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Cargo Spills

Last week, a Maryland semi-truck driver was tragically killed when his vehicle overturned. No one else was injured, but debris from the truck accident, including pieces of a concrete barrier, diesel fuel from the vehicle’s ruptured fuel tank, and spilled cargo, blocked the roadway for hours. Hazardous material clean-up crews were notified and eventually able to clear all lanes of traffic.

Current Law

Semi-trucks are a vital link in interstate commerce and transport products ranging from livestock to electronics to hazardous waste. Because cargoes are so heavy and often consist of potentially dangerous products, both federal and state law dictate how semi-truck cargoes are loaded and secured.

In Maryland, drivers must obtain special permits when a cargo exceeds dimension or weight limitations. For instance, if a cargo requires the use of a truck that is longer than 120 inches and both wider and taller than 16 feet, it qualifies as a “super load,” and the driver must not only obtain a permit, but abide by additional rules. Trucks carrying super loads are extra-hazardous, so they are permitted to travel only between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. or 8:00 pm. and 6:00 a.m.

Federal Law

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates how cargo is to be loaded, secured, and transported across state boundaries. The rules apply to all types of cargo except products that lack a fixed shape and are transported in a tank that is part of the structure of the truck, including:

• Liquids;

• Gases;

• Grain;

• Liquid concrete;

• Sand;

• Gravel; and

• Aggregate materials.

The regulations require that cargo be restrained with tiedowns, which are to be attached in a manner that prevents them from loosening or unfastening during transit. Furthermore, if a tiedown is touching an article of cargo, the driver must ensure that edge protection is used to help resist abrasion, cutting, and crushing.

The number of tiedowns to be used in transportation is also regulated. For instance, at least one tiedown must be used for products that are five feet or fewer in length and 1,100 pounds or fewer in weight. Two tiedowns are required if the article of cargo is:

• Five feet or smaller in length and more than 1,100 pounds; or

• Greater than five feet, but fewer than ten feet, regardless of its weight.

The regulations also contain rules specific to certain products. For example, firewood, stumps, and log debris must be transported in a truck that is enclosed on all sides, while concrete pipes of different sizes must be loaded in accordance with an established tier system.

Liability

Many of the cargoes transported by truck are extremely heavy and can be dangerous if ejected from the vehicle in which they are loaded. Building materials, cars, logs, concrete pipes, fuel, and toxic materials are just a few types of potentially dangerous cargo that are transported on a day-to-day basis.

Both federal and state law help protect against cargo spills, so a driver’s failure to obtain necessary permits or obey inspection rules opens him or her up to liability for any injuries caused by negligent acts. The truck’s owners and the manufacturers of equipment used to secure cargo may also be held liable if the poor condition of the truck contributed to the accident or if the security devices were somehow defective.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You

Accidents involving semi-trucks are especially dangerous and can cause permanent and often deadly injuries. If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, a lawyer may be able to help you collect compensation for your losses. Please contact the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at 301-804-2312 for a free consultation.

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