SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Following a school bus crash in Bolivar, many took to social media asking what consequences could be in store for the driver hauling hay, who did speak with troopers after the crash.
The highway patrol said drivers are required to secure their load. If they don’t, they could be sued or charged with a crime.
“People could be held liable, meaning you could be sued and wound up having to pay, you know, thousands, hundreds of thousand dollars in damages,” Attorney Michael Lutke said.
Lutke said in the case of the Bolivar school bus crash, the hay bale driver is not the only one who could potentially face consequences.
“The bus driver could be [liable], the bus company operating the bus, the school district,” Lutke said. “Even the Missouri Department of Transportation could be if someone were to allege negligent design or maintenance of a highway. That’s allowed under Missouri law as well. “
The law states drivers are required to secure their load on their truck before hitting the road.
“Anything that’s exposed on an external type trailer, such as a flatbed or a trailer specifically built for hauling around bales, those need to be strapped down,” Highway Patrol Sergeant Mike McClure said. “If you’re hauling gravel and one piece of gravel falls off, that load is not secure.”
Operating a vehicle without securing your load is a misdemeanor in Missouri. Lutke said in extreme cases where someone dies, the truck driver could face more serious charges.
“There was a case up in Saint Charles County where an individual failed to secure a load, a bulldozer, and that bulldozer came off and went into income traffic and two people died as a result of that,” Lutke said. “That individual not only was civilly liable, meaning they could be sued and forced to pay damages but they were charged and convicted of involuntary manslaughter.”
McClure said drivers should call local law enforcement if they see loose cargo.
“Almost daily, we have someplace in the state or someplace, particularly Troop D, we get a call from a citizen motorist that is calling to warn or advise us that there is a vehicle that’s losing their load or it’s not properly secure,” McClure said.
If you find yourself driving behind one of these flatbed trucks, McClure said it’s important you leave enough space in case you have to make a quick reaction.
“That driver may not know [cargo is loose],” McClure said. “Most of the times, that’s what we find out. They’re not intentionally trying to pour gravel all over the road or dump hay bales off on the highway. They just they’re loaded and they’re going from point A to point B, doing the work that they’re supposed to be doing.”