Thousands of road users in California and around the country are killed or seriously injured each year in accidents involving big rigs. Tractor-trailer crashes are often caused by distraction, impairment, fatigue or poor maintenance, but improper cargo loading can also make commercial vehicles difficult or impossible to control in emergency situations. This type of accident occurs when cargo is not properly secured, is too heavy for the vehicle hauling it or is not distributed evenly.
Most truck accidents caused by improper cargo loading occur when loads are distributed unevenly in the trailer or shift during turns because they are not tied down correctly. This uneven or moving weight changes a truck’s center of gravity, which can place a great deal of strain on braking and suspension components. When this happens in an emergency, the shifting weight can cause tractor-trailers to jackknife or topple over. Cargo that has not been secured properly can also fall off trucks while they are moving, which can be extremely dangerous.
Cargo can be dangerous even when it is properly secured and distributed evenly if it weighs more than the truck hauling it is capable of handling. This is why weigh stations are a common sight on highways used by large commercial vehicles. Exceeding a truck’s gross vehicle weight rating endangers road users because it lengthens stopping distances and can cause compressed-air-braking systems to fail without warning on steep descents.
The trucking industry is heavily regulated, but hundreds of deadly accidents involving commercial vehicles in violation of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration rules occur each year. If the nation’s roads are to be made safer, the agencies responsible for enforcing FMCSA regulations must step up their efforts and punish violators harshly. Until that happens, hundreds of people will continue to die in truck accidents that could have and should have been prevented.