oversight

Highway Safety: Federal and State Efforts Related to Accidents That Involve Non-Commercial Vehicles Carrying Unsecured Loads

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-11-15.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                United States Government Accountability Office

GAO             Report to Congressional Committees




                HIGHWAY SAFETY
November 2012




                Federal and State
                Efforts Related to
                Accidents That
                Involve Non-
                Commercial Vehicles
                Carrying Unsecured
                Loads




GAO-13-24
                                             November 2012


                                             HIGHWAY SAFETY
                                             Federal and State Efforts Related to Accidents That
                                             Involve Non-Commercial Vehicles Carrying
Highlights of GAO-13-24, a report to
                                             Unsecured Loads
congressional committees




Why GAO Did This Study                       What GAO Found
Vehicles carrying objects that are not       The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) collects limited
properly secured pose a safety risk on       information on crashes involving vehicles carrying unsecured loads but plans to
our nation's roadways. Debris that falls     make changes to collect better information. Currently, NHTSA collects some data
from a vehicle can collide with other        in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the National Automotive Sampling
vehicles or pedestrians, causing             System General Estimates System. However, the systems do not currently have
serious injuries or fatalities. According    a data category to distinguish between debris resulting from natural sources
to data collected by NHTSA, there            (such as a tree branch) and debris resulting from human error (such as an
were about 440 fatalities caused by          unsecured load). As a result, NHTSA cannot currently identify how many crashes
roadway debris in 2010. However, the         involve vehicles carrying unsecured loads. NHTSA intends to make changes to
exact number of incidents resulting          both its systems to better identify crashes involving unsecured loads. These
from vehicles carrying unsecured loads       changes will go into effect in 2013. However, NHTSA may still face challenges
is unknown.                                  collecting this data because 1) law enforcement officials face difficulties in
Congress, through the Conference             determining whether a crash involved an unsecured load and 2) states do not
Report for the Consolidated and              collect uniform data on unsecured loads in their police crash reports. NHTSA
Further Continuing Appropriations Act,       officials stated that they would likely recommend changes to the Model Minimum
(2012), directed NHTSA to improve its        Uniform Crash Criteria (MMUCC)—voluntary guidelines intended to create
data on unsecured-load incidents and         uniform data in police crash reports; however, the revised guidelines will not be
directed GAO to report on state laws         released until 2017 because of MMUCC’s 5-year cycle of updates. NHTSA
and related exemptions, and punitive         officials acknowledged that even with the changes in its data systems, data
measures regarding unsecured loads           improvements will take time to implement and data on unsecured-load crashes
on non-commercial vehicles, such as          will likely continue to be imprecise.
cars and light trucks used for non-
commercial purposes. This report             Example of an Unsecured Load on a Non-Commercial Vehicle
examines NHTSA’s data collection
efforts as well as states’ laws related to
unsecured loads. GAO reviewed
NHTSA documents and interviewed
officials from NHTSA, as well as
representatives of highway safety
associations and state police agencies.
GAO also conducted a survey of all 50
states and the District of Columbia,
with a response rate of 100 percent,
and researched the laws, punitive
measures, and education efforts in
each state.
GAO provided a draft of this report to
NHTSA for review and comment.
NHTSA provided technical comments            All 50 states and the District of Columbia have statutes regarding unsecured
that were incorporated, as appropriate.      loads that pertain to non-commercial and commercial vehicles. A majority of
                                             states and the District of Columbia reported exempting vehicles from unsecured
                                             load statutes for primarily commercial activities such as roadway maintenance or
                                             agriculture activities, while 9 states have statutes that apply to all vehicles. All 50
                                             states and the District of Columbia reported having fines or penalties for violating
                                             unsecured load statutes ranging from $10 to $5,000; fifteen states add the
View GAO-13-24. For more information,        possibility of imprisonment. Ten states also reported having a safety or education
contact Susan Fleming at (202) 512-2834 or   program related to unsecured loads.
FlemingS@gao.gov.

                                                                                       United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                  1
               Background                                                               4
               NHTSA’s Changes to Its Collection of Data on Unsecured Loads
                  Will Take Time to Implement                                           6
               All 50 States and the District of Columbia Have Laws That Pertain
                  to Non-Commercial Unsecured Loads, but Exemptions, Fines,
                  and Penalties Vary                                                   13
               Agency Comments                                                         17

Appendix I     Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                     18



Appendix II    Survey Questions                                                       21



Appendix III   Current FARS and NASS GES Data Category Definitions and
               Planned 2013 Changes                                                   23



Appendix IV    Non-Commercial Unsecured-Load Laws, Exemptions, and
               Fines or Penalties or Both                                             25



Appendix V     “Secure Your Load” Educational Materials for
               Non-Commercial Vehicles                                                30



Appendix VI    GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                  33



Table
               Table 1: Description of NHTSA’s Data Collection Systems                  8


Figures
               Figure 1: Example of Non-Commercial Vehicle Carrying an
                        Unsecured Load                                                  5



               Page i                                            GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
Figure 2: Obvious Unsecured-Load Crash and a Crash That Is
         Difficult to Identify as an Unsecured-Load Crash                                 11
Figure 3: State Statutes That Provide Exemptions for Unsecured-
         Load Laws, 2012                                                                  14
Figure 4: State Punitive Measures for Violating Unsecured-Load
         Laws, 2012                                                                       16
Figure 5: North Carolina Department of Transportation                                     30
Figure 6: Washington State Department of Ecology                                          31
Figure 7: Washington State Department of Licensing                                        32




Abbreviations

FARS              Fatality Analysis Reporting System
FMCSA             Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
MMUCC             Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria
NASS GES          National Automotive Sampling System General Estimates
                  System
NHTSA             National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


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Page ii                                                       GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548



                                   November 15, 2012

                                   The Honorable Patty Murray
                                   Chairman
                                   The Honorable Susan Collins
                                   Ranking Member
                                   Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing
                                      and Urban Development and Related Agencies
                                   Committee on Appropriations
                                   United States Senate

                                   The Honorable Tom Latham
                                   Chairman
                                   The Honorable John Olver
                                   Ranking Member
                                   Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing
                                     and Urban Development and Related Agencies
                                   Committee on Appropriations
                                   House of Representatives

                                   Non-commercial vehicles 1 carrying objects that are not properly secured
                                   pose a safety risk on our nation’s roadways. Debris from a vehicle’s
                                   unsecured load can collide with other vehicles, or pedestrians alongside
                                   roads, causing serious injuries or fatalities. In addition, this type of debris
                                   can be a hazard on the road that can result in a crash as drivers swerve
                                   to avoid it. Over the last 10 years, several serious crashes involving non-
                                   commercial vehicles carrying unsecured loads 2 have highlighted the
                                   safety risks associated with this practice. For example, in February 2004,
                                   a driver in Renton, Washington, was critically injured when an




                                   1
                                    For the purposes of our analysis, non-commercial vehicles include passenger vehicles
                                   (cars or light trucks) used for non-commercial purposes. Light trucks are trucks of 10,000
                                   pounds gross vehicle-weight rating or less, including pickups, vans, truck-based station
                                   wagons, and utility vehicles.
                                   2
                                    The definition of an unsecured load varies across states but generally includes cargo in
                                   transit that is not properly restrained, tied down, or secured with tarps, nets, or ropes to
                                   reasonably prevent a portion from falling off. Cargo can include personal property or
                                   objects on the vehicle or attached to a trailer. Open trailers can be obtained from personal
                                   or commercial sources, such as U-Haul. For the purposes of this report, “unsecured load”
                                   includes cargo that is either not secured or improperly secured.




                                   Page 1                                                         GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
entertainment center fell from the back of a trailer being pulled by a
vehicle in front of her. In November 2011, a woman was killed in Beverly,
West Virginia, when unsecured contents fell off a trailer being hauled by a
non-commercial vehicle and went through her windshield. More recently,
in April 2012, a pedestrian in North Naples, Florida, sustained a fractured
skull and spinal injuries when a mattress and metal frame fell off a non-
commercial vehicle and struck the victim.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
data, in 2010, there were about 51,000 crashes—including almost 10,000
injured persons and 440 known fatalities—involving a vehicle striking an
object that came off of another vehicle or a non-fixed object lying in the
roadway. However, the exact number of crashes involving non-
commercial vehicles carrying unsecured loads is unknown, in part
because there is no mechanism for distinguishing road obstructions
resulting from human error, such as an unsecured load, and those
involving natural elements such as a fallen tree. Moreover, while the
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates securing
cargo on commercial vehicles, similar federal regulations for non-
commercial vehicles do not exist. 3 States determine what laws, if any, to
apply to securing cargo on non-commercial vehicles.

In response to these issues, the Conference Report accompanying the
Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2012, directed
NHTSA to collect and classify data resulting from crashes involving road
debris in a manner that would distinguish road obstructions resulting from
human error from those involving natural elements. Further, the
Conference Report also directed GAO to report on the various state laws,
associated penalties, exemptions, and enforcement actions regarding
unsecured loads. 4 In response to this congressional direction, this report
examines (1) efforts NHTSA has undertaken to monitor crashes involving
vehicles 5 carrying unsecured loads and (2) existing state laws,




3
 The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s cargo securement rules apply to all
cargo-carrying commercial motor vehicles.49 C.F.R. § 393.100 et seq.
4
 H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 112-284, at 300 (2011) accompanying the Consolidated and Further
Continuing Appropriations Act of 2012, Pub. L. No.112- 55, 125 Stat. 552.
5
 NHTSA collects data on crashes involving both non-commercial and commercial
vehicles.




Page 2                                                       GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
exemptions, and punitive measures regarding non-commercial vehicles
carrying unsecured loads.

To identify efforts NHTSA has undertaken to monitor crashes involving
vehicles carrying unsecured loads, we obtained documents from and
conducted interviews with NHTSA officials to obtain information on the
agency’s current policies, procedures, and practices for monitoring
crashes involving vehicles carrying unsecured loads. Specifically, we
obtained information about what data on unsecured loads NHTSA
currently collects; how NHTSA coordinates with state agencies on its data
collection efforts; actions NHTSA has taken or plans to take to improve its
data collection processes in response to congressional direction; and
challenges, if any, that NHTSA faces in improving its data on vehicles
carrying unsecured loads. In addition, we conducted a literature search to
identify and review relevant studies, reports, and available data on
crashes involving vehicles carrying unsecured loads and to gain a better
understanding of the magnitude of the problem of vehicles carrying
unsecured loads. Finally, we analyzed NHTSA’s crash data from the
Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the National Automotive
Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates System (GES) to identify
the number of crashes from 2005 through 2010 in which a vehicle struck
falling or shifting cargo or an object lying in the roadway. Based on our
interviews with NHTSA officials and our review of NHTSA’s policies and
procedures for maintaining the data and verifying their accuracy, we
determined that these data were sufficiently reliable for the purposes of
our report.

To identify existing state laws, exemptions, and punitive measures
regarding non-commercial vehicles carrying unsecured loads, we
conducted a literature review of and legal research on state laws,
penalties, and exemptions regarding properly securing loads on non-
commercial vehicles. In addition, we conducted a survey of all 50 states
and the District of Columbia to supplement, verify, and corroborate data
obtained from our legal research and to obtain additional information on
penalties, enforcement actions, and education and prevention efforts in
each state. We received completed surveys from 51 respondents for a
response rate of 100 percent. In addition, we conducted interviews with
state police officials in 7 states to collect information on enforcement
actions and education and prevention efforts related to properly securing
loads carried by non-commercial vehicles. We selected states that (1)
were geographically diverse, (2) were of varying sizes, and (3) have
varying types of laws related to non-commercial vehicles carrying
unsecured loads. We also conducted interviews with associations and


Page 3                                             GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
             individuals active in highway safety issues to obtain additional information
             on issues related to unsecured loads and efforts by states to deal with
             these issues. Interviewees included the American Automobile Association
             Foundation for Traffic Safety and one of the co-authors of a 2004 study
             for this foundation examining the safety impacts of vehicle-related road
             debris; the Governors Highway Safety Association; and the
             Transportation Cargo Safety Organization. 6

             We conducted this performance audit from March 2012 to November
             2012 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing
             standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to
             obtain sufficient and appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis
             for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We
             believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our
             findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. Further details on
             our scope and methodology can be found in appendix I and the survey is
             reproduced in appendix II.


             Unsecured cargo or other debris falling from a moving vehicle can pose a
Background   serious hazard to other motorists and can lead to property damage,
             injuries, or fatalities (see fig. 1). Examples of unsecured-load debris that
             often ends up on roadways include objects such as mattresses or box
             springs, ladders, and furniture items.




             6
              American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety, The Safety Impact of
             Vehicle-Related Road Debris, (Washington, D.C.: June 2004).




             Page 4                                                      GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
Figure 1: Example of Non-Commercial Vehicle Carrying an Unsecured Load




NHTSA’s mission is to prevent motor vehicle crashes and reduce injuries,
fatalities, and economic losses associated with these crashes. To carry
out this mission, the agency conducts a range of activities, including
setting vehicle safety standards; conducting research on a variety of
safety issues; administering grant programs authorized by Congress;
providing guidance and other assistance to states to help them address
key safety issues, such as drunken driving and distracted driving; and



Page 5                                               GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
                         collecting and analyzing data on crashes. NHTSA analyzes crash data to
                         determine the extent of a problem and to determine what steps it should
                         take to develop countermeasures. Regarding unsecured loads, NHTSA
                         collects some data regarding whether a crash involved an unsecured
                         load.

                         Determining the number of crashes involving unsecured loads can be a
                         challenge because data are limited. NHTSA does track the number of
                         crashes involving road debris. However, as mentioned previously, these
                         data include all types of road debris, including debris resulting from
                         human error (e.g., unsecured load) and debris that is from natural
                         elements (e.g., a fallen tree branch). Based on available NHTSA data,
                         such crashes comprise a small percentage of total police-reported
                         crashes. For example, in 2010, out of a total of about 5,419,000 crashes,
                         about 1 percent— 51,000 crashes—involved a vehicle striking an object
                         that came off another vehicle or a non-fixed object lying in the roadway.
                         Of these 51,000 crashes, there were almost 10,000 people injured and
                         440 fatalities—about 1 percent of the total number of fatalities from motor
                         vehicle crashes in that year (32,855).

                         States determine what laws, if any, to apply to non-commercial vehicles
                         carrying unsecured loads and whether to develop prevention programs
                         geared towards reducing crashes of non-commercial vehicles carrying
                         unsecured loads. State and local law enforcement agencies are
                         responsible for enforcing these laws.


                         While NHTSA currently collects limited information on crashes involving
NHTSA’s Changes to       unsecured loads, the agency intends to make changes to its data
Its Collection of Data   systems to follow Congress’s direction to distinguish road obstructions
                         resulting from human error from those involving natural elements.
on Unsecured Loads       NHTSA’s changes to its data systems will allow the agency to better track
Will Take Time to        crashes involving unsecured loads, but NHTSA will still face challenges
                         with collecting this information because the determination as to whether a
Implement                crash involved an unsecured load is made by state law enforcement
                         officials and can be difficult to make. Further, there are some limitations
                         with respect to the state data collected in police crash reports, and data
                         improvements will take time to implement.




                         Page 6                                              GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
NHTSA Plans to Collect     NHTSA collects data on crashes and fatalities that may involve both
Better Data on Unsecured   commercial and non-commercial vehicles carrying unsecured loads in two
                           data systems—FARS and NASS GES. (see table 1). 7 The FARS provides
Loads in Response to
                           a census of police-reported traffic crashes nationwide in which at least
Congressional Direction    one fatality occurred. The NASS GES provides national estimates of
                           crash statistics based on a sample of police-reported crashes. 8 For both
                           data systems, police crash reports, which are unique to each state, are a
                           key source of data. NHTSA gathers this information from states and
                           recodes it into a uniform format.




                           7
                            NHTSA also collects data on incidents involving unsecured loads in its investigation
                           based data systems which include the National Automotive Sampling System
                           Crashworthiness Data System, National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Surveys, Special
                           Crash Investigations, and Crash Injury Research and Engineering Network systems.
                           These systems currently have data elements to identify and collect detailed data on
                           unsecured loads; however incidents involving unsecured loads do not appear in these
                           systems with sufficient frequency to allow NHTSA to make a national estimate based on
                           them.
                           8
                            For a crash to be eligible for the GES sample a police crash report must be completed
                           and it must involve an crash with a motor vehicle resulting in property damage, injury, or
                           death.




                           Page 7                                                         GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
Table 1: Description of NHTSA’s Data Collection Systems

Data system Description                                      Data source                             Data collection method
FARS          The FARS provides data on fatal traffic        Data are obtained from state and        Data for FARS are collected on a
              crashes based on a census of the traffic       local police crash reports, state       voluntary basis through cooperative
              crashes in which at least one fatality         vehicle registration files, state       agreements between NHTSA and
              occurred. To be included in a FARS, a          driver-licensing files, State Highway   each of the 50 states, the District of
              crash must involve a motor vehicle             Department data, vital statistics,      Columbia, and Puerto Rico. On
              traveling on a facility customarily open to    death certificates, coroner/medical     average police crash reports are
              the public and must result in the death of     examiner reports, and emergency         obtained from approximately 9,900 of
              an occupant of a vehicle or a non-             medical service reports.                the 17,000 police jurisdictions in the
              motorist within 30 days of the crash.                                                  United States.
NASS GES      NASS GES provides national estimates           Data are obtained from state and        About 50,000 police crash reports are
              of crash and injury statistics based on a      local police crash reports.             randomly selected each year from 410
              nationally representative, random                                                      police jurisdictions in 60 sites across
              sample of all types of police-reported                                                 the United States.
              motor vehicle traffic crashes.
                                            Source: NHTSA information.


                                            Currently, there are three data categories in these systems that track data
                                            on crashes involving road debris. However, as noted previously, these
                                            data categories do not currently distinguish between different types of
                                            roadway debris (i.e., debris resulting from natural/environmental sources
                                            versus debris resulting from human error). As a result, NHTSA cannot
                                            currently identify how many crashes involve vehicles carrying unsecured
                                            loads.

                                            In response to the congressional direction to improve its data on
                                            unsecured-load crashes, NHTSA officials stated that they are currently
                                            making changes to the FARS and the NASS GES to collect better
                                            information and better track crashes involving unsecured loads.
                                            Specifically, NHTSA has developed changes to both systems to (1) revise
                                            two existing data categories on road debris and (2) add two new data
                                            categories. The revised and new categories will provide more specific
                                            information on unsecured-load crashes. (See appendix III for current
                                            FARS and NASS GES data category definitions and planned 2013
                                            changes.) For example, NHTSA will now be able to distinguish between
                                            the following two types of crash scenarios that involve an object being set
                                            in motion by one vehicle and striking another vehicle, a person, or
                                            property, causing injury or damage:

                                            •     Cargo, such as a mattress, being transported by one motor vehicle
                                                  becomes dislodged and strikes another vehicle, a person, or property.




                                            Page 8                                                              GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
•   An object in the road, such as a tree branch, is struck by a motor
    vehicle and then strikes another vehicle, a person, or property.

NHTSA will also be able to distinguish between two types of crash
scenarios that involve a vehicle striking an object already in the road
(without striking another vehicle, a person, or property):

•   A motor vehicle strikes a non-fixed object already at rest in the
    roadway, such as a mattress, and the object is known to have been
    cargo from an unsecured load.

•   A motor vehicle strikes a non-fixed object already at rest in the
    roadway, such as a tree branch, and the object is known to have not
    come from a motor vehicle, or it is unknown if it came from a motor
    vehicle.

NHTSA officials stated that they intend to analyze this data in the future to
determine whether actions are needed to address this problem. They
explained that in deciding when to take actions regarding a traffic safety
issue, NHTSA first tries to determine the extent of the problem by looking
at counts or trends. The agency then may conduct research to better
understand the problem and work toward developing countermeasures. 9

According to NHTSA officials, these changes will be effective in the FARS
and NASS GES during the 2013 data collection year, which begins
January 2013. To implement these changes, NHTSA plans to develop a
2013 coding manual between mid-August 2012 and December 5, 2012,
and develop data-entry specifications by November 2012. NHTSA
officials stated that they plan to train FARS analysts at the state level and
NASS GES data coders on how to use the new and revised data
elements in early December 2012. Public users will first have access to
the 2013 data in 2014 after data collection and quality control checks are
completed.




9
 NHTSA also intends to use data in its investigative data systems to aid in the
development of countermeasures.




Page 9                                                         GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
Identifying Unsecured-           While NHTSA’s changes to the FARS and NASS GES data systems will
Load Crashes Can Be              allow the agency to better track crashes involving unsecured loads, it still
Difficult, and Data              faces challenges collecting data on these crashes. Two primary factors
                                 affect NHTSA’s ability to collect this information: (1) law enforcement
Improvements Will Take           officials face difficulties in determining whether a crash involved an
Some Time to Implement           unsecured load and (2) states do not collect uniform data on unsecured
                                 loads in their police crash reports. Even with the changes that NHTSA is
                                 making in its data collection processes and procedures, the resulting data
                                 will be imprecise because it relies on state reporting of crashes and data
                                 improvements will take time to implement as acknowledged by NHTSA.
                                 NHTSA officials stated that they will make every effort to capture the data
                                 available in the source documents to provide the most accurate
                                 assessment of this safety issue.

Law Enforcement Officials        Even though NHTSA is improving its data systems, determining whether
Face Difficulties Determining    a crash is a result of an unsecured load will remain a challenge. Several
Whether a Crash Is a Result of   law enforcement officials we spoke with indicated that classifying a crash
an Unsecured Load                involving an unsecured load is difficult in some cases, because it is
                                 unclear whether the object on the road was as a result of an unsecured
                                 load or another factor. One law enforcement official explained that if an
                                 object falls from a moving vehicle and immediately hits a vehicle or a
                                 person, the crash is generally classified as an unsecured-load crash.
                                 However, if an object falls from a moving vehicle onto the road and
                                 remains on the road for some time before another vehicle subsequently
                                 strikes the object, then the crash will generally not be classified as an
                                 unsecured-load crash unless there is a witness available to report that the
                                 object originally fell off of another vehicle (see fig. 2). The official
                                 explained that identifying the first incident as an unsecured-load crash is
                                 generally easier because of a higher likelihood of witnesses at the scene
                                 who saw the crash occur and saw the unsecured-load fall from the
                                 vehicle. In the second scenario, where debris remains on the road for
                                 some time, there may be no information to explain how the object on the
                                 road ended up there. According to this official, it is up to the reporting
                                 officer to determine how to classify or describe the crash in the police
                                 report. Under NHTSA’s planned data system changes, the agency will be
                                 able to specify in their data systems crashes that involve unsecured loads
                                 if all pertinent information is available to the reporting officer. However, if
                                 the incident is not identified by the reporting officer as an unsecured-load
                                 crash in the first place, it may not be flagged as such in NHTSA’s data
                                 systems. NHTSA officials acknowledged that it can be difficult in some
                                 cases to determine if something in the road fell off a vehicle if there is no
                                 evidence available.



                                 Page 10                                               GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
Figure 2: Obvious Unsecured-Load Crash and a Crash That Is Difficult to Identify as an Unsecured-Load Crash




Data Are Inconsistent                   States do not uniformly define and report data on unsecured loads in
                                        police crash reports. NHTSA uses information from police crash reports to
                                        determine whether a crash is an unsecured-load incident or another type
                                        of incident. Some state crash reports contain a field where officers can
                                        check off a box indicating whether “unsecured loads” were a contributing
                                        factor in a crash while others rely on the officer to explain in the narrative
                                        section of the report whether the incident involving an unsecured load or
                                        other factor. NHTSA uses information from both sections of the report in
                                        developing their data. However, in some cases, information about
                                        whether a crash involved an unsecured load may not be included in the
                                        narrative portion of the police reports. According to NHTSA officials,
                                        reports on fatal crashes are more likely to have this information; however,
                                        the level of information that is included in the narrative report could vary
                                        from officer to officer. If a police crash report does not contain information
                                        indicating that a crash involved an unsecured load, then NHTSA cannot
                                        classify the crash as such.

                                        On a voluntary basis, most states have begun collecting a similar
                                        minimum core of information in their police crash reports. These core
                                        elements are outlined in the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria
                                        (MMUCC), voluntary guidelines for the implementation of uniform crash




                                        Page 11                                                 GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
data elements. 10 According to NHTSA officials, most states follow these
guidelines to varying degrees. One avenue for ensuring that all states
collect consistent information on unsecured loads in their police crash
reports would be to include unsecured-load data as a core data element
in the next edition of the guidelines. NHTSA does not have independent
authority to seek changes in state police reports; however, NHTSA
officials stated that they will likely recommend changes to MMUCC
guidelines. In order for a new data element to be added, it must be
approved by the MMUCC Expert Panel, which includes representatives
from NHTSA, FMCSA, the Federal Highway Administration, the National
Transportation Safety Board, the Governors Highway Safety Association,
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Ford Motor Company, Emergency
Medical System agencies, and local and state police agencies.
Recommended changes to the guidelines can be submitted by any
agency represented on the MMUCC expert panel.

Any changes to the guidelines cannot be made for quite some time as
MMUCC operates on a 5-year cycle. MMUCC released its revised
guidelines in July 2012, and the next update is not expected until 2017.
NHTSA officials explained that they would be unable to recommend
changes to the guidelines until 2016, when MMUCC begins the process
updating the guidelines. If changes are made to the guidelines, these
changes would not go into effect until after 2017. NHTSA officials also
noted that making changes to police crash reports in response to
changes in the guidelines can take from 12 to 18 months. Some police
agencies now use electronic police crash reports, and as a result,
changes to the police crash reports could require information technology
infrastructure investments to update their electronic systems. Moreover,
additional training of police officers regarding how to use the new data
elements would be required. NHTSA officials stated that in the interim,
state FARS analysts and NASS GES data coders will communicate to law
enforcement officials that information on unsecured-load crashes should
be included in the narrative portion of police crash reports.




10
  MMUCC was originally developed in response to requests by states interested in
improving and standardizing their state crash data. Lack of uniform reporting made the
sharing and comparison of state crash data difficult. Since it was first published in 1998,
the MMUCC guidelines have become the standard most used by states in developing and
revising their police crash reports.




Page 12                                                       GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
                            All fifty states and the District of Columbia have statutes regarding
All 50 States and the       unsecured loads that pertain to non-commercial vehicles. While nine
District of Columbia        states reported having no exemptions related to their statute, a majority of
                            states and the District of Columbia reported exempting vehicles from
Have Laws That              unsecured-load statutes most commonly for roadway maintenance or
Pertain to Non-             agriculture activities, but these exemptions are primarily related to
                            commercial activities. All fifty states and the District of Columbia reported
Commercial                  having fines or penalties for violating unsecured-load statutes ranging
Unsecured Loads, but        from $10 to $5,000; fifteen of these states add the possibility of
                            imprisonment. (See appendix IV for summary of all fifty states and the
Exemptions, Fines,          District of Columbia’s laws, exemptions, and penalties/fines.) Ten states
and Penalties Vary          reported having a safety or education program related to unsecured
                            loads.


All States Have Laws        All fifty states and the District of Columbia have statutes regarding
Pertaining to Commercial    unsecured loads that pertain to non-commercial vehicles. While the
Unsecured Loads That also   statutes vary widely, many use a common construction similar to: “No
                            vehicle shall be driven or moved on any highway unless such vehicle is
Apply to Non-Commercial     so constructed or loaded as to prevent any of its load from dropping,
Vehicles, but Certain       shifting, leaking, or otherwise escaping there from,” a statement that is
Commercial Activities Are   oftentimes followed by exemptions as discussed below. However, a few
Frequently Exempted         states such as Mississippi have short statutes that contain a shortened
                            form of this common language. 11 Other states such as Oklahoma set forth
                            more specific instructions in the statute directing, for example, the
                            covering of loads to be “securely fastened so as to prevent said covering
                            or load from becoming loose, detached or in any manner a hazard to
                            other users of the highway.” 12

                            The state statutes on unsecured loads differ more frequently in their
                            description of exemptions. According to our survey, 41 states and the
                            District of Columbia have exemptions from unsecured-load laws in their
                            statutes (see fig. 3). These exemptions most commonly applied to
                            roadwork and agriculture. For example, the most common roadway
                            exemption includes “vehicles applying salt or sand to gain traction” or
                            “vehicles dropping water for cleaning or maintaining the highway.”
                            Exemptions for commercial activities range from general wording such as


                            11
                             Miss. Code Ann. §63-5-55.
                            12
                             47 Okl. St. § 14-105.




                            Page 13                                              GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
                                        “applies to all motor vehicles except those carrying agricultural loads,” to
                                        industry-specific exemptions such as “applies to all motor vehicles except
                                        logging trucks or those carrying wood, lumber, or sawmill wastes.”

                                        Nine states reported having no exemptions to their unsecured-load
                                        statute, including Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New York,
                                        South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Figure 3: State Statutes That Provide Exemptions for Unsecured-Load Laws, 2012




                                        Page 14                                             GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
States Have Punitive       All states have some level of fines or penalties for violations of
Measures of Varying        unsecured-load statutes. Most states have specific penalties ranging from
Degrees, Including Fines   as little as $10 to as much as $5,000; fifteen states include possible jail
                           time. (See fig. 4.)
of $10 to $5,000 and
Possible Imprisonment      •     Two states—Nevada and New Hampshire—reported the fine as
                                 unknown, because it is imposed at the local court level and could vary
                                 widely.

                           •     Twenty states and the District of Columbia reported maximum fines of
                                 $10 to less than $500 and only two of those states—Tennessee and
                                 Colorado—add possible jail time in addition to the fine. 13 Eight of
                                 these states have maximum fines between $10 and $100 for the first
                                 offense.

                           •     Twenty-eight states reported more severe maximum fines of $500 to
                                 $5,000 for violating unsecured-load laws and thirteen of those
                                 states—Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi,
                                 New York, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, West
                                 Virginia, and Wyoming—include possible jail time in addition to a fine.

                           The states of Illinois, 14 Virginia, 15 and Washington 16 have the highest
                           maximum fines: $2,500 for Illinois and Virginia, and $5,000 for
                           Washington. 17 In addition, the law enforcement officials in all of the seven
                           states we selected for interviews stated that additional criminal charges
                           could be brought in their state against individuals who injured or killed a
                           person as a result of negligently securing their load in addition to the
                           specific penalties stated in unsecured-load statutes.



                           13
                             Jail time ranges from no more than 30 days for example in New York, South Dakota,
                           and Tennessee—to no more than a year in Georgia, Illinois, Virginia, and Washington.
                           14
                               Illinois Unified Code of Corrections (730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-55).
                           15
                               Va. Code Ann. § 10.1-1424 and § 46.2-1156.
                           16
                               Rev. Code Wash. § 46.61.655.
                           17
                             Washington became the state with the nation’s highest unsecured load fine following the
                           passage of House Bill 1478 known as “Maria’s Law,” for a young woman who was injured
                           during a 2004 accident caused by road debris. Maria’s Law criminalized the failure to
                           properly secure a load. A person who causes an injury or death by failing to secure a load
                           in the state can be charged with a gross misdemeanor and faced with a year in jail and a
                           $5,000 fine.




                           Page 15                                                           GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
Figure 4: State Punitive Measures for Violating Unsecured-Load Laws, 2012




                                        Enforcement officials in some states told us that it is often difficult to write
                                        citations for unsecured-load violations. In five of the seven states, officials
                                        we interviewed noted that statutory language can be ambiguous, or
                                        require law enforcement officials either to witness the unsecured load
                                        falling or have the load actually fall to the ground to be considered a
                                        statutory violation. This language makes law enforcement respond
                                        reactively rather than proactively. All seven enforcement officials we
                                        interviewed told us they were not aware how anyone could distinguish



                                        Page 16                                                GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
                         between citations written for commercial vehicles (i.e., used for business
                         purposes) and non-commercial vehicles (i.e., private vehicles used to
                         move personal belongings or take trash to the local landfill for example)
                         as written in their states. Therefore, counting violations of their states’
                         unsecure load laws specifically for non-commercial vehicles is not
                         currently possible.


Some States Have         Ten of the 50 states and the District of Columbia reported they have a
Programs for Educating   safety or education program that pertains to unsecured loads on non-
the Public about         commercial vehicles. Those states include California, Illinois, Maine,
                         North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas,
Unsecured Loads          Washington, and Wisconsin. Enforcement officials in all of the seven
                         states we selected for interviews stated that in their experience,
                         education—teaching drivers about the importance of properly securing
                         the load in any vehicle or trailer before driving—is the key component to
                         reducing unsecured-load incidents. See appendix V for examples of
                         safety education materials from North Carolina and Washington.


                         We provided a draft of this report to NHTSA for review and comment.
Agency Comments          NHTSA provided technical comments that were incorporated as
                         appropriate.


                         We are sending copies of this report to the Administrator of NHTSA, the
                         Secretary of the Department of Transportation, and interested
                         Congressional Committees. In addition, the report will be available at no
                         charge on the GAO website at http://www.gao.gov. If you or your staff has
                         any questions about this report, please contact me at (202) 512-2834 or
                         FlemingS@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of Congressional
                         Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last page of this report.
                         GAO staff who made major contributions to this report are listed in
                         appendix VI.




                         Susan Fleming
                         Director, Physical Infrastructure


                         Page 17                                             GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
              Methodology



Methodology

              This report examines (1) efforts the National Highway Traffic Safety
              Administration (NHTSA) has undertaken to monitor crashes involving
              vehicles carrying unsecured loads and (2) existing state laws,
              exemptions, and punitive measures regarding non-commercial vehicles
              carrying unsecured loads. For the purposes of our review, we defined
              unsecured load to include a load or part of a load in transit that is not
              properly restrained, tied down, or secured with tarps, nets, or ropes to
              reasonably prevent a portion from falling off. We defined non-commercial
              vehicles to include passenger vehicles (cars or light trucks) transported
              for non-commercial purposes, and the towing of loads in an open trailer
              behind the passenger vehicle. Light trucks included trucks of 10,000
              pounds gross vehicle weight rating or less, including pickups, vans, truck-
              based station wagons, and utility vehicles. Open trailers included trailers
              that can be obtained from personal or commercial sources, such as U-
              Haul, but used for non-commercial purposes. NHTSA collects data on
              crashes involving non-commercial and commercial crashes. We obtained
              NHTSA’s input in developing these definitions.

              To identify efforts NHTSA has undertaken to monitor crashes involving
              vehicles carrying unsecured loads, we obtained documents from and
              conducted interviews with NHTSA officials to obtain information on
              NHTSA’s current policies, procedures, and practices for monitoring
              crashes involving vehicles carrying unsecured loads. Specifically, we
              obtained information about what data on unsecured loads NHTSA
              currently collects; how NHTSA coordinates with state agencies on its data
              collection efforts; actions NHTSA has taken to date or plans to take to
              improve its data collection processes in response to its mandate; and
              challenges, if any, that NHTSA faces in improving its data on vehicles
              carrying unsecured loads. In addition, we conducted a literature search to
              identify and review relevant studies, reports, and available data on
              crashes involving vehicles carrying unsecured loads and to gain a better
              understanding of the magnitude of the problem. Finally, we analyzed
              NHTSA’s crash data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)
              and the National Automotive Sampling System General Estimates
              System (NASS GES) to identify the number of crashes in 2010 in which a
              vehicle struck falling or shifting cargo or an object lying in the roadway.
              We assessed the reliability of these data sources by, among other things,
              interviewing NHTSA officials and reviewing NHTSA policies and
              procedures for maintaining the data and verifying their accuracy. Based
              on this information, we determined that the data provided to us were
              sufficiently reliable for our reporting purposes.




              Page 18                                            GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




To identify existing state laws, exemptions, and punitive measures
regarding non-commercial vehicles carrying unsecured loads, we
conducted a literature review of and legal research on state(s) laws,
penalties, and exemptions regarding properly securing loads on non-
commercial vehicles. In addition, we conducted a survey of all 50 states
and the District of Columbia to supplement, verify, and corroborate data
obtained from our legal research and to obtain additional information on
penalties, enforcement actions and education and prevention efforts in
each state. (The survey is reproduced in appendix II.) The survey was
completed primarily by law enforcement officers in each state’s
Department of Public Safety. We selected three states in which to
conduct pretests: Iowa, New Mexico, and Washington. In each pretest,
we provided the state police official with a copy of our draft survey, asked
this individual to complete it, and then conducted an interview to discuss
the clarity of each question. On the basis of the feedback from the three
pretests we conducted, we made changes to the content and format of
the survey questions as appropriate. We launched our survey on June 20,
2012. We received completed responses from the 51 survey respondents
for a response rate of 100 percent. We reviewed survey responses for
inaccuracies or omissions, analyzed the data, and have presented the
key findings in this report.

We also conducted interviews with state police officials in seven states to
collect information on enforcement actions and education and prevention
efforts related to properly securing loads carried by non-commercial
vehicles. We selected states that were (1) geographically diverse, (2) of
varying sizes, and (3) varied in the types of laws related to non-
commercial vehicles carrying unsecured loads. Using these criteria, we
interviewed state police officials in California, Colorado, Maryland, New
York, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. In addition, we also conducted
interviews with associations and individuals active in highway safety
issues, to obtain additional information on issues related to unsecured
loads and efforts by states to deal with these issues. Interviewees
included the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic
Safety and one of the co-authors of a 2004 study for this foundation
examining the safety impacts of vehicle-related road debris; 1 the
Governor’s Highway Safety Association; and the Transportation Cargo



1
 American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety, The Safety Impact of
Vehicle- Related Road Debris (Washington, D.C.: June 2004).




Page 19                                                     GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
Methodology




Safety Organization. We also requested interviews with the International
Association of Chiefs of Police, American Association of State Highway
and Transportation Officials, and the American Association of Motor
Vehicle Administrators; these organizations replied that they did not have
information on unsecured-loads issues.

We conducted this performance audit from March 2012 to November
2012 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing
standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to
obtain sufficient and appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis
for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We
believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives.




Page 20                                            GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
Appendix II: Survey Questions
              Appendix II: Survey Questions




              Page 21                         GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
Appendix II: Survey Questions




Page 22                         GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
Appendix III: Current FARS and NASS GES
                                            Appendix III: Current FARS and NASS GES
                                            Data Category Definitions and Planned 2013
                                            Changes


Data Category Definitions and Planned 2013
Changes

                                                                                           How data category will be defined
Data categorya                          How data category is defined currently             starting in 2013
Data categories that apply to objects set in motion, striking another vehicle, person, or property
Motor Vehicle In-Transport Strikes or   Used when cargo on or parts from a motor           No Change.*
is Struck by Cargo or Objects Set-in-   vehicle are set in motion or an object in the road
Motion from/by Another Motor Vehicle    is struck by a motor vehicle and set in motion. In
In-Transportb                           both cases, the cargo, parts, or object then
                                        strike another motor vehicle.
                                        Scenario A: A mattress transported by, or a
                                        hubcap from, vehicle 1 becomes dislodged and
                                        is set in motion. The mattress or hubcap flies
                                        into and strikes vehicle 2.
                                        Scenario B: Vehicle 1 hits a tree branch or a
                                        hubcap from an unknown source in the
                                        roadway, and sets it in motion striking vehicle 2.
*Although NHTSA will continue to code both scenarios A and B in the above data category, it will now distinguish between
the two scenarios, using the additional data categories described below.
Cargo/Vehicle Parts Set-In-Motion       Used for all set-in-motion crashes described       Revised: Will now be used only for scenario
                                        above.                                             A (crashes where the object set in motion
                                                                                           was originally cargo on, or parts from, a
                                                                                           moving motor vehicle and this object strikes
                                                                                           another vehicle, person or property causing
                                                                                           injury or damage).
Other Object Set-In-Motion              Not a current category.                            New: Will be used for scenario B (crashes
                                                                                           where the object set in motion was not
                                                                                           originally cargo on or parts from a moving
                                                                                           motor vehicle or it is unknown whether the
                                                                                           object was the cargo or a part of an in-
                                                                                           transport motor vehicle. In either case, the
                                                                                           object strikes another motor vehicle, person
                                                                                           or property causing injury or damage).
Data categories that apply to vehicles striking objects already in the road that may or may not have come from another
vehicle
Motor Vehicle in Transport Strikes an   Used for crashes wherein a motor vehicle           Revised: Will be used only for scenario C
Object That Is Not Fixed                strikes any non-fixed object, such as a mattress   (when a motor vehicle strikes a non-fixed
                                        or a tree branch, lying in the roadway.            object already at rest in the roadway but
                                        Scenario C: Vehicle hits a tree branch already     known to have not come from a motor
                                        in the roadway.                                    vehicle, or unknown if it came from a motor
                                                                                           vehicle).
                                        Scenario D: Vehicle hits a mattress already in
                                        the roadway.




                                            Page 23                                                         GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
                                            Appendix III: Current FARS and NASS GES
                                            Data Category Definitions and Planned 2013
                                            Changes




                                                                                               How data category will be defined
Data categorya                          How data category is defined currently                 starting in 2013
Motor Vehicle in Transport Strikes an   Not a current data category.                           New: Will be used for scenario D (when a
Object That Fell From a Motor                                                                  motor vehicle strikes a non-fixed object
Vehicle In-Transport                                                                           already at rest in the road but known to have
                                                                                               been the cargo or part of another motor
                                                                                               vehicle in-transport).
                                            Source: GAO analysis of NHTSA information.
                                            a
                                             The data categories in this table are formally known as data attributes and are used to categorize
                                            data entries in NHTSA’s FARS and NAS GES data systems.

                                            b
                                             This definition also includes persons (in addition to cargo or other objects) set in motion from or by
                                            another motor vehicle, although NHTSA officials explained that incidents involving people in this type
                                            of scenario are rare.




                                            Page 24                                                                GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
                                                Appendix IV: Non-Commercial Unsecured-

Appendix IV: Non-Commercial Unsecured-          Load Laws, Exemptions, and Fines or
                                                Penalties or Both


Load Laws, Exemptions, and Fines or
Penalties or Both

                                                                                                    Unsecured-load violation
                                                                                                    fines/penalties (& separate penalty
                                                                                                    statute if not contained in
State                  Unsecured-load law            Unsecured-load law exemptions                  unsecured-load law)
Alabama                Ala. Code 32-5-76             Motor vehicles carrying agricultural loads.    Not more than $500.


Alaska                 Alaska Stat Sec.              Motor vehicles carrying agricultural,          Not more than $1000 and litter pickup.
                       46.06.080                     mining, and timber, vehicles applying salt
                                                     or sand to gain traction, or public vehicles
                                                     cleaning or maintaining the highway.
Arizona                A.R.S. 28-1098                Motor vehicles carrying agricultural loads, $250–$1000.
                                                     cleaning or maintaining the highway or
                                                     dropping sand for traction, minor pieces of
                                                     agricultural materials such as leaves and
                                                     stems from agricultural loads.
Arkansas               A.C.A. 27-35-110              Motor vehicles depositing sand for traction $100 Arkansas Code Annotated §5-4-
                                                     or water for cleaning or maintaining the    201.
                                                     highway.
California             Cal. Veh. Code 23114          Motor vehicles carrying clear water or live    $211 ($146 fine plus $30 security fee
                                                     bird feathers.                                 and $35 conviction assessment)
                                                                                                    California Rules of Court; Rule 4.102,
                                                                                                    January 2010 Edition.
Colorado               C.R.S. 42-4-1407              Motor vehicles dropping material for        $150–$300 and/or 10-90 days
                                                     traction or for cleaning or maintaining the imprisonment. C.R.S. 42-4-1701.
                                                     roadway. Vehicles operating entirely in a
                                                     marked construction zone, vehicles
                                                     involved in maintenance of public roads
                                                     during snow or ice removal operations,
                                                     vehicles involved in emergency operations
                                                     when requested by a law enforcement
                                                     agency or an emergency response
                                                     authority.
Connecticut            Conn. Gen. Stat. § 14-271 Farming vehicles, motor vehicles dropping $117–$158.
                                                 sand for traction or water for maintaining
                                                 roadway.
Delaware               Del. C.Title 21 § 4371        None.                                          First offense not less than $10 and no
                                                                                                    more than $28.75 and for each
                                                                                                    subsequent offense, no less than
                                                                                                    $28.75 and no more than $100.
District of Columbia   DCMR Title 18,                Motor vehicles dropping sand for the      $150–$250.
                       § 2503                        purpose of securing traction, or water or
                                                     other substance sprinkled on the roadway
                                                     in cleaning or maintaining the roadway.




                                                Page 25                                                         GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
                                  Appendix IV: Non-Commercial Unsecured-
                                  Load Laws, Exemptions, and Fines or
                                  Penalties or Both




                                                                                    Unsecured-load violation
                                                                                    fines/penalties (& separate penalty
                                                                                    statute if not contained in
State      Unsecured-load law          Unsecured-load law exemptions                unsecured-load law)
Florida    Fla. Stat. § 316.520        Farming vehicles traveling locally or       $200 Fla. Stat. § 318.18, license
                                       vehicles dropping sand for traction or      suspension with second offense. Any
                                       water for cleaning or maintaining the road. person who willfully violates the
                                                                                   provisions of this section which offense
                                                                                   results in serious bodily injury or death
                                                                                   to an individual within the confines of
                                                                                   statute is also subject to fines of no
                                                                                   more than $500 and prison for not
                                                                                   more than 60 days;
                                                                                   § 775.082 and § 775.083.
Georgia    O.C.G.A. § 40-6-254 and     Motor vehicles carrying agricultural,        Up to $1000 and/or jail time not to
           § 40-6-248.1                vehicles transporting agriculture or farm    exceed 1 year.
                                       products.                                    O.C.G.A. § 17-10-3.
Hawaii     HRS § 291C-131              Agricultural vehicles, vehicles carrying     $250 - $1000 + suspension of license
                                       birds with feathers, and vehicles carrying   (dependent on number of offenses).
                                       rocks, sand, or gravel.
Idaho      Idaho Code § 49-613         Vehicles that are government, quasi-        $67.
                                       government, their agents or employees or
                                       contractors thereof, in performance of
                                       maintenance or construction of a highway;
                                       vehicles owned by canal companies,
                                       irrigation districts, drainage districts or
                                       their boards of control, lateral ditch
                                       associations, water districts or other
                                       irrigation water delivery or management
                                       entities, or operated by any employee or
                                       agent of such an entity, performing
                                       construction, operation or maintenance of
                                       facilities; and vehicles transporting
                                       agricultural products..
Illinois   § 625 ILCS 5/15-109 and     Motor vehicles dropping sand for traction    For 109: $120, Class A Misdemeanor,
           § 625 ILCS 5/15-109.1       or water for cleaning the highway, or        Illinois Supreme Court Rules, Rule
                                       agricultural vehicles.                       526. A conviction for this could result in
                                                                                    a determinate sentence of
                                                                                    imprisonment of less than one year or
                                                                                    a fine not to exceed $2,500 for each
                                                                                    offense or the amount specified in the
                                                                                    offense, whichever is greater, may be
                                                                                    imposed. Illinois Unified Code of
                                                                                    Corrections (730 ILCS 5/5-4.5-55). For
                                                                                    109.1: Not to exceed $250.
Indiana    Indiana Code § 9-20-18-     Motor vehicles transporting poultry or       Up to $500 Indiana Code
           14 and § 9-21-8-48          spreading sand/de-icing (removing ice).      § 34-28-5-4.

Iowa       Iowa Code § 321.460         Motor vehicles carrying hay or stover        $200 Iowa Code § 805.8A.
                                       (stalks and leaves, of corn); or sand for
                                       traction or water for maintaining roadway.




                                  Page 26                                                       GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
                                       Appendix IV: Non-Commercial Unsecured-
                                       Load Laws, Exemptions, and Fines or
                                       Penalties or Both




                                                                                          Unsecured-load violation
                                                                                          fines/penalties (& separate penalty
                                                                                          statute if not contained in
State           Unsecured-load law          Unsecured-load law exemptions                 unsecured-load law)
Kansas          K.S.A. § 8-1906             Motor vehicles hauling livestock or           Not to exceed $500 K.S.A. § 8-1901.
                                            spreading substances in highway
                                            maintenance or construction.
Kentucky        KRS § 189.150               None.                                         $20–$100 KRS § 189.990
Louisiana       La. R.S. § 32:383           Motor vehicles dropping sand to secure      $500 and/or 6 months jail time.
                                            traction, or dropping a liquid substance on
                                            a highway to clean or maintain.
Maine           29-A M.R.S. § 2396          Motor vehicles carrying hay, straw, vines,    $150–$500.
                                            cornstalks, or grain.
Maryland        MD Transportation Code    Motor vehicles carrying agricultural            $500.
                Ann. § 24-106; § 24-106.1 products and those dropping materials to
                                          provide traction or clean the highway.
Massachusetts   ALM GL Ch. 85 § 36          Motor vehicles dropping sand for the        $50–$200.
                                            purpose of securing traction, or sprinkling
                                            of water or other substance on such a way
                                            in cleaning or maintaining the same.
Michigan        MCL § 257.720               Highway maintenance vehicles engaged          Not more than $500 and/or 90 days jail
                                            in ice or snow removal. Agricultural and      time.
                                            horticultural vehicles.
Minnesota       Minn. Stat. § 169.81        Motor vehicles carrying agricultural          Not more than $300 Minn. Stat. §
                                            products such as small grains, shelled        169.89.
                                            corn, soybeans, or other farm produce, or
                                            vehicles dropping material for traction or
                                            cleaning.
Mississippi     Miss. Code Ann.             Motor vehicles dropping material for          Not more than $500 and not more than
                § 63-5-55                   traction or for cleaning or maintaining the   6 months imprisonment or both. Miss.
                                            highway.                                      Code Ann. § 63-5-7, 63-9-11.

Missouri        R.S.Mo. § 307.010           None.                                         Not to exceed $300 R.S.Mo. §
                                                                                          560.016.
Montana         Mont. Code Anno., § 61-8- Commercial motor vehicles in compliance         No more than $500
                370                       with state and federal laws; agricultural       Mont. Code Anno., § 61-8-711.
                                          vehicles; vehicles performing road
                                          maintenance or in a marked construction
                                          zone.
Nebraska        R.R.S. Neb. § 60-6, 304     None.                                         $100 - $500 R.R.S. Neb. § 28-106.
Nevada          Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. §      Motor vehicles dropping materials for         Fines are addressed and set by
                484D.850                    traction or cleaning the highway.             individual courts, for example in Reno
                                                                                          it’s $403.
New Hampshire   RSA 266:72                  Local farmers, transportation of heavy        Fines are addressed and set by
                                            scrap or crushed vehicles, or construction    individual courts.
                                            vehicles in a construction zone, vehicles
                                            driving at less than 30 mph.
New Jersey      N.J. Stat. § 39:4-77        Agricultural vehicles.                        Not more than $500 for each violation.




                                       Page 27                                                       GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
                                        Appendix IV: Non-Commercial Unsecured-
                                        Load Laws, Exemptions, and Fines or
                                        Penalties or Both




                                                                                           Unsecured-load violation
                                                                                           fines/penalties (& separate penalty
                                                                                           statute if not contained in
State            Unsecured-load law          Unsecured-load law exemptions                 unsecured-load law)
New Mexico       N.M. Stat. Ann. § 66-7-407 Agricultural vehicles or those dropping        $100 N.M. Stat. Ann. § 66-7-401; § 66-
                                            sand for traction or water for cleaning the    8-116.
                                            roadway.
New York         NY CLS Veh. & Tr.           None.                                         $100 - $750 and/or imprisonment up to
                 § 377                                                                     30 days.
North Carolina   N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-116    Motor vehicles dropping material for          $100 N.C. Gen. Stat. §20-176.
                                             traction or cleaning the highway.
North Dakota     N.D. Cent. Code, § 39-21- Motor vehicles dropping sand for traction       $20.
                 44.1                      or water for highway maintenance.
Ohio             ORC Ann. 4513.31            Agricultural and garbage vehicles or those $150 - $1000 ORC Ann. 2929.28; ORC
                                             dropping sand for traction or water for    Ann. 4513.99.
                                             cleaning the roadway.
Oklahoma         47 Okl. St. § 14-105        Agricultural vehicles or those dropping       $5 - $500 or imprisonment for up to 6
                                             sand for traction or water for cleaning the   months, or both. 47 Okl. St. § 17-101.
                                             roadway.
Oregon           ORS § 818.300; 818.310      No exemptions for vehicles, just for certain $260 ORS § 818.300(4) and ORS §
                                             roads, private thoroughfares.                153.019. Additionally, owners or
                                                                                          drivers are liable for all damage done
                                                                                          as a result of the violation if it occurs
                                                                                          on certain roadways. ORS § 818.410.
Pennsylvania     75 Pa.C.S. § 4903           Logging and garbage trucks, the shedding $300–$1000.
                                             or dropping of feathers or other matter
                                             from vehicles hauling live or slaughtered
                                             birds or animals, and spreading of any
                                             substance in highway maintenance or
                                             construction operations.
Rhode Island     R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-25-9; Logging trucks or those carrying wood,          $85, R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-41.1-4; $100
                 R.I. Gen. Laws § 31-25-10 lumber, or sawmill wastes. Motor vehicles       to not more than $500, R.I. Gen. Laws
                                           dropping sand for traction or water for         § 31-25-10.
                                           highway maintenance.
South Carolina   S.C. Code Ann. § 56-5-      Motor vehicles dropping sand for traction     $100.
                 4100                        or water for highway maintenance.
                                             Agricultural and timber-related vehicles.
South Dakota     S.D. Codified Laws § 32-    None.                                         $500 or 30 days in prison or both, S.D.
                 15-18                                                                     Codified Laws § 22-6-2.
Tennessee        Tenn. Code Ann. § 55-7-     Vehicles carrying farm produce to the       No more than $50 or not more than 30
                 109                         market. Vehicles which transport crushed days in prison or both. Tenn. Code
                                             stone, fill dirt and rock, soil, bulk sand, Ann. § 40-35-111.
                                             coal, phosphate muck, asphalt, concrete,
                                             other building materials, forest products,
                                             unfinished lumber, agricultural lime. Motor
                                             vehicles dropping sand for traction or
                                             water for highway maintenance.




                                        Page 28                                                        GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
                                        Appendix IV: Non-Commercial Unsecured-
                                        Load Laws, Exemptions, and Fines or
                                        Penalties or Both




                                                                                                               Unsecured-load violation
                                                                                                               fines/penalties (& separate penalty
                                                                                                               statute if not contained in
State           Unsecured-load law               Unsecured-load law exemptions                                 unsecured-load law)
Texas           Tex. Transp. Code §              None.                                                         $25–$500 Tex. Transp. Code §
                725.021                                                                                        725.003.
Utah            Utah Code Ann. § 72-7-           Vehicles carrying dirt, sand, gravel, rock  $100–$250.
                409                              fragments, pebbles, crushed base,
                                                 aggregate, any other similar material, or
                                                 scrap metal. Certain agricultural loads and
                                                 vehicles spreading any substance
                                                 connected with highway maintenance,
                                                 construction, securing traction or snow
                                                 removal.
Vermont         23 V.S.A. § 1451 and §           None.                                                         $99 –$156 § 1454.
                1454
Virginia        Va. Code Ann. § 10.1-            Motor vehicles dropping material for                          Not more than $2,500 or not more than
                1424 and § 46.2-1156             traction or for cleaning or maintaining the                   12 months in jail for violating § 10.1-
                                                 highway. § 10.1-1424. Motor vehicles                          1424, and a fine of not more than $250
                                                 used exclusively for agricultural purposes,                   for violating § 46.2-1156.
                                                 or transporting forest products, poultry, or                  Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-11.
                                                 livestock. § 46.2-1156.
Washington      Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) Vehicles carrying gravel, sand, and dirt if 6 Up to $5000 or up to a year in jail or
                § 46.61.655            inches of freeboard is maintained within      both. Rev. Code Wash. (ARCW) §
                                       the bed. Motor vehicles dropping sand for 9A.20.021.
                                       traction.
West Virginia   W. Va. Code § 17C-17-6           Motor vehicles dropping material for                          Up to $500 fine or 6 months
                                                 traction or for cleaning or maintaining the                   imprisonment or both. W. Va. Code §
                                                 highway.                                                      17C-18-1.
Wisconsin       Wis. Stat. § 348.10              None.                                                         $10–$200 Wis. Stat.
                                                                                                               § 348.11.
Wyoming         Wyo. Stat. § 31-5-228            Motor vehicles spreading substance for                        Up to $500 fine or 6 months
                                                 maintaining or constructing the highway.                      imprisonment or both. Wyo. Stat. § 31-
                                                                                                               5-1201.
                                        Source: GAO analysis of state laws, exemptions, fines and penalties.




                                        Page 29                                                                           GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
Appendix V: “Secure Your Load” Educational
              Appendix V: “Secure Your Load” Educational
              Materials for Non-Commercial Vehicles



Materials for Non-Commercial Vehicles

              Figure 5: North Carolina Department of Transportation




              Page 30                                                 GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
Appendix V: “Secure Your Load” Educational
Materials for Non-Commercial Vehicles




Figure 6: Washington State Department of Ecology




Page 31                                            GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
                                       Appendix V: “Secure Your Load” Educational
                                       Materials for Non-Commercial Vehicles




Figure 7: Washington State Department of Licensing




                                       Page 32                                      GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
Appendix VI: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix VI: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  Susan Fleming, 202-512-2834, FlemingS@GAO.gov
GAO Contact
                  In addition to the contact named above, Judy Guilliams-Tapia (Assistant
Staff             Director), Margaret Bartlett, David Hooper, Maren McAvoy, Maria
Acknowledgments   Mercado, Amy Rosewarne, Beverly Ross, Kelly Rubin, and Andrew
                  Stavisky made key contributions to this report.




(541092)
                  Page 33                                           GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
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