A reader asks about an incident where a ladder had fallen off a truck traveling on the highway. The driver following behind the truck took evasive action that resulted in a collision. This question raises many important issues including hazard avoidance, duty at a collision and load securement.
An object of any sort falling off of the vehicle in front of you is definitely a surprise. The actions available to you are usually either to drive over the object, collide with or swerve around it. If you have maintained two to four seconds following distance and made sure to keep an open space beside you on multi laned roadway you will have given yourself both time to think and react as well as the room to do it. Always leave yourself an out!
The driver of this truck was indirectly involved in a collision on a highway and had duties that he must fulfill. These duties included stopping or immediately returning to the scene, rendering assistance and providing details in writing concerning himself, his vehicle and insurance to other drivers involved, the police and any witness that demanded it.
Load securement rules in British Columbia include significant fines for those who do not obey. These fines are $173 for most people, but increase to $288 for commercial and business vehicles and $598 for drivers who do not obey an order to remove a vehicle from the highway until the load is properly secured.
Most of us carry loads that are a collection of smaller articles of some sort. These are known as aggregate loads. If the articles are not contained by the sides of the vehicle or tie downs, they must be covered in some manner to prevent them from bouncing, blowing or dropping from the vehicle. A suitable tarp or net would be the answer here.
Larger articles may be secured with chains, ropes, belts or cables. The methods can be complex and the easiest way to learn about them is to download BC Booklet 2 - Cargo Securement or obtain a paper copy from the nearest weigh scale. You can also download the National Safety Code Standard 10 that the BC load security regulations are based on.
By now you might be thinking that all of this information is important to know if you are a commercial driver or use a pickup or trailer to carry your cargo. Think again. Cargo that you load inside a passenger vehicle is just as critical. Load shifts while driving can be distracting and may cause fatal injury to the occupants in a collision.
The owner's manual for our compact crossover SUV provides advice on cargo securement in the owner's manual. There are tie down points for light items, warnings about securing items placed on top of folded seats and loading the cargo space at the rear higher than the seat back.
While the manual does devote instruction on how to determine maximum cargo weight, it does not advise about how much weight the rear seatback will stop from forcing it's way forward in a collision. This is definitely something to consider rather that trusting to luck. Check with the dealer or manufacturer for more information.
I bought a load of wood pellets a couple of years back. This load consisted of 50 bags wrapped in clear wrap. It went on my truck easily and I never even thought this should be tied down. Home is 20 minutes from the store and 15 minutes after leaving my load slid and I lost 20 bags in to the ditch and all over the road. We had a broom so I turned around and started cleaning up. Two guys, so grateful, stopped and helped us. I think I lost about 5 bags altogether.
I phoned the store upset because this was the first and last load of pellets I picked up, I asked why they don't put up a reminder sign to secure your load. He told me then they would be responsible. I said make a sign "Just a reminder we are not responsib le for your load, remember to secure your own load"
It would have made such a deifference. We have tie downs in all our vehicles now.
Learning the Hard Way
I think we all have times in our lives when we look back and say "I should have...."
I watched a pickup truck with a shiny new stove in the back headed home from the appliance store one day. The driver didn't tie it down and didn't even bother to put the tailgate up. The first big hill he encountered was enough for the stove to slide out of the back of the box and crash onto the pavement.
I don't think I would have wanted to be him when he got home with it.
Looking at that picture above ...
... a couple of things come to mind. One of them is tire pressure! Often ignored, it's never or more importance than when heavily loading a vehicle - be it a pickup truck with construction materials, or a small bus with passengers.
The other is comprehending physics. Drivers often don't realize that the seats in a vehicle are completely supportive during acceleration and at least to some degree during cornering. But loads are inert, and inertia means that when the vehicle is accelerated the load will try to remain in the same place regardless.
Last summer, some guy (who didn't speak English so good) doing a home renovation dumped his pickup load of long precut 2x4s and similar product when starting off uphill from the 4-way stop adjacent to my house. So I wandered over along with a couple of other neighbours and we helped him put it back on his truck piece by piece. Once the job was done, I stressed to him that he needed to drive very, very gently - and thought he understood.
As I walked away, I heard this great crash as the stupid bugger once again dumped it all in the middle of the intersection. Neither I nor any of the other neighbours could be bothered to return to help him out this time ...
And the winner is
Watched a guy load a pallet of empty wine bottles into his pickup, they were about level with the cab of his truck. They were new, in boxes, with a couple wraps of shrink wrap. I was loading the same, but in a trailer, and they must be chimney blocked as they are pretty shaky.
i was busy with my own load but was shocked when I heard a crash, and looking out, saw he had stacked a second pallet on top of the first, and had made it as far as the parking lot entrance where the second skid tumbled forward, partially crushing the roof, and hood, while shattering all the windows.
kind of off topic....but I was unloading hanging beef at Provigo in Montreal, when I heard guys shouting in the trailer beside mine. I glanced in, and every single side of beef was on the floor, except one at the very front.
And the driver says (swear to God) “I don’t know how the hell that got up there!”
Slightly on topic
I believe all SUV's, hatchbacks, and vans should be fitted at the factory with a cargo net with what weight it can hold. Over the years I have heard many people comment on securing a load in the back of a pick-up yet they have no problem putting a bag of groceries in the back of any of the above vehicles with no cargo net in place. My question to them is have you ever thought what a can of beans would do to the back of your kids head if you were to stop suddenly?
I have never owned a pick-up without a headache rack. It's one thing to dump part or all of your load on the ground behind you but depending what you are loading one slight mistake can have it going through the back window before you even get a chance to tie it down.
Watched a couple of guys loading skidoo's onto their skidoo deck. One hit the throttle and ended up putting the ski's through the back window. Another time a person showed up at the local glass shop. He had just bought a quad and didn't realise the front cargo rack stuck out past the front tires. He was loading into his pick-up and intended to secure it with the front tires up against the front of the box. Unfortunately that front cargo rack took out the back window.
As a motorcyclist I’m always on the lookout for insecure loads, having almost lost my head to a piece of sheet metal soffit hanging about six feet off the roof of a cube van (soffit and gutter installer) traveling at 80 KPH on Hwy 10 between Hwy 91 and East Delta Hall (I was going west, the Van was going east).
And I’ve come home more than once to find the intersection of River Rd. West and 41B St. in Ladner covered in potatoes (we don’t need no stinking tarps!)