Unsecured cargo on trucks endangers automobile motorists | Wood, Carlton & Hudson, P.C. | Corinth, Mississippi

The local evening news often contains frightening images of large trucks that have flipped over. In March 2014, Memphis TV station WMCT carried a report of a tractor-trailer carrying cattle which had rolled over on Interstate 40 causing a major all-day traffic jam. Fortunately, no person was injured in this particular truck rollover accident. However, a truck which rolls over can prove fatal if it happens to roll onto a passenger vehicle.

Back in 2011, WLBT-TV in Jackson reported the tragic death of a 53-year-old Mississippi woman who was killed in a car accident. The woman was driving alongside a tractor-trailer which suddenly and unexpectedly rolled over onto her car. She was pronounced dead at the scene while her more fortunate passengers were hospitalized with serious personal injuries.

One risk posed by large trucks occurs when the truck's payload is not properly secured. Negligently secured cargo presents two distinct road hazards. First, goods which are unsecured may, if they shift, cause the vehicle to rollover given the high center of gravity for large trucks. For example, if cargo is not properly secured when an 18-wheeler makes a lane change or a sudden turn, the shifting cargo may flip the truck over. If a car is alongside, the result will probably be catastrophic.

Second, a trucking accident can occur if unsecured cargo falls onto the roadway. The American Automobile Association commissioned a report on what it termed "vehicle-related road debris." The report notes that, at normal highway speeds, even small items falling from a truck onto the roadway can present a danger to motorists if they happen to land on a congested road.

Medium and heavy-duty trucks present additional risks when they have large open cargo areas that provide little protection against cargo spilling onto the roadway such as logs, pipes, items made of concrete and machinery. Such cargo falling onto the highways cause motorists to frantically attempt evasive action in order to avoid striking the items. On a congested interstate, automobiles suddenly swerving about in a mad scramble to avoid striking items which have fallen from a truck can result in collisions with other automobiles.

Steps to reduce unsecured load accidents

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has regulations which specifically address how goods being hauled by interstate commercial vehicles are to be secured before an 18-wheeler hits the road. Unfortunately, not all trucking companies abide by these safety regulations which are specifically designed and intended to keep the general motoring public safe.

AAA believes that the following measures can help in reducing accidents caused by unsecured loads carried by trucks:

  • Educating truck maintenance personnel on how to properly secure loads.
  • Training law enforcement officers to quickly detect inadequately secured cargo.
  • Training commercial drivers to periodically inspect their cargo.
  • Educating motorists of the dangers of unsecured loads.
  • Encourage the reporting of unsecured loads.

Bringing suit for motor vehicle accident injuries

If you or a member of your family has been injured due to the neglect of a motor carrier to properly secure a truck's payload, you should consult with an attorney experienced in handling motor vehicle accident cases. Vehicular accident cases are often complicated and this tends to be especially true if a trucking company is involved. The attorney can work with investigators to interview witnesses and gather up evidence pertaining to the road debris or truck rollover. Once a determination is made as to exactly what happened to cause the accident, you will receive advice on how to proceed against those who were negligent.