Sometimes the most dangerous part of a truck’s journey takes place not on the road but at the loading/unloading dock. Truck loading and unloading docks are frequently busy locations: large warehouses stacked high with heavy – sometimes dangerous or toxic – merchandise and product filled with workers and heavy machinery like forklifts and pallet movers. The operations at a loading/unloading dock must be carefully choreographed in order to ensure no one gets hurt and that trucks are loaded and unloaded quickly. Unfortunately, this does not always occur as heavy machinery and crushing injuries on the dock are common. Not only this, but improperly loading a trailer – i.e., failing to properly distribute the weight of the cargo throughout the trailer – can make the trailer difficult to control and can contribute to a truck accident.
Cargo that is not loaded according to regulations and generally accepted safety protocol can cause a serious semi-truck accident in a number of ways. The car- go could add so much weight to an already oversized truck that it causes top-heaviness, thus increasing the risk of a jackknife or rollover. Improperly loaded cargo can also shift while in motion. In such cases, objects on the truck may be more likely to fall off, leaving dangerous debris on the roadway.
People can be seriously injured during loading and unloading errors. Loads come out of position, trucks tip over, people get caught between the truck and the loading facility.
Whenever there is a truck cargo loading or unloading accident (or a motor vehicle crash caused by improper loading of the trailer), where the accident occurs is crucial to determining what parties may be responsible for causing or contributing to the crash. When the accident occurs at the unloading dock due to the carelessness of the company unloading the materials, then identifying the party responsible for the accident may not be challenging. But when there is reason to believe negligence or carelessness during the loading process may have played a role in the crash, the task of identifying responsible parties becomes more challenging. The location at which the truck was loaded and the company and employees responsible for loading the particular truck involved in the crash will need to be identified. Depositions with workers and supervisors will reveal which employee or employees bears responsibility for improperly loading the truck. Where the memories of individuals are lacking, camera videos, and employee timesheets and logs may provide useful information as to who may be responsible for the accident.
Most would agree that one of the difficulties of truck driving is the backing up maneuver safely. Usually a truck driver will need to reverse the truck and trailer to a docking station for delivery or pick up. It could a station for the pick-up of refrigerated goods or heavy packages and boxes. In any case, the driver must be firmly aware of the dimensions of the area in which the backing up truck and trailer must fit. It is important to be able to see by way of the outer mirrors or a back-up truck camera to see the end of the trailer.
The easiest backing up maneuver is the straight line back up. Even if the backing up to the dock seems obvious, it can still be dangerous if the driver is not aware of the exact location of the dock. Too often truckers miscalculate a distance or size of the dock area and crash into the dock possibly injuring another worker or damaging the trailer and the trucker’s load.
Another backing up maneuver that is difficult is the one where the driver has to do a 90-degree alley docking. The truck and trailer are connected by a kind of hinge, the tandem that allows the trailer to swing to the side or to the necessary degree in order to load or unload the cargo for the trailer. Sometimes a driver will need to swing the trailer to the left or to the right depending on the dock location. Some docks have 45 degree alley docks which makes the maneuver even more difficult and often times dangerous. Semi-tractor and trailer drivers are called upon to back up their vehicles in all kinds of places. The convention- al trailer is 53 feet long with the added length of the tractor that would bring the total length of the truck and trailer to about 70 feet. A truck driver may be faced with a delivery or pick up at a place, like retail store where most deliveries are done by short truck or van. That maneuver into a tight space may put at risk pedestrians and other workers as the truck driver tries to swing the tractor and trailer into the tight space allowed for the delivery.
Because there may be many individuals and/or entities who played a role in a cargo loading or unloading accident, it is important to have legal counsel assist you in investigating your case and identifying the responsible parties as this can require considerable time and resources. Accidents with semi trucks caused by negligent loading/unloading are some of the cases injury lawyer Flora Templeton Stuart has handled for over forty years. Call our law firm at 888-782-9090 twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
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