The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that there are many different causes of commercial truck accidents in Florida and across the United States. While a truck driver or trucking company may be at fault in many situations, this is not always the case. Sometimes, a driver may not be aware that a problem exists until it is too late. One possible reason for such truck accidents is an error made by the crew that loaded the truck.
The purpose of most semi-trucks is to transport cargo from manufacturers to warehouses to retail stores, and more. Without these cargo-hauling giants, we may not have food on the grocery store shelves, gas at the pumps, or be able to haul building materials to constructions sites. Cargo is the primary purpose of the trucking industry and trucks are regularly loaded and unloaded – sometimes multiple times per day.
Cargo can be as varied as the products we use every day. Different trucks are used to carry different types of cargo, including:
- Tractor-trailers, which can carry almost anything that will fit inside the trailer, such as furniture, food, beverages, electronics, household products, and more.
- Flatbed trucks, which are often used to carry larger or oddly-shaped cargo that will not fit inside a closed trailer. Such cargo can include giant logs, heavy machinery, or even prefabricated homes.
- Tanker trucks, which carry liquid or gaseous cargo, such as gasoline, water, or even toxic substances. Trucks that transport hazardous materials (HAZMAT) require special licensing and training to operate because of the possible risks.
No matter what type of cargo is inside or on a trailer, it is essential for safety that the cargo-loading crew knows how to properly load and secure that particular type of cargo and that they adhere to all rules and regulations. The following are some cargo-loading errors that can lead to truck accidents.
- Overloading trucks – Each commercial truck has a specific weight limit set by the FMCSA based on the number of axles on the truck and other factors, with a maximum weight of 80,000 pounds in the U.S. When a truck is fully-loaded, it should never exceed its maximum weight. However, some crews may unknowingly or even intentionally overload a truck with cargo. When a semi-truck is too heavy, it can make it significantly more difficult for the truck driver to slow down or stop the vehicle. If a driver sees an obstacle or another car on the road, they may misjudge the distance needed to slow an overloaded truck, which can result in a collision.
- Improper cargo securement – In addition to cargo being within weight limits, it also must be properly secured based on the type of cargo in question. The FMCSA sets out cargo securement regulations and violations of these safety standards can cause accidents and injuries in different ways. First, if cargo is not secured within a semi-trailer, the cargo can easily shift around when the driver makes turns or hits curves in the road. A sudden shift in cargo can throw the entire trailer off balance, which can cause the driver to lose control or result in a rollover or jackknife accident.
Furthermore, when cargo is not sufficiently secured, it may result in a cargo spill. For example, if a flatbed trailer is carrying 20 large logs that are not secured as they should be, the logs may suddenly come loose and roll off the trailer onto the road. The cargo can hit other vehicles or cause a chain reaction crash if other drivers cannot react fast enough to avoid the road hazards. In addition, if a semi-truck is involved in a crash and cargo is not loaded correctly, it can result in a cargo spill, which can cause additional collisions and injuries.
- Liquid cargo – There are different cargo-loading standards for liquid cargo in tanker trucks. If a tank is not filled enough, the liquid cargo can slosh around inside the tank while the truck is in operation, potentially causing an off-balance trailer and a resulting crash. Additionally, if a tank is not properly sealed, the cargo can spill out of the tank. This can cause widespread damage if the cargo is flammable or toxic.
How you can hold a cargo-loading crew liable for an accident will depend on different factors. For example, some cargo-loading crews are employees of the manufacturer of the goods being transported. In such cases, the manufacturer may be a large corporation and you may be able to file a claim directly against that company or with their insurance company. On the other hand, some cargo-loading crews are hired as independent contractors, which means a claim would have to be filed against the individuals directly.
In addition, you will need to determine how the crew was negligent, often asking the following questions:
- Were crew members properly trained?
- Did they violate any of the FMCSA cargo securement or weight regulations?
- Was the driver or company aware of any overloading and did either fail to say anything about it?
The answers to these questions and more will determine the basis for your personal injury claim.
Have You Been in a Truck Accident?
While everyone should remember to drive carefully around large trucks to prevent injuries whenever possible, commercial truck accidents happen every day in Florida and one day, this type of frightening crash may happen to you or your family. Whether a truck driver, trucking company, truck manufacturer, cargo-loading crew, or another party was responsible for causing your truck accident, it is imperative that you seek legal assistance from a law firm that has extensive experience handling Florida truck accident cases. These claims can be highly complex for many reasons, including:
- Injuries resulting from truck crashes can be life-changing and losses can be overwhelming
- Multiple parties may be at fault
- Companies and their insurers have many tools to fight liability
- Truck accident investigations and evidence can be extremely technical
You need a law firm with the skill and resources needed to build a strong case to support your claims of liability and damages following a truck accident.