What Is a Load Shift Accident?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reported approximately 475,000 accidents involving large trucks in 2016. Of these accidents, police attributed six to cargo load losses or shifts. While this might seem like a comparatively small number, it represents six serious commercial truck accidents and personal injuries that would not have happened with the simple task of proper load securement. Here’s what you need to know about load shift accidents in Tennessee.

Federal Load Securement Regulations

Large trucks transport billions of tons of cargo across the country every year. This cargo will go inside the bed of a truck, in a special container (such as with cement or gasoline trucks), or on an open flatbed trailer. The FMCSA has specific rules in place deciding how all truck companies and their staff members must load and secure cargo in commercial trucks. These rules state that cargo securement systems must meet performance requirements and safely withstand acceleration and deceleration.

The FMCSA created its cargo securement laws carefully, using plenty of gathered data to support its decisions. Adhering to the rules is an absolute requirement for all trucking companies in the country. Breaking the rules is a mistake that could prove fatal to the truck driver and others on the roadway. Unfortunately, negligent and careless truck companies and cargo loaders break the federal rules all the time. Sometimes, these broken rules cause serious truck accidents.

Dangers of a Load Shift

A “load shift” refers to an unplanned and unexpected change in the position of a commercial truck’s cargo load during transit. This could mean a shift in weight from the front of the bed to the back, making the truck uneven and prone to rolling over. It could also mean a shift in cargo on an open-bed truck that causes the securement system to fail, spilling the cargo onto the road. Improperly secured and tied-down cargo could cause the following accidents:

  1. Lost loads. The cargo shifts in a way that pulls it loose from the truck, causing the items to leave the truck and bounce into the road, possibly striking other vehicles.
  2. Federal securement laws ensure that a loaded truck has even weight distribution to reduce the risk of rollover accidents. Breaking these rules increases the risk of a large truck turning onto its side.
  3. An imbalanced load could also cause the trailer of a truck to swing outward from the cab at an angle, causing a jackknife accident, when the driver tries to stop the truck.
  4. Lane departures. Some of the worst load shift accidents in the past have involved a commercial truck falling from bridges and trestles because of dangerous weight shifts.
  5. Rear-end collisions. The FMCSA states that trucks must be a maximum of 80,000 pounds fully loaded, unless the truck has a special overweight permit. Overloading semis could make them too heavy, resulting in difficulty stopping and an increased risk of deadly rear-end collisions.

Loads that are too heavy, improperly secured, or full of hazardous materials not properly cared for are risks to everyone on the roadway. Load shifts are extremely dangerous events that would not happen with due care during cargo loading. Determining the party liable for these accidents may take help from an attorney.

Liability for Load Shift Accidents

The company in charge of loading the commercial truck will most likely be the one responsible for damages in the event of a related accident. This could be the trucking company or a third-party provider in charge of running the docks and loading the trucks. If the entity breached a federal load securement law, it may be guilty of negligence and liable for victims’ damages. Work with an attorney to get to the bottom of your Tennessee commercial trucking accident.