Ponton Law has successfully handled numerous trucking cases involving cargo that was not properly secured which resulted in serious injuries or death, including those on I-285 and I-75 in the Metro Atlanta area. There are obligations imposed under both Georgia and Federal law that pertain to proper cargo securement and require truck drivers and trucking companies to take steps to keep the public safe. Under Georgia law, O.C.G.A. 40-6-254, “No person shall operate any motor vehicle with a load on or in such vehicle unless the load on or in such vehicle is adequately secured to prevent the dropping or shifting of such load onto the roadway in such a manner as to create a safety hazard. For the purpose of this Code Section, a load shall include, but not be limited to, a trailer required to be registered under Chapter 2 of this title. Any person who operates a vehicle in violation of this Code section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”
O.C.G.A. 40-6-254 is most often cited by the investigating police department when the truck driver is given a ticket. For example, we have seen at-fault parties receive tickets under this code section when debris fell off the back of a dump truck that was not properly tarped and when a piece of furniture item fell off the back of a box truck. At trial, we have been successful in obtaining a jury charge on negligence per se, or negligence as a matter of law, for a violation of this code section. Many times the local police department, such as Dekalb, Clayton, or Fulton, will not have officers who are trained like those at the Motor Compliance Division at the Georgia Department of Public Safety. Often times your lawyer must educate the investigating police offer before his deposition that in addition to the truck driver’s violation of O.C.G.A. 40-6-254, he violated a host of other regulations.
Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, the language is much more expansive and specific to the cargo that is being transported. Generally speaking, the cargo securement rules apply to any commercial vehicle, which oftentimes can include vehicles that you might not think would qualify, such as a church van or a lawn care service carrying a heavy piece of equipment. In broad terms, cargo in a commercial vehicle must be secured on or within the vehicle by structures of adequate strength, including dunnage, dunnage bags, shoring bars, or a combination. Dunnage is a fancy industry term that refers to the material used to secure cargo in transit. The FMCSR requires that the cargo securement system be capable of withstanding three forces, including 0.8 g deceleration in the forward direction, 0.5 acceleration in the rearward direction, and 0.5 acceleration in a lateral direction. It can be very valuable in knowing the right expert to deal with a specific code violation. Some experts have more experience in specific areas, and Ponton Law has a stable of experts that we employ depending upon the circumstances which led to the cargo being improperly secured.
There are also specific sections that apply to the transportation of specific materials. For example, there are special rules for securing logs (393.116), dressed lumbar of similar building products (393.118), metal coils (393 C.F.R. 120), paper rolls (393C.F.R. 122), concrete pipe (393.124), intermodal containers (393.126), light trucks and vans (393 C.F.R. 128), heavy vehicles, equipment, and machinery (393 C.F.R. 130), flattened or crushed vehicles (393 C.F.R. 132), hook lift containers (393 C.F.R. 134), and large boulders (393.136).
When taking depositions in these types of cases, you can almost universally get the truck driver and the trucking company’s corporate representative to agree that:
- Loading and securing cargo can be a danger to yourself and others;
- Cargo that falls off a commercial vehicle can cause significant injuries and death;
- Improperly secured cargo can hurt or kill you or others when you have to stop abruptly;
- Steering can be adversely impacted which can make it difficult to steer the vehicle.
If you have been injured as a result of improperly secured cargo, call our Atlanta Truck Accident Attorney today. Often times we can get an expert to the scene right away before the trucking company starts discarding evidence that is harmful to there case. We always send a spoliation letter as soon as we are retained, which imposes affirmative obligations on the truck driver and company to preserve and maintain certain evidence.