The 2017 CVSA Roadcheck targeting the trucking industry in North America focused primarily on cargo control matters. Inspectors checked everything from chains and straps to blocking. 2018’s Roadcheck focused more on compliance with new driver’s hours rules, though inspectors still paid close attention to cargo control. Why is cargo control so important? Because any load can shift on the back of a truck.


Unless you drive a truck for a living, you probably do not appreciate the physics of keeping cargo in place while you’re tooling down the road at 65 mph. Truckers have to be extremely careful about how they secure their loads prior to departure. They also have to check their loads at regular intervals while in transit. Missing just one little detail can result in disaster.


Plywood Through the Windshield


Compared to the number of loads that are hauled across North American highways every year, reported accidents resulting from improper cargo control are relatively low. But when accidents do happen, they make the news. Take a case out of Ontario, Canada from early January 2019.


Fox News reported that a woman driving on Highway 410 in Brompton on January 4 narrowly escaped with her life after a piece of plywood flew off a truck in front of her and smashed through the windshield. The woman was also carrying a male passenger.


Thankfully, both walked away with minor injuries. One look at the photographs makes it clear that the two could easily have been impaled or decapitated.


Paint Spills on the Road


Not all cargo control accidents involve potentially life-threatening circumstances. That doesn’t mean they are any less significant. Just ask the truck driver in central Florida who dumped 49,000 pounds of paint on January 11. The northbound lanes of the road (U.S. 27) were closed for hours while crews cleaned up the mess.


According to the Lakeland Ledger, the driver was making a left-hand turn from a single-lane county road onto a three-lane highway just east of Winter Haven, Florida. The load of paint inside her dry goods van shifted severely enough to turn the truck completely on its side. The paint spilled, leaked through the van, and spread across the road surface.


Once again, the accident could have been a lot worse. The driver sustained only minor injuries and was taken to a local hospital for treatment. Fortunately, no other vehicles were involved in the accident.


Cargo is the Driver’s Responsibility


Mytee Products, an Ohio company that supplies cargo control equipment to truck drivers, explains that federal law makes cargo the responsibility of the truck driver. Drivers are ultimately responsible even if shippers load and secure trailers for them.


They do have a full range of tools available to them. Drivers deploy chains, webbing straps, and winches to secure cargo to flatbed trailers. If necessary, they can utilize blocks and bulkheads for extra security. Loads are typically covered with tarps as a final layer of protection.


Drivers running dry goods vans utilize bulkheads and load locks to keep things secure inside. Unfortunately, it’s easy to get careless with dry goods vans because the trailers have three walls, a ceiling, and two doors. But as the Florida accident demonstrates, cargo inside a dry goods trailer can still shift dramatically.


Thankfully, cargo control accidents are comparatively rare considering the amount of cargo we move on the backs of trucks. If anything, this post is simply meant as a reminder to drivers to be extremely diligent about securing cargo. It only takes a single careless mistake to create a potentially serious problem.