Highway Safety: Federal and State Efforts Related to Accidents That Involve Non-Commercial Vehicles Carrying Unsecured Loads Page: 22 of 38
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Appendix I: Objectives, Scope, and
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.
GAO-13-24 Unsecured Loads
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Highway Safety: Federal and State Efforts Related to Accidents That Involve Non-Commercial Vehicles Carrying Unsecured Loads, report, November 15, 2012; Washington D.C.. (https://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc300082/m1/22/: accessed April 23, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, https://digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.