Regulations for Securing Truck Cargo in Utah

Driving with unsecured cargo can be deadly. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, about 200,000 crashes in a four-year span were the result of road debris, about two-thirds of which were caused by items falling off vehicles. Furthermore, 37 percent of deaths in road debris accidents were caused by a driver swerving to avoid hitting an object in the roadway. In these cases, the driver who dropped the cargo and the company that employs them may be responsible for accidents resulting from unsecured cargo in Utah.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) cargo securement regulations outline safe loading procedures drivers and cargo loaders must observe to prepare a load for interstate transport. These regulations also include performance criteria for deceleration and acceleration. Drivers are responsible for knowing the type of cargo they are transporting, cargo weight limits, and appropriate load securement methods. If drivers violate these rules, they may be responsible for resulting accidents. Contact Swenson & Shelley PLLC to learn how we can help you pursue compensation.

Understanding FMCSA’s Cargo Securement Rules

The FMCSA published cargo securement rules for drivers operating in interstate commerce. The rules are based on the North American Cargo Securement Standard Model Regulations and are informed by a multi-year research study. Cargo securement systems are required to meet FMCSA’s general rules, except where a commodity-specific rule imposes additional requirements. In those cases, the commodity-specific rule takes precedence.

Cargo must be secured and immobilized on or within a vehicle by the following methods or a combination of them: 

  • Dunnage (durable padding to protect cargo during transport)
  • Dunnage bags (protective packaging bags)
  • Shoring bars (also called load bars, cargo bars, or load locks)
  • Tiedowns (see standards for steel strapping, chain, synthetic webbing, wire rope, and cordage)
  • Structures of sufficient strength

All securement equipment must be able to withstand the following deceleration and acceleration:

  • 0.8 g deceleration forward
  • 0.5 g acceleration backward
  • 0.5 g acceleration laterally

Drivers are not generally required to perform load securement testing to confirm compliance with performance criteria. If cargo is secured according to FMCSA regulations or commodity-specific rules, it is presumed to meet the performance requirement.

Use of Tiedowns 

Tiedowns must be firmly secured and built to withstand movement during transport. In cases where tiedowns are used to secure cargo on a trailer that contains rub rails, the tiedowns should be inside the rub rails. Damage-resistant edge protectors must be used where a tiedown is at risk of sustaining cuts, abrasions, or other damage at its point of contact with a cargo item.

Marked and Unmarked Tiedowns

When securing heavy or fragile cargo, it is crucial that a tiedown can secure the load without breaking. For this reason, almost every piece of load-bearing equipment is marked with numbers indicating how much weight the item can secure. While current FMCSA regulations do not prohibit the use of unmarked tiedowns, due to the potential risk of driver misidentification of unmarked equipment, all unmarked welded steel chain tiedowns must have a working load limit (WLL) equal to grade 30 proof coil. Other types of unmarked tiedowns must have a WLL equal to the lowest rating for its type in the table of working load limits.

It is important to note that the tiedown’s WLL is not the same as its breaking strength capacity. The WLL is based on a one-third ratio of the breaking strength. For example, if a tiedown has a breaking strength of 9,000 pounds, it will have a WLL of 3,000 pounds. Never exceed the WLL rating of any piece of load-bearing equipment.

Periodic Inspection of Cargo Securement

The FMCSA strongly advises drivers to inspect cargo securement regularly, as vibrations and other movements may cause the tiedowns to loosen or release during transit. Federal regulations require truck drivers to inspect their cargo and securement devices within the first 50 miles of beginning a trip and make any necessary adjustments. Then, the driver must reexamine the cargo and load securement devices at the following times:

  • Whenever the driver makes a change in the duty status
  • After the vehicle has been driven for three hours
  • After the vehicle has been driven for 150 miles

In cases where a driver is transporting hazardous materials, the FMCSA suggests inspecting the load every 50 miles.

Additionally, drivers should stop at the nearest safe location to inspect load security following any sharp turns, hard brakes, or any time cargo items are added or removed.

Secure Load Checklist

Observing safe driving practices is a responsibility shared by everyone on the road, but the stakes can be higher for drivers transporting heavy loads. Creating a heavy hauling checklist for truck loading procedures can help reduce the risk of overlooking important safety measures in Utah.

Before loading:

  • Double-check the vehicle’s weight capacity to make sure it can accommodate the load.
  • Inspect the vehicle, including the load platform, to ensure all components are in good working order.
  • Inspect tiedowns and other securement devices to ensure they are in good condition and comply with FMCSA regulations.
  • Confirm you have access to the equipment you need to safely load and unload cargo.

During loading:

  • Load items according to the drop-off sequence.
  • Load heavy items on the bottom and lighter items on the top.
  • Ensure goods are securely packed according to FMCSA regulations to prevent movement or damage during transit.
  • Minimize the space between items.

During transport:

  • Periodically inspect the cargo to ensure it is secure, especially after a sharp turn or emergency braking incident.
  • Inspect the remaining items to ensure they are adequately secured, with weight appropriately distributed after you have unloaded cargo.
  • Drive according to road conditions, reducing speed in bad weather and when approaching intersections.

Most Common Truck Accidents are Caused by Improper Loading

Despite a driver’s best efforts, accidents caused by improper loading can still occur. According to a recent Utah Department of Transportation news release, unsecured loads and road debris cause an estimated 1,800 crashes yearly.

The following are some of the most common accidents associated with improper cargo loading:

  • Sideswiping: An improperly loaded truck may unexpectedly merge into other lanes of traffic, resulting in property damage, injury, or death.
  • Rollovers: Rollovers generally occur when a top-heavy or overloaded vehicle attempts to make a turn or change lanes. Weight instability causes the truck to turn over, often spilling the cargo onto the road.
  • Jackknifing: Jackknifing occurs when the back of the truck swings towards the front of the truck, forming the shape of a folding knife. As with rollovers, jackknifing occurs when cargo has been improperly loaded and causes the truck to become unstable.

Involved in a Truck Accident? Contact a Skilled Truck Accident Attorney in Utah

If you were involved in an accident that may have been caused by unsecured cargo or improper loading procedures, our team of experienced Utah truck accident lawyers could help you pursue compensation. Contact Swenson & Shelley PLLC for a free consultation, and let us get to work for you.