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Loss of Cargo

It is a driver’s duty is to make sure his or her cargo is being hauled safely. If you were seriously injured in a traffic accident in California involving the loss of cargo, it is important you contact an experienced personal injury attorney.

A driver can be a danger to others on the roadway if they load the cargo incorrectly or do not secure it properly. Loose cargo that falls off a vehicle can cause traffic problems. It can even cause others to be hurt or killed.

L.A Attorney for Loss of Cargo, California

All the personal injury attorneys at Yarian & Associates, APC are experienced with all types of Truck accident cases. We are well-versed in the Californian requirements for cargo safety that apply to commercial motor vehicles and other large trucks on the roadway.

The attorneys at Yarian & Associates, APC are proud members of the Esteemed Lawyers of America (ELOA) and are passionate about their cases. We accept clients in both the North Judicial District and West Judicial District including Glendale, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Pasadena, Visalia, Irvine, Bernardino, and Riverside area.

Dial (844) 291-1911 or submit an online contact form for legal representation from a personal injury attorney today.

Truck Driver’s Duties

Loose cargo could hurt or kill the driver during a quick stop or accident. Vehicles on the roadway can be damaged by an overload. Steering could be affected by how a vehicle is loaded, making it more difficult to control the vehicle. It does not matter if the driver loads and secures the cargo himself or not. In any case, the driver responsibilities include:

  • Inspecting the cargo;
  • Recognizing overloads and poorly balanced weight;
  • Knowing the cargo is properly secured and does not obscure the driver’s view ahead or to the sides; and
  • Knowing the cargo does not restrict the driver’s access to emergency equipment.

A driver carrying hazardous material that requires placards on the vehicle must also have a HazMat endorsement.

As part of the vehicle inspection, the driver has a duty to make sure the truck is not overloaded and the cargo is balanced and secured properly. After starting the trip, the driver is responsible for inspecting the cargo and its securing devices again within the first 50 miles after beginning a trip. The driver has a duty to make any adjustments needed.

The driver also is required to re-check the cargo and secure devices as often as necessary during a trip to keep the load secure. Additionally, the driver needs to inspect again after driving for three hours or 150 miles. They must also check after every break taken during your trip.

Federal, state, and local regulations for commercial vehicle dictate weight; securing cargo, covering loads, and where you can drive large vehicles vary from place to place. A good personal injury attorney will know the rules that apply to the location where the accident occurred.

Overloading and Exceeding the Legal Weight Limits

In California, many trucking accidents are caused by the driver not keeping the weight of the truck within the legal limit. Each state has maximums for gross vehicle weight ratings (GVWRs), gross combined weight ratings or gross combination weight ratings (GCWRs), and axle weights.

In most situations, the maximum axle weights are set by a bridge formula. A bridge formula permits less maximum axle weight for axles that are closer together. This is to prevent overloading of bridges and roadways.

Overloading can have bad effects on steering, braking, and speed control. Overloaded trucks have to go very slowly on upgrades. Worse, they may gain too much speed on downgrades. An overloaded truck’s brakes can fail when forced to work too hard.

During bad weather or in mountains, it may not be safe for the driver to operate at legal maximum weights. The driver of a large truck or commercial vehicle has a duty to take these types of conditions into account before driving.

Problems with Being Top-Heavy

The height of the vehicle’s center of gravity is very important for safe handling. A high center of gravity occurs when the cargo is piled up high or heavy cargo is loaded on top of lighter cargo. When the load is top-heavy, the vehicle is more likely to tip over.

A top-heavy load is dangerous in curved roads. It can also be dangerous if the driver has to swerve to avoid a hazard. It is very important for the driver to distribute the cargo so it is as low as possible. The driver should make sure the heaviest parts of the cargo under the lightest parts.

Problems with Balancing the Weight

Poor weight balance can make vehicle handling unsafe. Too much weight on the steering axle can cause hard steering and can damage the steering axle and tires.

Under-loaded front axles are caused by shifting weight too far to the rear. When the front axles are under-loaded, it can make the steering axle weight too light to steer safely.

Too little weight on the driving axles can cause poor traction. The drive wheels may spin easily. During bad weather, the truck may not be able to keep going.

The way the weight is loaded creates a high center of gravity, increasing the chances of a rollover. On flatbed vehicles, there is also a greater chance that the load will shift to the side or fall off.

Problems with Blocking and Bracing

Blocking is used in the front, back, and/or sides of a piece of cargo to keep it from sliding. Blocking is shaped to fit snugly against cargo. It is secured to the cargo deck to prevent cargo movement.

Bracing is also used to prevent movement of cargo. Bracing goes from the upper part of the cargo to the floor and/or walls of the cargo compartment.

Problems with Cargo Tie-down

On flatbed trailers or trailers without sides, cargo must be secured to keep it from shifting or falling off. In closed vans, tie-downs are also important to prevent cargo shifting that may affect the handling of the vehicle. Tie-downs must be of the proper type and strength.

Federal regulations require the aggregate working load limit of any system used to secure an article or group of articles against movement must be at least ½ times the weight of the article or group of articles.

Proper tie-down equipment must be used, including ropes, straps, chains, and tensioning devices (winches, ratchets, clinching components). Tie-downs must be attached to the vehicle correctly (hooks, bolts, rails, rings).

Cargo should have at least one tie-down for every 10 feet of cargo. Make sure you have enough tie- downs to meet this need. No matter how small the cargo, it should have at least two tie-downs. There are special requirements for securing various heavy pieces of metal. To be able to carry such loans, the driver must find out these requirements.

Rules governing the loading and securing of logs, dressed lumber, metal coils, paper rolls, concrete pipe, intermodal containers, automobiles, heavy vehicles, flattened or crushed vehicles, roll-on/roll-off containers, and large boulders are contained in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 49 §393.

Front-end header boards (“headache racks”) protect you from your cargo in case of an accident or emergency stop. Make sure the front-end structure is in good condition. The front-end structure should block the forward movement of any cargo you carry.

Problems with Covering Cargo

There are two basic reasons for covering cargo:

  • To protect people from spilled cargo; and
  • To protect the cargo from weather;

Spill protection is a safety requirement in many states. Be familiar with the laws in the states you drive in. You should look at your cargo covers in the mirrors from time to time while driving.

A flapping cover can tear loose, uncovering the cargo, and possibly block your view or someone else’s.

Problems with Sealed and Containerized Loads

Containerized loads generally are used when the freight is carried part way by rail or ship. Delivery by truck occurs at the beginning and/or end of the journey. Some containers have their own tie-down devices or locks that attach directly to a special frame. Others have to be loaded onto flatbed trailers. They must be properly secured just like any other cargo.

You cannot inspect sealed loads, but you should check that you do not exceed gross weight and axle weight limits.

Spilling Loads and Damage to the Highway

It is against the law to operate on the highway a vehicle which is improperly covered, constructed, or loaded so that any part of its contents or load spills, drops, leaks, blows, sifts, or in any other way escapes from the vehicle.

The only exception can be clear water or feathers from live birds (California Vehicle Codes (CVC) §§23114 and 23115).

Any vehicle transporting garbage, trash, rubbish, ashes, etc., must have the load covered to prevent any part of the load from spilling on to the highway. An aggregate material must be carried in the cargo area of the vehicle and be 6 inches below the upper edge.

The cargo area must not have any holes, cracks, or openings which could allow the material to escape. The vehicle used to transport aggregate material must be equipped with seals on any openings used to empty the load, splash flaps behind every tire or set of tires, and fenders. Other requirements for the cargo area are listed in CVC §23114.

This does not apply to vehicles carrying wet, waste fruit or vegetable matter, or waste from food processing plants.

Any person who willfully or negligently damages any street or highway due to their cargo is liable for damages. The liability may include the cost of removing debris from the roadway.

Problems with Cargo Needing Special Attention

Some types of cargo need special attention including oversized load, livestock, hanging meat, and dry bulk.

Dry Bulk

Dry bulk tanks require special care because they have a high center of gravity, and the load can shift. A driver must be extremely cautious going around curves and making sharp turns.

Hanging Meat

Hanging meat (suspended beef, pork, lamb) in a refrigerated truck can be a very unstable load with a high center of gravity. Particular caution is needed on sharp curves such as off ramps and on ramps. Go slowly.


Livestock can move around in a trailer, causing unsafe handling. With less than a full load, use false bulkheads to keep livestock bunched togeth- er. Even when bunched, special care is necessary because livestock can lean on curves. This shifts the center of gravity and makes rollover more likely.

Oversized Loads

Over-length, over-width, and/or overweight loads require special (CalTrans in California) transit permits. Driving is usually limited to certain times. Special equipment may be necessary such as “wide load” signs, flashing lights, flags, etc. Such loads may require a police escort or pilot vehicles bearing warning signs and/or flashing lights. These special loads require special driving care.

Additional Resources

Transporting Cargo Safely – Visit the State of California’s Department of Motor Vehicle’s website. See the statues regarding transporting cargo, all the specifics involving different types of cargo, and the legal language about trucks.

Find an Attorney for Cargo Loss in L.A.

Loss of cargo can create substantial damages. It can even lead to serious injury or death. All types of drivers are required to follow certain regulations when it comes to cargo. If you or someone you know has been injured due to a cargo-related incident, contact Yarian & Associates, APC.

The lawyers at Yarian & Associates, APC make it their goal to help victims. We have years of experience in handling truck driving accidents and other related offenses. Get in touch with an attorney who is well-educated on cargo laws, call (844) 291-1911.

Yarian & Associates, APC accepts clients throughout the greater Los Angeles County and Glendale metro area including Visalia, Long Beach, Santa Monica, Irvine, Pasadena, Beverly Hills and San Bernardino.

We are also familiar with many state and law officials in Los Angeles County and Tulare County areas including the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), the Office for Los Angeles Sheriff, the Glendale Police Department, the Office for Tulare County Sheriff, the Long Beach Police Department, and the California Highway Patrol.

Submit an online contact form or call us ((844) 291-1911) today.

This article was last updated on August 2nd, 2018

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