Cargo in the back of a large commercial truck can be extremely heavy, weighing tens of thousands of pounds. At its heaviest, a tractor-trailer can weigh over 80,000 pounds total. As you can imagine, when cargo this heavy is improperly loaded, poor weight distribution and potential movement of it during travel can cause catastrophic accidents. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), improper loading is in the top 10 reasons for semi-truck accidents. The FMCSA also states that, at 56.3%, pre-accident cargo shifting has the largest risk ratio compared to other reported causes of semi-truck accidents.
In this blog, we're covering truck accidents caused by improper loading, including how to tell, common mistakes, and accident liability. If you suspect your accident was caused by improper cargo loading, contact our tractor-trailer accident lawyers in Arizona and New Mexico today by texting or calling 602-345-1818. You can also fill out our online form to schedule your free initial consultation.
How to Tell If a Semi-Truck is Improperly Loaded
Some accident victims suspect that a commercial truck was improperly loaded, but it may be difficult to be sure if you are not familiar with trucking industry practices. Here are some ways to identify an improperly loaded truck:
- The cargo does not have appropriate covering
- Weight is inappropriately distributed within the trailer
- The truck is overloading, which may cause it to be at greater risk for rolling over; it will also make the truck more difficult to stop
- The transport is not properly secured with tie-downs, or the cargo amount compared to the number of tie-downs is not proportionate.
Why Is Improper Loading Dangerous?
Improper tractor-trailer loading is dangerous for several reasons. An overloaded truck is more difficult to stop and it increases the chance for rollovers. Additionally, improperly loaded cargo may have a greater chance of shifting during transport, which has a high risk of causing semi-truck accidents. The general imbalance may also cause the driver to overcompensate, increasing the chance he or she will be involved in an accident due to loss of control of the vehicle. Road spills are also a danger when it comes to improperly loaded cargo.
Common Cargo-Loading Mistakes
The dangers of improper loading are numerous, which is why laws exist to establish a non-delegable duty on all parties involved in loading a tractor-trailer. Code of Federal Regulations 49 C.F.R. Sec 392.9, including the driver of the semi-truck, who is responsible for inspecting the cargo before departure.
Some common loading mistakes include:
- Using the incorrect size, strength, and number of tie-downs
- Using old or worn tie-downs
- Improper blocking and bracing
- Uneven distribution of cargo
- Obstructing the operator's view with the cargo load
- Loading cargo above legal limits
- Failing to confirm appropriate cargo loading work on inspection
In a commercial truck accident case, multiple parties may be liable. When it comes to improper loading, the same is true, as multiple parties have a duty to oversee loading work and inspect the cargo. The driver is responsible for checking loads at various times, including before each departure, at least once within the first 50 miles of travel, at any time the duty status of the driver changes, at each three-hour interval or every 150 miles (whichever comes first). If an inspection proves that unsafe conditions or loading issues exist, the driver must remedy the situation before continuing travel.
If the driver is determined to have taken reasonable care in securing items, and an issue exists without the knowledge of the trucking company or driver, the manufacturing company may be held liable for a semi-truck accident. Depending on the case details, laborers who loaded the cargo may be held responsible if certain procedures were not followed, as well as the supervisor who did not appropriately guide the workers. The shipping company may also be at fault for accidents involving improper loading. Liability can fall on one or several parties when it comes to semi-truck accidents. This makes accident cases with commercial trucks complex and increases the need for a skilled and experienced semi-truck lawyer. If you have been in an accident with a big truck, your lawyer will help you determine the cause of the incident and which parties should be held liable.
Other Causes of Big Truck Accidents in AZ and NM
Improper loading is only one common cause of big truck accidents. According to the FMCSA, other causes of truck accidents include driver error and negligence, improper maintenance, roadway problems, poor weather conditions, driver fatigue, alcohol or drugs. The FMCSA states that there are three top causes of truck accidents:
- Shifting out of a travel lane into another lane or onto the shoulder of the road
- Driver loss of control due to various factors, such as speeding, poor weather conditions, shifting cargo, vehicle failure, etc
- Rear-end collisions with other vehicles in the same travel lane
Consulting a Semi-Truck Accident Lawyer
If you've been injured in a commercial truck accident, time is crucial. Contact our semi-truck accident attorneys in Arizona and New Mexico today to schedule a free case review. You can call or text 602-345-1818. You can also fill out our contact form to request an initial consultation. Don't let big truck companies and their insurance adjusters bully you into taking an unfair and unacceptable accident settlement. You deserve fair compensation so that you can take care of yourself and your family after an accident. Our attorneys are waiting to represent you.