The average truck driver visiting Mytee Products in Aurora, Ohio is looking for cargo control supplies like chains, straps, and tarps. That driver knows all too well how important cargo control is to his/her livelihood. Fail to protect the cargo and he/she is likely to have trouble lining up future loads. But there are other things at stake. There are legal implications to cargo control for both driver and motor carrier.
To start with, proper cargo control is not optional. It is mandated by both federal and state laws. Regulations require flatbed drivers to secure cargo using a variety of equipment that will prevent said cargo from shifting and/or falling off a trailer in transit. Moreover, federal and state regulations are by no means ambiguous.
Federal regulations go so far as to spell out just how many tie-downs a truck driver must use. The regulations discuss the use of bulkheads, anchor points, blocks, and more. If a flatbed trucker doesn’t understand cargo control from a regulatory standpoint, it’s not due to a lack of available information.
Who Is Responsible for What?
Confusion within the cargo control arena might be due to a misunderstanding of who is responsible for what. Mytee Products explains that truck drivers are routinely told that they are ultimately responsible for the security of their cargo. That is mostly true. However, drivers are not the only ones held accountable in the event of an accident relating to insecure cargo.
According to a Virginia attorney featured on the Lawyers.com website, truck drivers are not expected to be intimately familiar with every detail of trailer loading and securing. They are expected to conduct detailed inspections to determine that they are satisfied with their rigs and loads before starting a trip. But there are others with responsibilities as well.
The attorney explains that motor carriers and shippers sometimes use specialist loading contractors. Drivers expect those contractors to know what they are doing. They expect loading personnel to properly balance loads; they expect them to load trailers in the best way possible for cargo control purposes. If an accident occurs as a result of poor loading, the loading contractor can be held liable.
Even motor carriers bear some legal responsibility for cargo control. Regulations prevent carriers from forcing drivers to carry loads they do not believe are safe. If a carrier compels a driver to take that load anyway, through coercion or any other means, the company could be held liable in the event of an accident.
Knowledge and Routine Inspections
So how does a truck driver protect him/herself against legal liability? By doing what the law requires him or her to do. It starts with having a working knowledge of cargo control regulations. Such regulations should be part of every flatbed driver’s training. Moreover, training should be ongoing. Even the most experienced truck drivers can use refresher training from time to time.
Regulatory knowledge and training are the lead-in to the routine inspections that drivers are required to carry out. In addition to looking at their rigs (tires, lights, etc.) drivers are required to inspect their loads to make sure everything is safe and secure. They must inspect before departure. They must stop and inspect again within the first 50 miles and then at regular intervals thereafter.
Cargo control is about highway safety first and foremost. But for the truck driver, there are also legal implications to worry about; implications that should not be ignored. Failing to do what the law requires could have devastating effects on a truck driver following a cargo-related accident.