Unsecured or improperly secured cargo can create a significant risk of truck collisions. Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine indicated that roll-over truck accidents are an especially common type of crash if there are problems with cargo. However, cargo can cause a variety of problems with trucks, ranging from tire blowouts due to a truck being overweight to debris flying off the back of the vehicle.
In order to reduce the risk of cargo-related truck crashes, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established a number of rules related to cargo loading. If a trucker violates FMCSA safety rules, this can create a presumption that the trucker was negligent and is thus liable for losses resulting from trucking crashes that occur as a direct result of that negligence.
FMCSA has published an extensive handbook on best practices for safe cargo transport. The handbook explains the there are three acceptable ways to transport cargo safely. These include:
- The cargo being "fully contained by structures of adequate strengths." Certain requirements must be met in order for the cargo to be considered fully contained. These include some type of restraint to prevent the cargo from moving horizontally in any direction, including to the front, to the rear, or side-to-side. Other cargo could serve as the restraint to prevent horizontal movement, or vehicle sides could serve as the restraint. The restraints of the cargo must also prevent it from tipping.
- Immobilization of the cargo by a combination of blocking, structure, and bracing. Any combination is acceptable as long as the structure, blocking, and/or bracing has adequate strength to prevent the cargo from tipping or shifting as the trucker is driving.
- Immobilization with tie downs along with another method. The other method could include bracing, blocking, the use of friction mats, void, fillers, or a combination of different restraints. Other cargo that stops the transported items from shipping is also acceptable. In other words, if the cargo is so tightly packed together that it cannot shift or move while on the truck, this condition would be met.
It can sometimes be difficult to determine if a truck accident was caused by a failure on the part of the trucker to follow FMCSA rules for safe cargo transport. An experienced attorney can provide assistance during a process called discovery, which involves the exchange of information before a civil personal injury trial. Your attorney can help you to get a hold of documents like trucking company policies for loading cargo that could be helpful in making a case against the trucker who caused your crash. An attorney can also assist you with finding expert witnesses to testify that cargo problems were the cause of a crash, and can otherwise help you to conduct an investigation to prove that a trucker was to blame for a collision caused by unsafe cargo.