Problems with the way that cargo is loaded onto a commercial motor vehicle can be very dangerous. One large truck causation study published by the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine found that 26 out of 239 rollover truck accidents were caused by a problem with the load.
Securing cargo is so important to truck safety that Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has published an entire 13-chapter handbook on cargo securement.
Every truck driver is expected to understand the rules set forth within this handbook and to ensure compliance with federal rules on cargo loading. Trucking companies that employ truck drivers also have an obligation to ensure the truckers who work for them load and transport cargo in a safe way that minimizes risks.
The reason FMCSA has so many rules for how cargo is loaded is the substantial danger that can come from problems with loads. If cargo is not loaded properly onto a truck, collisions could occur and people could be badly hurt or even killed. The failure to secure a load makes the truck harder to drive and increases the chances of something going very wrong.
Lots of things can go wrong with the cargo loading process, but the study from the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine explains the top load problems that can result in rollover truck accidents happening. The biggest problems with truck cargo loading that causes crashes include:
- Cargo loads that were too heavy. In general, the rule for most commercial trucks is that the trucks cannot weigh more than 80,000 pounds. There is a tendency to break this rule when more goods need to be delivered, but there are enforcement mechanisms in place, such as truck weigh stations.
- Cargo loads that are not fastened in a secure way: Cargo that is not fastened could shift as it is being transported, causing the truck to become unbalanced. This could lead to a driver losing control of the vehicle and could cause a rollover crash or other collision type.
- Cargo being mounted too high up in the truck. Large commercial trucks are already top-heavy. If cargo is fastened too high up inside of the truck, this problem is exacerbated and the risk of rollover accidents is even greater.
The large truck crash causation study also found that other dangerous driver behaviors made problems caused by load issues worse. For example, in 18 of the 26 rollover truck crashes caused by load problems, the truck driver who was transporting the cargo misjudged how fast he would be able to safely drive given the load on his truck.
A driver who is careless in operating or loading his truck can be held liable to those he injures through his negligence. A trucking company can also sometimes be vicariously responsible for the actions of the drivers they employ, as well as being held liable for the company's own negligence in contributing to the cause of the truck collision.