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Why Safety Comes First: Injuries and Deaths Involving Flatbed Trailers 

Thursday, April 16th, 2020
truck safety

Safety is a common theme when it comes to the topic of flatbed trucks and the people who drive them as a living. And there’s a very good reason why “safety” is repeated so many times. There’s quite a bit that can go wrong with this type of cargo-bearing transportation, and it’s worth getting into exactly what can happen if safety isn’t a main focus. 


In an expert article from an attorney well-versed in the truck industry and its regulations, the numbers and details of injuries and fatalities directly related to flatbed trucks are discussed at length. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 63 deaths of workers between 1992 and 2003, all of whom died while loading and unloading construction equipment from flatbed trailers. 

Cargo as a hazard

The cargo that flatbed truckers haul is literally what brings in their paychecks. Deliver the cargo, and they can get paid. It’s almost ironic that the same cargo that they rely on for income is what can be so dangerous about the occupation. 

When dealing with heavy cargo such as pipes, lumber, machinery, construction equipment, and much much more, the danger to truckers sharply increases. This is because this type of load is large, unwieldy, and can take on a frightening momentum with just a slight shift. In order to handle these loads types safely, extensive training, skill, and experience is needed to ensure the safety of those loading and unloading the cargo. 

Common scenarios

There are several common scenarios seen with injuries and fatalities involving flatbed trucks and cargo. 

Struck by heavy equipment

If heavy cargo, like described earlier, is bumped or otherwise shifted while unsecured on the trailer, the worker is struck. Another typically seen scenario is when heavy equipment such as a crane or forklift will knock against the load, causing a sudden shift as cargo falls in the opposite direction on top of workers.

In either case, an investigation is conducted as per industry standard. All factors will be examined to evaluate the handling practices of those involved. Reviews will be held to determine if all individuals meet the standard for proper training, as well as to determine if there were any elements of negligence or being under the influence. 

Load instability

Similarly, load instability is also a frequent cause of injuries and fatalities for flatbed truckers. Even with the stringent safety regulations regarding the securing of loads, it is inevitable that cargo will shift or adjust while in transit. If such shifting has taken place, there is a certain degree of risk that comes when removing the secure straps from the cargo. If the conditions are right, the cargo may fall with such force that it may injure (at times, fatally so) any nearby workers.  

The trucker of a flatbed truck is the one responsible for securing his cargo, as outlined by federal regulations. The cargo should also be checked throughout transit at regular intervals to ensure the load is still securely in place and has not shifted. 

Climbing the truck bed

When a truck driver climbs onto a flatbed, they generally will do it in specific areas of a facility that have fall protection features. These areas are outlined by OSHA requirements in direct response to the frequent falls of flatbeds that result in injuries or death. The fall protections serve as a cushion that can save a trucker from an otherwise fatal injury, as flatbed heights typically reach 13 feet! 

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