The Hazards of Poorly Secured Cargo on 18-Wheelers


Due to their sheer size, 18-wheelers have the potential to do a great deal of damage to other vehicles if they are involved in an accident. Such an accident could be due to negligent driver hiring practices by the trucking company, driver fatigue, or a host of other problems. One very common cause of 18-wheeler accidents is poorly secured cargo, which can cause a great deal of damage and led to multiple different types of accidents.


Trucking companies are in the business of transporting cargo. That is the way they make their money and the reason the industry as a whole even exists. Given the fundamental nature of the cargo to the industry’s business model, it would seem logical that the cargo would be very carefully secured and protected. Unfortunately that is not always the case. There are a number of different ways in which an 18-wheeler’s cargo might classify as poorly secured, including the following:

Too Much Weight – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) puts restrictions on how much weight a given type of tractor trailer can carry at a given time. An overloaded truck is at greater risk of having an accident. The temptation to transport as much as possible at once can be high and some trucking companies push or even exceed the limit.

Improper Handling of Hazardous Materials – Sometimes 18-wheelers are called upon to carry very dangerous materials. This type of cargo could be highly flammable liquids, toxic chemicals, and an array of other volatile substances. Even if the truck is not overloaded there are very specific and important guidelines which must be followed to safely transport hazardous materials and it is imperative that they be met.

Uneven Weight Distribution – For a load to be safe, it must be placed and distributed properly throughout the cargo area of the truck. Poor distribution could cause the 18-wheeler to experience trouble with braking, or it might cause the truck to tip over.

Ineffectual or Absent Cargo Restraints – Just as initial weight distribution is important, it is also crucial that the cargo, and thus the weight does not shift suddenly. That is why effectively securing the cargo with restraints is imperative.

Risk of Exposed Cargo Falling Off – Not all big rig trucks carry cargo containers with the cargo inside. Flatbed trucks instead rely on strapping their loads down. If the loads are not safely and securely strapped down they could easily slide, roll, fall, or fly off onto the open the road, and onto unlucky motorists following behind the truck.


The type of accidents that can be caused by poorly secured cargo range considerably from minor to lethal. Much depends on the circumstances of the particular accident, the vehicles involved, and weather and roadway conditions. Some accident scenarios based on poorly secured cargo are as follows:

  • 18-Wheeler turns over, jackknifes, or loses control and is involved in a one-vehicle accident.
  • 18-Wheeler turns over, jackknifes, or loses control and is then hit by one or more other vehicles.
  • 18-Wheeler cannot stop in time due to being overloaded and rearends another vehicle.
  • 18-Wheeler cannot stop in time due to being overloaded and rearends another vehicle, pushing that vehicle into one or more additional vehicles.
  • 18-Wheeler loses a piece of unsecured cargo and it hits another vehicle.
  • 18-Wheeler loses a piece of unsecured cargo and it hits or almost hits another vehicle, causing that vehicle to collide with one or more additional vehicles as it brakes or swerves.
  • 18-Wheeler loses a piece of unsecured cargo and it doesn’t initially hit or almost hit anyone, instead it lays in the road, forming an on-going road hazard.

If the cargo falls completely clear of the 18-wheeler, the big rig may not even be involved in the subsequent accident, instead only causing damage without sustaining any. However, it is also possible that the 18-wheeler will swerve, brake suddenly, or lose control as a result of losing the piece of cargo.

One of the biggest dangers is that 18-wheeler accidents involving poorly secured cargo have the potential to escalate quickly and cause horrific chain reactions. This danger is amplified if fog, rain, snow, ice, or other treacherous road conditions are also in place.

The cargo itself may also be of extremely dangerous nature. For example if large pipes, logs, or other heavily-weighted objects fall onto a nearby passenger vehicle they can easily crush that vehicle and its occupants. If the cargo is flammable or explosive, any cars and people involved in the accident could easily catch fire or be severely injured in the resulting blast. If the cargo is toxic there is a risk that it could enter groundwater, harm wildlife, or further injure accident victims with exposed wounds.


If you or a loved one have been in an 18-wheeler accident with poorly secured cargo involved it is crucial that seek legal advice. Not only could the medical and property damages associated with the accident be huge and burdensome, but all too often costly litigation is the only effective tool to make trucking companies change dangerous practices.

Legal cases involving unsecured or poorly secured cargo are also complicated by the fact that often multiple parties are at fault. For instance the accident may be due to driver error or a driver’s failure to check the safety of the cargo, but the trucking company is also typically liable to some extent since the driver was operating on their behalf and may have been using a company vehicle. Furthermore, in some cases the company shipping the load has a degree of responsibility in make sure it is safely secured. There may even be a third party company involved who loaded and secured the cargo for the trucking company or product-owning company. Dugas Law Firm specializes in trucking litigation. Let us help you get the justice you deserve for this terrifying experience.

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