Oftentimes, those who see semi-trucks driving around Kern County cannot tell the difference between the various styles of heavy-duty commercial transport vehicles. Yet there are, and those differences can contribute to the risk large trucks present to the other vehicles on the road around them. For example, many may look at a transport trailer and think that they are all the same. However, some may be standard tractor trailers, while others are actually intermodal shipping containers that have simply been secured to a flat rack or skeleton chassis.
Why should this concern motorists? Intermodal containers are those colorful box-style units seen on cargo ships. The land portion of their journeys to their destinations is often completed by truck. The number of intermodal freight being delivered in the U.S. has increased dramatically in recent years, with the Federal Highway Administration reporting that the volume of such containers worldwide has doubled over the last decade.
The freight transported in intermodal containers is typically loaded by its owners, not the trucking companies. This may open up the door to violations of federal cargo weight limits and loading regulations. The FHWA reports that the maximum cargo weight load for single axle vehicles is 20,000 lbs. and 34,000 lbs. for tandem axle trucks, with an overall gross weight limit of 80,000 lbs. for all commercial transport vehicles. However, the freight in intermodal containers is often loaded internationally by companies that may not be familiar with such standards. Plus, such freight may be loaded with the stresses of sea travel in mind, with little thought given to how it may shift with the twists and turns of the open road.
If a truck accident is determined to be due to issues with intermodal freight, liability may rest with the shipping or trucking companies involved rather than the drivers.