Commercial tractor-trailers and trucks are massive machines that weigh upwards of 80,000 pounds. Slow to maneuver, difficult to stop, and prone to collision-critical situations, these vehicles pose constant risks to public safety – which is why they are closely regulated by state and federal governments. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is a Federal agency with the following mission:
“The primary mission of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses FMCSA Website.”
The FMCSA’s mission also extends to preventable wrecks caused by overloaded trucks and trucks with improperly secured cargo. Overloaded and improperly loaded cargo make tractor-trailers dangerous weapons on open roads and highways. As such, truck drivers and trucking companies have a legal obligation to ensure cargo is properly loaded and secured, and that they abide by all applicable safety regulations. These regulations are critical to avoiding elevated risks:
Regulations established by the (FMCSA) cap the maximum weight limit of most large commercial vehicles at 80,000 pounds. Depending on the type of truck, such as box trucks or those with single axles, this maximum weight limit may be even lower. Not only do these weight limits exist to protect public roads, bridges, and infrastructure susceptible to wear and tear and breakage when large trucks drive over them, they are also critical to protecting public safety.
- Vehicle failures – Excessive weight places considerable strain on a vehicle, including their most critical components (brakes, tires, axles, frames, and engines). Should any of these components succumb to the added stress, such as when tires blowout, trucks are far more likely to be involved in accidents, and harm victims.
- Unresponsive vehicles – Overloaded trucks are more likely to become unstable and less responsive to drivers who want to avoid collisions. This is due to excessive weight that not only places strain on vehicle components, but also compromises balance, which may result in rollovers, jackknife accidents, and runaway trucks.
Improperly Loaded Cargo
Abiding by weight limits is only one part of reducing risks posed by commercial trucks or tractor-trailers. Another part is ensuring that the cargo is properly loaded and secured. These are due to the following risks:
- Shifting cargo – Even when a truck’s load weighs less than the maximum limit, dangers still exist when cargo is loaded or positioned improperly, or when it is not secured appropriately. The FMCSA enforces a number of rules for trucking operators to load and secure cargo so as to prevent shifting loads during transit. When cargo shifts in the trailer of a truck, it can cause vehicles to become severely unbalanced, particularly when they make turns or travel up and down elevated grades. This can increase risks of rollover accidents, jackknifing, stalling, and other collisions.
- Falling cargo – When trucking companies and / or cargo loaders fail to properly load and secure cargo using approved securement devices (tie downs, anchor points, netting, etc.), they create risks for cargo falling off of vehicles. Falling cargo can directly cause accidents when they hit vehicles following trucks or create roadway hazards that lead to collisions when other vehicles attempt to avoid them.
- Hazardous materials – Tractor-trailers and tanker trucks often transport hazardous materials and substances which pose greater risks of injury and devastation to the public. These include gas and crude oil, industrial chemicals, and other substances or materials which may be highly flammable, carcinogenic, or dangerous when exposed to humans and the environment. To address these risks, federal regulators establish additional guidelines for loading, securing, and transporting hazardous materials. Improper loading or securement of dangerous cargo can subject not only vehicle occupants to greater risks, including risks of collisions and vehicle fires, but also pedestrians, businesses, and homeowners nearby.
Unfortunately, truckers and the operators for whom they work don’t always abide by the rules, whether as a result of negligence or through willful safety violations in their efforts to maximize profits at the expense of public safety. When truckers, trucking operators, or even cargo loading companies that contract with trucking operators violate safety standards and act negligently, they can and should be held liable for damages victims suffer as a result.
As a firm that cares deeply about protecting the rights of innocent victims throughout North and South Carolina, including those harmed in preventable truck accidents, Crumley Roberts is available to help victims and families during the difficult aftermath of commercial vehicle accidents. If you wish to discuss a potential case, learn more about holding at-fault parties responsible, and discover how our caring and compassionate legal team can be of service to you, call (866) 691-0607 for a FREE case evaluation.