The Dangers of Flying Objects from Trucks

The Dangers of Flying Objects from TrucksOne of the (few) benefits of traveling on the NJ Turnpike is that it is an interstate highway, which makes it a more straightforward way to get from NJ to another state. The downfall, of course, is that you’re sharing the road with tractor-trailers and commercial vehicles, and a run-in with one of those semis can lead to devastating injuries.

The same is true in other states, too. Recently, two driving on the Ohio Turnpike were struck by a flying plank that flew off of the top of a truck’s bed cap. As the truck passed the two women in the next lane, two planks flipped off the truck. One of the planks managed to pierce through the windshield.

Fortunately, both of the women were not injured, and the plank did not strike either of them. Unfortunately, truck accidents that involve falling cargo are not rare occasions. In fact, these types of accidents are common, especially on the major highways of New Jersey.

Fast facts about falling cargo

Most NJ drivers have witnessed this occasion on the highway, where the cargo looks as if it is not properly secured and begins to rock back and forth. An estimated 3,000 truck accidents occur each year because of spilling, shifting, of falling cargo. Of these 3,000 truck accidents, an estimated 1,000 result in an injury or death to other drivers. While it is common for truckers to drive at a high rate of speed, increasing the speed of a vehicle will increase the risk of cargo falling from vehicles. If the cargo is not properly secured to the truck, the cargo will shift in transit.

When this occurs, the driver will lose control of the truck and tip over. Items that fall from a truck turn into projectiles, piercing windows, and windshields of nearby vehicles, similar to what the two women traveling on the Ohio Turnpike experienced. Accidents such as these can result in serious injury or even death.

What else causes falling cargo accidents?

Falling cargo accidents can also happen with broken tie-downs. Tie-downs are the devices truck drivers use to secure the loads. Tie-downs fail when they suffer damage before use or are worn down because of excessive use. Truck drivers should check the condition of these parts before securing the cargo on their trucks. Improper use of tie-downs or too much stress can cause these devices to snap, sending cargo all over the road.

Improper loading and overloading a commercial truck can also lead to falling debris. Truck loaders must distribute the weight along the length, width, and height of the trailer. The right way to distribute the weight depends on the size of the trailer and the locations of its axles. If a loader distributes the weight incorrectly, a driver may have difficulty controlling the truck.

Overloading a truck can also have serious consequences. A truck should only be loaded to the weight suggested by the vehicle manufacturer. If a truck is overloaded, the extra weight can cause the truck to tip when making a turn, spilling debris all over the road and onto vehicles next to and behind it.

Loss of control could lead to other dangerous driving situations such as fishtailing, oversteering, or under-braking. When a driver loses control of their truck, the likelihood of cargo spilling onto the highway increases.

There’s always a risk, too, of a trucker forgetting that the height of the truck is affected by cargo load. This type of negligence can cause a truck to hit a bridge or an overpass, spilling debris behind the vehicle.

Requirements for all truck drivers carrying cargo

A commercial truck can weigh up to 40 tons when its cargo area is completely loaded. Because of this, it is vital for the loading crew to ensure that all cargo is loaded correctly and secured prior to the truck leaving the depot.

When it comes to securing loads, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has strict rules for all truckers and trucking companies to follow. Some of these requirements include a minimum amount of tie-downs to secure the load depending on the weight and size, ensuring that the cargo is able to withstand acceleration, backing, and turning forces, and ensuring that the cargo does not shift or roll while in transit.

Safety officers assigned to checkpoints and weigh stations throughout the country are responsible for ensuring trucks follow the rules set forth by the FMCSA. A $5,000 fine can be assessed to a truck driver if their load is not properly secured. Truck drivers try to avoid this consequence by avoiding interstate weigh stations and checkpoints. Only a small percentage of loads on the highway are closely checked.

Types of regulated cargo

The FMCSA has created general rules that apply to all cargo and specific rules for cargo it deems to be a little risky. Some of this cargo includes hazardous materials, logs, lumber and building products, metal coils, concrete pipes, intermodal containers, automobiles, crushed vehicles, heavy vehicles, equipment, and machinery, and large boulders. Federal regulations place restrictions on the weight of the cargo and the ways in which that cargo is secured.

Who is liable for a truck accident caused by unsecured or falling cargo in NJ?

Multiple parties can be held liable when someone suffers an injury due to an overloaded truck, improperly loaded cargo, or unsecured cargo. The truck driver must inspect the cargo they are hauling regularly. However, they might not have much control over how the cargo was loaded, especially if they are hauling a sealed truck that was loaded by a different shipper.

If this situation arises, the trucking company could be found liable for failing to provide the correct oversight process for loading the truck. The company or people responsible for loading the cargo might also be held liable. If the equipment used to secure the load failed, the manufacturer of that equipment could be held liable in such a case.

The U.S. government regulates cargo loading for all parties that operate in interstate commerce. The FMCSA categorizes interstate commerce as transportation from one state to a different state or country, transportation between two places in the same state that passes through another state, or transportation between two places in the same state in a continuation of commerce originating or ending in another state or country. Shippers, trucking companies, and truck drivers share responsibility for complying with the FMCSA’s cargo loading rules.

If you or someone you know was the victim of a truck accident involving falling cargo in New Jersey, the truck accident attorneys at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP can help. We hold all negligent parties accountable when they fail to abide by the standard loading requirements. Call one of our offices at Edison, Red Bank, or Toms River at 732-777-0100, or complete a contact form to schedule a consultation.