On February 22, 2004, Maria Federici was blinded and nearly killed by a piece of particle board that flew out of a rented trailer, struck her windshield and hit her in the face.
The driver of the vehicle pulling the trailer had been moving all day, and failed to properly secure the particle board in the trailer.
At the time, there was no law addressing the consequences of poorly secured loads. The driver was merely cited for a traffic infraction and paid a small fine.
Because of her daughter’s life-changing injuries and the lack of laws protecting the general public from unsecured loads, Maria’s mother, Robin Abel, became an activist for safety laws and began a fight for new and tougher laws. In 2005, Washington legislators adopted what has been called “Maria’s Law” which criminalizes a person’s failure to properly secure a load that results in injury or death.
Now, Washington state law requires everyone to be responsible for having a secure load.
But there’s a loophole.
The commercial truck loophole in the “cover your load” law
Trucks with a carrying capacity of 8,500 gross pounds or more that are carrying gravel, sand, or dirt do not have to cover their loads as long as they maintain 6 inches of “freeboard.”
That means there has to be 6 inches of space from the top of the load to the top of the sides of the truck bed.
A Washington state house bill was introduced in 2013 that would have closed the loophole. But the bill never became law.
Now, Washington lawmaker Rep. Christine Kilduff is pushing for tougher “cover your load” laws.
She plans to introduce a new bill in 2020 to change state law after hearing from drivers tired of cracked windshields and damage to their vehicles.
“The problem is, if you’re hauling gravel, sand, or dirt you don’t have to cover your load…”
According to Rep. Kilduff, who spoke with Seattle’s KING5 News, “The problem is, if you’re hauling gravel, sand, or dirt you don’t have to cover your load”.
Many have shared their stories, in which they were just driving down the road when rocks or gravel flew off of a commercial truck and into their windshields.
While no personal injury occurred for these folks, debris flying off of heavy commercial trucks is a clear and serious danger.
Some commercial truck drivers and trucking companies will likely oppose this new law. They will claim it will increase their costs, and require more driver time.
But these arguments don’t actually support opposing this legislation.
A crash caused by flying and falling rocks or gravel has the potential to cause real harm.
Comparatively, a tarping system for heavy truck loads can be installed at minimal cost, and affixing the tarp will take very little time.
Avoiding even one serious injury or fatality claim should more than cover their tarping costs – and may save someone’s life.
I’m pleased to see that Washington State legislators are taking this safety issue seriously. I am looking forward to reading Rep. Kilduff’s update to the outdated “cover your load” law.
– Attorney Kevin Coluccio
This post was originally published on TruckingWatchdog.com, a trucking law and safety blog.
Is a truck crash an “accident” if it was predictable?
A truck driver hauls a heavy, giant load of uncovered rocks at 70 mph down I-5. One of those big rocks flies out of the back, and hits your car. Is that really an “accident”?
Most crashes are predictable, preventable collisions. Not “accidents.”