Understanding the Truck Driver’s Duty to Secure the Load

An Oversized LoadA commercial truck driver is responsible for many things when they climb behind the wheel. One of the most important is making sure to secure the load. A shifting load in transit may not only damage the cargo but also can result in an uneven weight distribution making the vehicle unsafe. Shifting loads are cited as a contributing factor in almost 1/3 of all commercial motor vehicle wrecks.

Truckers Responsibility to Secure the Load

Both trucking companies and truck drivers share a responsibility to make sure the load on or in their vehicles is properly secured.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cites that a maximum legal load can only be achieved by properly distributing the center of the cargo’s gravity ahead of the rear axle. If the cargo is not blocked and braced properly, it can shift in transit.  A side-heavy or top-heavy load going around a turn can cause a truck to roll.  Moreover, a lost road on a public highway during rush hour can cause utter chaos and serious injuries.

Legal limits on sizes and weights should determine not only what type of vehicle should be used to transport it, but the type of equipment used to carry the cargo. For example, extremely heavy loads, such as stone, granite, or tile should be transported on a specific type of chassis known as a tri-axle in order to ensure proper weight distribution and the added support of a third rear axle. The third axle allows the trailer’s carrying capacity to increase from a gross total of 80,000 pounds to the new weight limits of 20,000 per axle and 34,000 pounds per tandem axle.  In most transportation situations, a combination of blocks, chains, and tie-downs should be used in tandem to secure general cargo.

How Many Tie-downs Must a Truck Driver Use?

The FMCSA specifically addresses the minimum number of tie-downs required by federal law to be used to secure cargo. The rule is one tie-down for items five feet or less in length or more than 1,100 pounds. Two tie-downs are required for items greater than five feet in length but less than 10 feet long regardless of weight.

Other FMCSA Rules for Securing Cargo

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the operator of a tractor-trailer is not personally required to secure the load on their trailer. Another person or company may load the cargo. However, according to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation (FMCSR) 392.9, they are required to be familiar with the methods for securing the cargo as they are required to inspect the load during a pre-trip inspection and they have to be prepared to make adjustments for safety purposes during transit.

Are Trucking Companies Required to Train Their Drivers?

Section 390.3(e)(1&(2), not only is every motor carrier required to understand and comply with the FMCR, they are required to instruct and require compliance from every driver and employee.  In short, trucking companies have to train their drivers and employees to be familiar with all the rules regarding securing loads and to ensure compliance. Additionally, juries may impose vicarious liability on a trucking company that employs a negligent driver who fails to follow the rules causing an injury.

Put Experience On Your Side

As you can see above, there are both Federal and State regulations that truck drivers must follow not just driving, but also how they maintain their 18-wheelers and secure the cargo. If you are hit by a commercial truck, do not go it alone.  Call a lawyer who fights for truck accident victims who knows how to spot the Federal violations that led to the collision.  Call Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. today.

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