It might sound like a scene from Final Destination, but it is every bit real: steel coils, lumber, and other debris falling off trucks and striking people in the vehicles traveling behind them. According to AAA, approximately 25,000 crashes and 80-90 deaths are caused by vehicle-related road debris every year.
Unsecured Cargo Accidents
Debris can include anything from auto parts and trash to cargo loads and construction supplies. Load shift and falling debris can be deadly for anyone in the path of an 18-wheeler– where a quick turn, an uphill climb, or even a bump in the road can have deadly consequences.
Take for example an accident in 2006 on Highway 101 near Hoquiam, Washington. A woman and child were almost killed when a piece of plywood flew off the truck in front of them and crashed straight into their windshield, stopping inches away from the driver’s face.
But not everyone is so lucky, case in point an accident that occurred in 2010 off Highway 37 south of Indianapolis, Indiana. A flat-bed big rig carrying a load of steel coils was taking a curve on the highway, when one of the steel coils fell off the truck. The steel coil, which weighed almost 44,000 pounds, struck a pick-up truck, crushing the vehicle and killing the driver and one of his passengers. The steel coil then hit a car behind the pickup, also crushing that vehicle and killing the driver.
Secure Load Laws
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Cargo Securement Rules Section 393.102 states that:
1. Cargo securement devices and systems must be capable of withstanding the following three forces, applied separately:
- 0.8 g deceleration in the forward direction;
- 0.5 g acceleration in the rearward direction; and
- 0.5 g acceleration in a lateral direction.
2. Securement systems must provide a downward force equivalent to at least 20% of the weight of the article of cargo if the article is not fully contained within the structure of the vehicle.
3. If the cargo is fully contained, cargo securement devices and systems must be designed, installed, and maintained to ensure that the maximum forces acting on the devices or systems do not exceed working load limits for devices.
Some accidents are unavoidable. However, AAA offers safety tips to prevent road debris from costing you your life:
- Maintain a safe following distance. At highway speeds, this means allowing at least 4-5 seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you. Give yourself extra distance if following a vehicle carrying large or difficult-to-secure cargo.
- Focus your vision further down the road. Scan at least 12 seconds ahead so you have time to react to changing highway conditions, including road debris. Sudden movements by cars well ahead of you often indicate a hazard in the road.
- Sometimes it’s safer to run over debris rather than try to avoid it. Striking minor road debris can be far less dangerous than veering into oncoming traffic or swerving off the pavement. Knowing where the cars around you are will help you make the right decision.
- Report unsafe vehicles, unsecured loads and road debris.
An Experienced Trucking Accident Attorney
Thomas J. Henry have handled a multitude of 18-wheeler accidents over the past two decades and continue to handle many of the largest 18-wheeler accident cases throughout the United States. Whether the company is small or large, our success is not an accident; it is because we understand how trucking companies operate.
Thomas J. Henry are available to respond to trucking accidents at any hour, day or night. Our lawyers understand that the immediate acquisition, or acquiring, of evidence is paramount to understanding how the accident occurred. Remember, your choice does matter. Contact our offices– we are available 24/7, nights and weekends.