MOUNT VERNON — It can be a familiar scenario. You are driving down the road and the truck in front of you is carrying an oversized load of items. Maybe it’s furniture, garbage bags, trash of various sorts or even yard waste. You think to yourself, “I hope that stuff is tied down good.”
Improperly secured loads can be a very real danger and there are very specific laws and rules regarding transporting loads of these sorts.
The Ohio revised code section 4513.31 covers these situations. It states, “No vehicle shall be driven on any highway unless the vehicle is so constructed, loaded or covered as to prevent any of its load from dropping, shifting, leaking or otherwise escaping therefrom.”
It makes an exception for sand, water or other substance designed to be dropped from the vehicle for the purpose of providing traction or cleaning or maintaining the roadway.
It also provides that any kind of a load susceptible to blowing or bouncing out of any moving vehicle being driven on a highway needs to be covered in a manner that will prevent that from happening. This can apply to things like sand, gravel or road salt being transported from one location to another and not being applied to the roadway at that particular time.
The Mount Vernon Police Department only has occasional contact with the problem of improperly secured loads.
“Although we have jurisdiction over anything that happens inside the city limits, with us it’s mostly reactive,” said Capt. George Hartz of the MVPD. “Usually someone calls us to report some gravel was spilled on the street or maybe a bag of garbage in the road.”
A database search by Hartz turned up no citations for an unsecured load since Jan. 1. He did explain that did not necessarily mean no one was stopped or cited, just that nothing was primarily categorized as a secure load violation.
According to Knox County Sheriff David Barber, traffic enforcement is not the priority of the sheriff’s office.
“If we do get a complaint about dumping or an unsecured load, we do respond to those kinds of complaints,” he said. “There might be garbage that falls off of a truck and we will have the guys go through it and look for something with a name on it. If we find a name then we follow up and the person might be charged with an unsecured load. Unfortunately, most of the time there is no name, or it’s yard waste, and we can’t really do anything about that.”
The Ohio State Highway Patrol has more connection with this problem, but even so, it is not a huge issue for them, according to Lt. Chad McGinty post commander for the Mount Gilead Highway Patrol Post.
“I couldn’t find any statistics [about unsecured loads],” McGinty said. “We get calls from people on the Interstate more than anything. It might be something like a rental truck and the back door, which is usually spring loaded, had rolled up. I just got a call about three weeks ago where there was a dolly inside one of these trucks and the back door had rolled up. They were afraid the dolly would roll out the back. He had it strapped down but things like that can become an issue. A truck driver can be in a hurry and not secure the door properly. We get calls about fluid leaking from a vehicle. Aside from an unsecured load, that can be the more dangerous because you don’t know if it’s hazardous.”
McGinty said what the patrol mostly sees is things like cushions or boxes that have fallen off a vehicle. Those things, he said, usually wind up on the berm. However, he did point out motorists hauling a boat, or some other craft or vehicle, can cause problems if every thing is not tied down or secured.
“You hit a bump, and things like cushions or other loose items in a boat or whatever, and they will fall out,” he said. “Wind can also be a problem blowing loose things out of a boat.”
Wind can be a problem even if a load seems tightly secured. He used the example of someone moving their possessions from one residence to another in a smaller vehicle such as a pickup truck.
“People don’t realize wind can be a problem even with a load that seems secure,” he said. “Once you get moving, the wind can pick those things up. If you have some cardboard boxes the wind can pull those flaps open in time and it can start throwing stuff out. Probably the best thing to do with any load like that is to tarp it. Of course, you have to make sure the tarp is well secured so it doesn’t start flapping around. You might not think about it but the wind can pop open these boxes and pretty soon all your cups or whatever are lying in the roadway.
“And there’s one other thing that people sometimes forget. If a load, sticks out more than four feet from the bed or sides of the truck there needs to be a red flag tied to it,” he said.
McGinty said unsecured loads do not usually present a big problem but that an improperly secured load has the potential to cause serious harm.