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Secure your load for safer roads!
Effective January 1, 2013, unsecured loads arriving at County transfer facilities or the landfill will be charged a $25 fee – strictly enforced.

secure your load for safer roads

The requirement to secure loads is in the "Rules of the Road," RCW 46.61.655 (external), which is enforced by Washington State Patrol. RCW 70.93.097 (external) and King County Code 10.12.040 require an unsecured-load fee, which is assessed by facility scale operators.

In accordance with state law, since 1994 the Solid Waste Division has assessed a fee to the drivers of vehicles with unsecured loads arriving at its transfer facilities or landfill. Vehicle-related road debris causes about 400 crashes and twelve million pounds of litter on Washington roads each year. An increased fee for unsecured loads supports safe, clean communities.

Driving with an unsecured load is against Washington state law. The County's unsecured-load fee is in addition to any penalties or fines by law enforcement officers. The fine for transporting an unsecured load is $216. If an item falls off a vehicle and causes bodily harm, the driver faces gross misdemeanor charges and penalties of up to $5,000 and/or up to a year in prison.

What is an unsecured load?

An unsecured load has not been fastened in or attached to the vehicle with tarps, rope, straps, netting, or chains, so as to prevent any part of the load or the covering from becoming loose, detached, or leaving the vehicle while the vehicle is moving

“But I’m just going a short way and I won’t be driving fast.”

Even if you are driving slowly for just a couple of blocks you are still required to secure your load. The law is clear – every vehicle that travels on every publicly maintained road must have a secured load.

“But what I’m hauling is so heavy it couldn’t possibly fall out.”

Just because you can’t imagine it happening doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. Each year, heavy items such as large truck tires, spools of wire, and large pieces of wood fall from vehicles and end up on our roadways creating hazards for motorists. Take the time to always secure your load.

“But my load is below the top of the truck bed.”

Even with a small load, items can shift and become loose or airborne. Don’t risk it – secure your load.

pickup truck with unsecured load pickup truck with unsecured load

These loads are not secure! The rope and netting as attached are not adequate to ensure that nothing can leave the vehicle while it is moving.

What is a secured load?

properly secured load

For more information visit the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Litter webpage or Tips For Secured Loads (external PDF) brochure and check out these informational videos on You Tube Secure Your Load, General Safety Information; or Secure your load - TV ad from the "Litter and it will hurt" campaign, 2007.

A load is secure when nothing can slide, shift, fall, or sift onto the roadway, or become airborne.

To secure your load:

  • Cover your load with a tarp. Covering your load with a tarp and then securely fastening the tarp to the vehicle is good way to ensure that your load is secure.
  • Tie down using rope, netting, straps, or chains. Tie large items directly to your vehicle. Make sure that any covering is securely tied down.
  • Put lighter items lower and place heavier items on top to help keep them in place and secure the heavy items to your vehicle.
  • Don’t overload your vehicle.
  • Double-check that your load is secure.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is there any chance of debris or cargo falling or blowing out of my vehicle?
  • Is my load secured at the back, sides, and top?
  • What would happen to my load if I had to brake suddenly or if I hit a bump or if another vehicle hit mine?
  • Would I want my loaded vehicle driving through my neighborhood?
  • Would I feel safe if I were driving behind my vehicle?

Secure your load as if everyone you loved were in a car behind you.
– Robin Abel, mother of Maria Federici

Why should you secure your load?

  • It prevents injuries and saves lives
  • It prevents litter
  • It will cost you money if you don’t
  • It is the law

Unsecured Load Facts

Maria's Law

‘Maria's Law’ champion takes secured-load fight to D.C (external)

House Bill 1478, known as "Maria's Law," was signed into law in 2005 and makes failing to properly secure a load a crime in Washington State.

A person who causes an injury or death by failing to secure a load properly can be charged with a gross misdemeanor and can face a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. A driver whose unsecured items cause property damage can be charged with a misdemeanor.

A second law made victims of such crimes eligible for money from the state's Crime Victims Compensation program.

According to the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Focus on Secured Loads (external PDF):

  • Roughly 40 percent of litter on highways comes from unsecured loads.
  • It is estimated that road litter causes 25,000 accidents in North America each year, nearly 100 of which are fatal.
  • Every year, road debris causes about 400 accidents on Washington State highways.
  • 40 percent of the litter-related violations issued by Washington State Patrol in 2007 were for a failure to secure a load; 21 percent were issued for debris escaping from those loads.
  • More than 12 million pounds of litter comes from vehicles each year in Washington State.

Unsecured loads have caused serious injury and death

  • Road Debris Can Be Fatal (external) - In February 2004, Maria Federici was critically injured on I-405 in Renton when an entertainment center fell from the back of a trailer being pulled by a vehicle in front of her. A 2-by 6-foot piece of particle board flew through her windshield, hitting her in the face. Maria permanently lost her eyesight and has endured numerous surgeries including complete facial reconstruction.
  • Loose Tarp Causes Fatal Crash on I-5 (external) - In January 2006, a young man was killed and a 5-year-old boy critically injured on I-5 in Tacoma after a tow truck crashed into their car while swerving to avoid a tarp.
  • Woman Nearly Killed By Flying Piece Of Plywood (external) - In February 2006, a woman and her young niece were nearly killed on Highway 101 near Hoquiam when a huge piece of plywood flew off a truck and right into their windshield. The plywood shattered the windshield and came within inches of the driver's face.

Do your part to make sure no one else is injured or killed by unsecured loads – take the time to secure your load and report people who don't secure theirs. Call 911 if you see a load that is imminently hazardous.

Visit the Department of Ecology’s website (external) for brochures, videos, and more information.

For more information about King County’s Secured Load education program, contact the program manager online.

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Updated: Jan. 17, 2013

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