Cargo & Its Impact on Pennsylvania Trucking Accidents

trucks on a highway

In the vast stretches of Pennsylvania roads, the large tractor-trailers and tanker trucks that rumble by are a testament to our economy's interconnectedness. However, as these massive vehicles transport goods, they also carry potential hazards. A truck's cargo can significantly influence the severity of a trucking accident, impacting not only the immediate victims but the wider community, traffic, and local infrastructure.

Consider a recent accident in Doylestown, where a propane truck tipped over near the intersection of Old Iron Hill Road and Ferry Road. Rescuers worked diligently to extract the driver, and hazmat teams were soon at the scene. Though the tanker wasn't leaking, the realization that it still contained a substantial amount of liquid propane—estimated between 1,800 and 2,000 gallons—led authorities to evacuate the entire neighborhood. The evacuation process, which lasted until the evening, is a sharp reminder of the large-scale disruptions that such accidents can impose on a community.

In another recent incident, Interstate 83 in Dauphin County painted a grim picture when a tractor-trailer carrying cooking oil was involved in a series of accidents. Though cooking oil might seem benign compared to propane, its spill over the interstate turned the road into a hazard zone. Subsequent accidents resulted, and the fallout was far-reaching: hours-long traffic delays, multiple crashes, and the tragic death of a 41-year-old man. Cleanup efforts took the better part of a day, a testament to how cargo can amplify an accident's after-effects. This ordeal demonstrated that even seemingly harmless cargo can have severe repercussions for road safety and traffic flow.

Types of Truck Cargo

18-wheelers, tanker trucks, and other large commercial vehicles transport a wide variety of cargo to support industries, economies, and daily life. The type of cargo they carry can range from relatively benign to highly hazardous.

Here's a list of some common types of cargo trucks may transport:

  • General Goods: These encompass everyday items like electronics, clothing and apparel, furniture, and both home and office supplies.
  • Food and Agricultural Products: This category includes fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables, packaged foods, as well as refrigerated or frozen goods like meats and dairy. Grains and raw agricultural produce also fall under this banner.
  • Liquids: Here we find milk, other dairy products, and a variety of beverages ranging from water and juice to sodas, wine, beer, and spirits.
  • Chemicals: Trucks often transport a range of chemicals, including industrial chemicals, fertilizers, cleaning agents, solvents, and pesticides.
  • Hazardous Materials: This category covers materials that pose particular risks. It includes flammable liquids such as gasoline and diesel, explosives, radioactive materials, corrosive substances, and other toxic or infectious agents.
  • Raw Materials: These are fundamental to many industries and include timber, logs, metal ores, scrap metal, coal, and other raw minerals.
  • Building and Construction Materials: Vital for infrastructure and housing, this category includes items like cement, concrete, bricks, tiles, as well as plumbing and electrical supplies. Construction equipment is also a key component here.
  • Petroleum Products: Beyond the crude oil foundational to this category, refined petroleum products like gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel are commonly transported, along with lubricants.
  • Vehicles: Not limited to just cars, trucks, or motorcycles, this category can also include heavy machinery and equipment transported on specialized auto carriers.
  • Livestock: Livestock transportation includes a range of animals such as cattle, poultry, pigs, and sheep.
  • Specialized Goods: Some goods have specific transportation needs. This category includes medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, high-value items like artwork or luxury goods, and temperature-sensitive items requiring specialized containers.
  • Miscellaneous: Some cargo doesn't fit neatly into other categories. This might encompass waste, recyclables, landscaping materials like mulch or gravel, or liquid/dry bulk items in tanker trucks, such as grain or liquid sugar.

The variety of goods transported by large trucks is immense. Depending on the type of cargo, certain regulations and safety precautions must be adhered to, especially when transporting hazardous materials.

The Broad Impact on Pennsylvania's Communities

The recent incidents involving the propane truck and truck carrying cooking oil are emblematic of the multi-faceted dangers truck accidents pose, especially in Pennsylvania where the network of highways facilitates a heavy flow of commercial trucks. The cargo, depending on its nature, can turn a bad situation dire. Communities face potential evacuations, environmental hazards, property damage, and significant alterations to daily life. Moreover, for drivers, these incidents underline the unpredictability of the road and the need for heightened awareness, especially around cargo trucks.

Imagine a truck carrying hazardous or flammable materials, such as the propane truck that overturned in Doylestown. A collision could unleash fires, explosions, or even a cloud of toxic fumes. While drivers nearby and pedestrians face the immediate threat of injury or even death, there's also a lurking danger of long-term health risks due to exposure. For the truck driver, exposure and harm from the collision itself are both very real possibilities. Communities could find themselves grappling with the aftermath for days, if not longer. Large-scale evacuations, local business disruptions, and prolonged environmental repercussions could arise, especially if a major toxin contaminates the locale.

Now, let’s consider trucks transporting liquid cargo, such as milk or oil. A spillage during an accident might seem harmless initially, but that very spill can turn the road into a treacherous, slippery surface, instigating further accidents—such as the collisions on Interstate 83. Moreover, these spills might find their way into local waterways, posing an ecological threat.

The danger profile changes when we think about trucks laden with heavy or oversized goods. In the chaos of a collision, these bulky items can become deadly projectiles. Moreover, for the trucker, there's always the risk of the truck tipping over due to the sheer weight and imbalance, especially if the goods shift suddenly. There's also the matter of trucks ferrying. Sharp objects, like nails, can puncture tires, or worse, cause direct harm to those involved in the crash. And for trucks transporting other vehicles, a crash could result in these cars being dislodged, potentially causing further damage.

Contact a Pennsylvania Truck Accident Attorney

While any truck accident is a cause for concern, the nature of its cargo can dramatically shape the aftermath. From immediate physical threats to long-term environmental impacts, the ripple effects of such incidents extend far beyond the immediate crash site.

At Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC, we are deeply committed to the safety and well-being of Pennsylvanians. With considerable experience representing victims of trucking accidents, we stand ready to assist those impacted, working towards a future where our roads are safer for all. For 100 years, we have fought for those who have been injured through no fault of their own. We represent drivers, passengers, and truckers across Pennsylvania.

Call (888) 498-3023 today to learn how we can help you.

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