You’ve probably noticed large cargo trucks moving freight along our city streets and through neighborhoods. These heavy vehicles can crash into other vehicles or hit pedestrians, leaving them with devastating injuries. Finding out who is to blame for your accident can be difficult without experienced legal assistance.
At Langdon & Emison, a St. Louis cargo truck accident lawyer can speak with you during a free initial case evaluation to help you understand your options. You do not need to face big trucking companies alone when you can turn to top-notch legal representation from a firm with over 30 years of handling cases just like yours. Contact us today to learn more.
What is a cargo truck?
Cargo trucks are commercial vehicles designed for hauling lighter cargo that doesn’t take up a lot of room. Think of a U-Haul you could drive yourself versus a commercial semi-truck. They’re also referred to as “box trucks” due to their shape.
With this type of truck design, the cargo is completely separate from the cab, inaccessible from the cab’s interior. Unlike a semi-truck, though, the cargo area isn’t detachable. There’s usually a built-in roll-up ramp to load and unload items.
Cargo trucks may have different features depending on their intended use, but have the same general characteristics:
- Single frame extending from the front of the truck to the rear
- Cargo container and axles are attached to the same frame
- Sliding or rollup rear door
- Pull-out or hydraulic ramp
- Many are protected from the elements, fully enclosed
These trucks range in size from 10-26 feet in length and 6-8 feet in height. The hauling capacity ranges from 12,500-33,000 pounds, depending on the truck’s size and the strength of the chassis.
Types of cargo trucks
Cargo trucks are a different type of vehicle than a commercial semi-trailer or “big rig.”
All of these commercial transport vehicles can be considered a cargo truck:
- Standard box truck
- Utility box trucks
- Flatbed box truck with no roof or walls around the cargo bed
- Landscaping box trucks, which may also be used for plumbing or electrical work
- Refrigerated box truck with a temperature-controlled cargo compartment
- Moving trucks, like a U-Haul
- Delivery trucks, like for furniture or online purchases
Causes of cargo truck accidents in St. Louis
Cargo trucks can cause or be involved in jackknife, rollover, head-on, rear-end, and t-bone accidents. These vehicles are only 4% of registered automobiles but are involved in 14% of fatal incidents, with passenger car occupants facing 96% of those deaths.
The Large Truck Crash Causation Study from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows that 87% of cargo truck crashes result from human error, such as negligence, improper loading, and poorly secured cargo.
Trucking companies are responsible for thoroughly vetting and training their drivers before sending them on the road. Without the knowledge and background in handling emergencies, drivers can make unnecessary mistakes leading to jackknife crashes.
A driver can also make negligent mistakes due to the following factors:
- Failing to follow speed limits and traffic laws
- Driving while distracted by cell phones, GPS systems, or other activities
- Driving while fatigued or drowsy
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Failing to react in time to sudden changes in traffic, the environment, or the actions of other drivers
When the freight in or on the trailer is not secured and balanced correctly, its weight can shift unpredictably, causing the trailer to become unstable. These unexpected changes can cause the driver to lose control of their vehicle, leading to accidents.
In addition to loading freight correctly, items must be secured so they cannot roll off the trailer. For example, suppose a flatbed trailer is hauling large cement drainage pipes. These could cause devastating damage if the straps fail and the cylinders roll into busy highways or city traffic.
Dangers of cargo trucks
Cargo trucks pose multiple dangers to others on the road. You should contact a St. Louis cargo truck accident lawyer if any of the following occur.
Falling cargo is a serious concern with cargo trucks. If the truck isn’t fully enclosed, the cargo can fall into the road and create a traffic hazard or hit cars behind the truck. If the cargo falls inside the truck or shifts in transit, it alters the truck’s center of gravity, which can lead to a dangerous rollover accident.
These are some dangerous scenarios involving falling cargo:
Failing cargo straps
Cargo trucks often transport heavy, bulky items held in place with cargo straps attached to the truck’s interior. If the straps fail, break, or aren’t fastened correctly by the loader, the heavy items shift and leave the truck off-balance.
If heavy cargo is transported on a flatbed truck, the dangers of failing straps are even more serious. Items like construction equipment or materials often weigh more than a passenger car. If one of these items falls off the truck, it could hit a car beside it and seriously injure the people inside.
Failing logging cages
Logging cargo trucks are equipped with a cage to contain the logs. If the cage fails, the logs break free and collide with cars following the logging truck. The falling logs would easily cause the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle, posing further hazards to others.
Improperly balanced cargo
Although some truck drivers load their own cargo, many do not. Loaders may share some of the responsibility for a wreck caused by shifting cargo. Loaders should ensure that the cargo is properly balanced and secured prior to the truck driver leaving. However, once the driver is on the road, they should stop periodically and check that the cargo is secure and in place.
If the cargo truck is loaded by a non-professional loader, like someone who is loading their own moving truck, or a landscaper or other contractor loading their materials and equipment into a flatbed or open-top truck, then there’s a greater chance they’ll make a mistake when doing so.
“Amateur loaders” are also likely amateur cargo truck drivers, and their inexperience could pose serious danger to others on the road.
Some cargo trucks carry toxic chemicals or hazardous materials. Even items that seem innocuous, like tanks of gasoline to power landscaping equipment, can cause serious problems if the container starts leaking onto the road.
In the event of a collision between a cargo truck carrying chemicals and another vehicle, the chances are high that the chemical could ignite, or cause problems if inhaled by the crash victims.
Cargo truck regulations
Most cargo trucks are considered commercial vehicles, which are vehicles used to move goods or people for profit. A cargo truck is also considered a commercial vehicle if the title is owned and registered to a company or LLC.
Commercial vehicles are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which sets standards for driver training and licensure, the maximum hours drivers can drive before mandatory rest, and driver drug or alcohol use. Commercial drivers must hold a CDL.
The FMCSA also sets cargo securement rules, with performance standards for tie-downs and anchors. The agency requires all cargo truck owners to comply with these regulations to prevent dangerous shifting or falling cargo accidents. It also sets specific cargo securement rules for certain classifications of cargo, like logs, vehicles, heavy equipment, and even boulders.
In Missouri, licensing and titles, and cargo truck safety regulations are administered by the Missouri Department of Transportation.
Our St. Louis cargo truck accident lawyers are ready to help
Facing the aftermath of a cargo truck accident that was not your fault can be overwhelming. Your injuries, the loss of income, and the emotional devastation as you recover can keep you from having enough energy to seek justice. Fortunately, you do not have to do this alone.
At Langdon & Emison, we are skilled in pushing back against powerful insurance and trucking companies, securing the justice and financial relief you deserve. Schedule your free consultation with an accomplished St. Louis cargo truck accident lawyer today by calling us at (866) 931-2115 or using our convenient online form.