superior” legal doctrine. This doctrine states that an employer is responsible for its employees’ negligent actions that occur during the course of employment.
To get to the bottom of who is liable, rely on a personal injury attorney to conduct a thorough investigation of the truck accident. Your attorney will be able to confirm that the accident was caused by a problem with the cargo, and then determine who was responsible for the error.
Have you been injured in a truck accident caused by overloaded or improperly loaded cargo? If so, don’t wait to get in touch with an experienced personal injury attorney. Contact Carpenter & Zuckerman today to schedule a free consultation with our team of knowledgeable lawyers.
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