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Shifting loads of cargo can cause truck wrecks

Trucks carrying cargo over North Carolina highways must have their loads secured safely to avoid catastrophes that can affect other drivers, and in the case of hazardous materials, the public at large.

To avoid needless injuries or deaths, it is imperative that all cargo is secured inside of or on the vehicle transporting it during the following times:

-- Under conditions that can reasonably occur during normal driving

-- When drivers respond to emergencies

The exception is after a crash already occurred, as it is common for cargo to spill out or be released upon impact.

When loads are improperly anchored on or in vehicles, consequences can include fines, vehicles being taken out of service, vehicle and/or cargo damage, losing the load entirely and deaths.

According to the North American Cargo Securement Standard, "cargo" is defined as:

-- Equipment necessary for operation of the vehicle

-- Intermodal containers and contents

-- General freight

Additional securement requirements and/or special permits for hazardous materials and other commodities may also be needed. When in doubt, the driver should always verify with local, state, provincial or federal governments.

Under the Standard, carriers and drivers must ensure that:

-- The load is safely secured and evenly distributed

-- Cargo is immobilized and contained at all times

-- All elements of the commercial vehicle's equipment and structure are secure, including, the doors, tarps, tailgate and spare tire(s).

No cargo can in any way cause obstruction to a driver's view or interfere with the motion of his or her limbs. Drivers must always be free to reach any accessories they need for emergencies and be able to exit the cab freely when necessary.

Cargo must not be able to blow or fall off a vehicle, spill, leak or shift and destabilize the carrier's maneuverability. It is allowed to move to the degree that the securement system effectiveness is not affected.

If you have been hurt in an accident due to an unsecured load of cargo, you may be able to file a civil claim.

Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, "Fundamentals of Cargo Securement" accessed Mar. 20, 2015

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