The wide, open road is like a double-edged sword. On one side, it spells freedom and adventure, the chance to make a livelihood or find new places. But on the other side, it’s a dangerous path full of risks – and even the possibility of fatalities.
In 2015, California incurred 2,925 fatal crashes, resulting in 3,176 deaths, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). One percent of those are from trucking accidents.
While crashes among regular vehicles such as cars are common, collisions from big rigs pose a different threat due to their immense size and weight. That, along with their various loads, can make road accidents a nightmare – not only for the vehicles involved, but also for other motorists on the highway.
Just how dangerous are truck loads? And what can drivers do to avoid accidents caused by it?
Unsecured Truck Loads
Fatalities from big rigs are not only caused by crashes or jackknifing. If a truck driver fails to properly load his vehicle, he endangers everybody on the road.
Even ‘harmless’ materials like paper or cartons can become flying debris in an instant – impeding visibility or turning into a road obstacle. Other drivers will react by quickly braking, skidding into others on the highway.
Unsecured loads usually happen when truck drivers:
- Fail to check if load is appropriately secured with the right equipment (ropes, cables, etc.)
- Speed up during transportation, causing strain on the equipment holding the load, which can lead to eventual damage or breakage
Once this happens, truck loads could also spill out on the road, resulting to obstruction. Depending on the type of cargo, motorists who encounter them may lose their balance, skid, or crash into the load, leading to injuries.
Loading trucks is science. Drivers need to be knowledgeable on how to distribute weight evenly so they can drive with peace of mind, while ensuring that their cargo is safe and undamaged.
However, due to strict schedules and tight deadlines, truck drivers are often pressured to load cargo quickly. This may result to improper weight distribution inside the trailer, or even overloading.
Trucks with heavier loads take about 20 to 10 percent longer to stop. This is why it’s never a good idea to tailgate behind big rigs. In the event of an emergency, overloaded vehicles cannot stop on time. Another risk is skidding or tipping over. The imbalance of overloading will make turns or lane changes challenging as well.
When sharing the road with trucks, pay attention to their movement. Are they ‘wobbly’? Are they particularly slow when encountering curves? They could be overloaded. Drive defensively and keep your distance.
Hazmat Truck Loads
Trucks carry all sorts of loads: from everyday goods, construction materials, personal packages, food, to Hazmat.
Short for Hazardous materials, this type of truck loads pose a risk not only to motorists on the road, but also to the truck driver. Samples of Hazmat include but are not limited to: battery and battery acid, oxygen tanks, explosives, pesticides, dry ice, etc.
These dangerous goods can be solid, liquid, or gas. Vehicles carrying them have easily visible triangle placards on them, with the classification of the Hazmat they are transporting. But even with the utmost care and handling, accidents happen. In the case of trucks with Hazmat loads, this can turn from bad to worse quickly.
For example: trucks carrying ammunition can burst into flames and endanger everyone within its reach: from cars, homes, to pedestrians. Roads need to close for treatment and damage assessment. Cases where Hazmat truck loads are involved can be highly complicated.
If you or someone you know has been involved in a trucking accident in California due to issues with truck loads, contact a legal expert immediately. These cases are complicated; so it’s a good idea to have someone reliable and knowledgeable on your side.