Local News

Despite Law, Many Dump Trucks Do Not Secure Loads

Posted July 28, 2005 7:05 a.m. EDT

— The death of an Apex woman last week is making dump truck drivers more cautious about securing their trucks' loads, the North Carolina Highway Patrol says.

Ana Larson died last week after a 5-pound rock crashed into her windshield as she was driving in Morrisville. One week later, the Highway Patrol is still trying to figure out where that rock came from and whether it fell from a truck.

"I think it's really dangerous," said Jenni Elion, who drives from North Raleigh to work in Research Triangle Park every weekday.

By law, any load within six inches of the top of a truck bed must be covered with a tarp. The fine for not having a cover can be anywhere from $125 to $200.

But not everyone follows the rules.

"I was really surprised that there was a law requiring them to cover their loads because I never see it," Elion said.

Lt. Everett Clendenin, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol, said the law enforcement agency receives complaints every day about vehicles on the highway traveling with materials falling off the back.

"We want to know about it, so we can get them stopped," Clendenin said. "We don't want to have another situation like we had the other day."

The Motor Carrier Enforcement Division of the Highway Patrol routinely stops and checks dump trucks.

Since Larson's accident, the Highway Patrol has noticed a change in how trucks secure their loads, but admits it is hard to report violators.

Because they tend to get dirty and hard to read, state law allows these trucks to have their license plates on the front, instead of on the back. The result -- drivers behind the trucks cannot identify them.

"So, it's not like you can report them, even if you did see something happen," Elion said.

The Highway Patrol's advice is to simply stay away from them on the road.

Authorities also say that motorists who are hit by falling rocks while driving should always file a police report. Even though signs and notices on some trucks claim the driver is not responsible for damage, authorities say they are. Proving a truck driver caused the damage, however can be difficult.