How Do Cargo Loading and Securement Practices Contribute to Truck Accidents?

Trucks carry up to 48,000 pounds at any given time. Carrying that much weight requires extremely careful driving; however, the way that cargo is loaded also plays a role in trucking safety. No matter how skilled or experienced a driver is, an unbalanced or overloaded truck can put them in danger.

The industry has strict cargo loading and securement standards that aim to minimize accidents caused by improper loading. Despite this, thousands of these collisions happen every year. When you’re involved in a truck accident in Columbia, we’re here to help. Call Peake & Fowler at 803-788-4370.

How Improper Cargo Loading Affects Truck Safety

Proper securement of cargo is essential to the safety and stability of a truck. When you’re talking about tens of thousands of pounds of cargo, even a slight shift in a load can cause a truck driver to lose control of their vehicle. Improperly loaded cargo can cause several different safety hazards:

  • Cargo shifting: When cargo shifts during transit, the truck’s balance and stability can be completely thrown off. The driver doesn’t expect this to happen, and even the quickest reaction can’t stop a crash from happening. Even if this doesn’t lead to a crash, it causes enormous strain on the side of the truck that’s carrying the majority of the load.
  • Overloading: Trucks have strict weight limits for safety reasons. When cargo loaders put on more than a truck can handle, the driver must adjust their driving accordingly. Furthermore, overloading puts a huge burden on the vehicle and can lead to equipment failures.
  • Rollover risk: When a truck’s load is unbalanced or too heavy, the rollover risk increases substantially. This is especially dangerous since trucks already have a much higher rollover rate than other vehicles.

Understanding Cargo Securement Failures

Cargo can be secured in a truck with a range of equipment, including dunnage, dunnage bags, tie-downs, and shoring bars. Dunnage is loose material that sits between cargo to keep it from shifting, while dunnage bags are inflatable bags that fit the same purpose. Additional tools are used for cargo that is at risk of rolling, including chocks, cradles, and wedges. 

Not only must cargo loaders use the right equipment for each load, but they must also use enough of it to keep the load secured—for example, a load secured with half the number of tie-downs it needs is at significant risk of coming loose, and moving about the trailer.

A number of issues may occur when cargo is not properly secured:

  • Spills: Cargo that is improperly secured can force the trailer open, allowing the cargo to spill onto the road. This often causes accidents among drivers behind the truck, as they have little to no time to get out of the way.
  • Separation from the tractor: If enough cargo is moving around, it can generate enough force to pull the trailer away from the tractor. This is incredibly dangerous, as you then have a trailer that weighs several dozen tons rolling freely down the highway. 
  • Braking and handling concerns: Cargo that is constantly moving can make it nearly impossible for a driver to keep the truck under control.
  • Damaged cargo: Of course, this often leads to damaged cargo, which can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

Regulations Regarding Cargo Loading

The FMCSA, which also has regulations on hours of service and inspections, regulates cargo securement standards. Their standards cover every aspect of how cargo is loaded, secured, and transported. They set specific weight limits for each type of cargo, accounting for vehicles’ limitations and the specific needs of different cargo types. Their standards also outline how cargo must be secured and how to use each type of securement device. 

The FMCSA regulates structures that can prevent cargo from shifting and falling while in transit. On top of that, they outline how drivers can prevent collisions by conducting regular inspections of cargo securement during long-haul trips.

Contact Peake & Fowler for Help with Your Truck Accident Claim

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident in South Carolina, don’t wait any longer to contact the team at Peake & Fowler. We’re committed to helping you pursue the compensation you deserve. Get started now by calling us at 803-788-4370 or contacting us online.