If Cargo Falls Off Your Vehicle, It’s on You

I was doing some research recently for an article on cargo falling off trucks. I was struck by the number of attorney websites featuring posts discussing the liability for such accidents. I can only assume that people don’t realize their responsibilities when carrying cargo. If cargo falls off your vehicle, it is on you.

Every state in the union has laws addressing cargo securement on the books. Those laws place responsibility for securing cargo on the driver, at bare minimum. Under some scenarios involving commercial vehicles, liability can also extend to shippers and carriers.

Even if you don’t drive a truck for a living, you are subject to cargo securement laws. Any time you choose to carry cargo on the exterior of your vehicle, or even with the trailer, the law requires that you secure the cargo sufficiently. It cannot be allowed to move, shift, or fall onto the ground.

Falling Cargo Is a Hazard

It should be easy enough to understand why cargo securement laws exist. Falling cargo is a hazard that can easily lead to serious accidents, injuries, and deaths. Even the smallest piece of falling cargo can be deadly.

Cargo securement laws tend to cover two different types of cargo: secured and loose. This may seem like a misnomer given the fact that state laws require that all cargo be secured.

Secured cargo consists of items that are secured in place with ratchet straps, cam buckle straps, chains, or other tiedowns. This would include virtually anything on the back of a commercial flatbed trailer. It would also include things carried in pickup trucks and utility trailers.

Loose cargo is defined as cargo that cannot be secured with straps, ropes, or other tiedowns. Think of the materials normally carried in dump trucks. You are talking sand, gravel, stone, etc. The materials still need to be secured even though tiedowns are not an option. Truck tarps do the job nicely.

Tiedowns for Noncommercial Use

Commercial carriers and their drivers are intimately familiar with cargo securement regulations. They know their tiedown options like the backs of their hands. In most cases, commercial drivers rely on ratchet straps and chains. Nothing else is really strong enough to handle the heavy loads flatbed trailers haul.

On the other hand, there are numerous tiedown options for noncommercial use. One option comparable to ratchet straps is the cam buckle strap. According to the designers of the Rollercam brand, cam buckle straps are very similar to ratchet straps. The big difference is the cam buckle versus the ratchet.

Other options for noncommercial use include ropes, light-duty ratchet straps, light-duty chains, and bungee cords. Those who prefer cam buckle straps generally like the convenience and ease-of-use they offer.

Cargo Securement and Liability

The need to keep cargo secure seems self-explanatory. But for some people, the principle seems hard to grasp. These are people who throw things on the top of the car or in the back of a pickup truck with only minimal tiedowns in play. If this is something you do, think long and hard about liability.

If something were to fall off your car and cause an accident, you would be liable for all the damage done. You would likely face lawsuits filed by anyone and everyone impacted by the accident. You could also be criminally charged. As for your car insurance, it would go through the roof.

Anyone who hauls any type of cargo not contained inside a vehicle is required by law to secure that cargo. A failure to do so could result in very unpleasant consequences.

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