Some area residents got a crash course in how to secure loads last week at a press conference presented by the Texas departments of transporation and public safety.


The conference Thursday was held at TxDOT’s operations office along U.S. Highway 75 as part of the “Secure Your Load” campaign and included a demonstration of how to properly secure cargo in a truck bed as well as with ratchet straps.


“We do everything that we can to make sure that our passengers are safe inside the vehicle with seat belts, airbags and car seats, but often times, we neglect what’s in the bed of our truck or on a trailer,” DPS Staff Sgt. Mark Tackett. said. “If it’s your property or you’re moving off your property, it must be secure. It’s state law and it’s the right thing to do for everyone else.”


Tim McAlavy, of TxDot’s Paris District, said since 2010 the agency has recorded dozens of crashes in Grayson and Lamar counties with lost cargo as a contributing factor.


“There have been over 80 crashes that are attributed to unsecured loads,” McAlavy said. “The sad part is that all those crashes were avoidable and, even sadder yet, more than 60 of those crashes involved some kind of injury.”


As part of the conference, TxDOT also showed off some of the more unique items removed from area roadways in the last week including a cooler, a moving dolly, living room furniture, garden planters, a charcoal grill and a high-backed velveteen chair.


“The big stuff is obvious, but the smaller stuff that people might load into their pickup bed or trailer — loose rock, dirt, tree limbs — if you don’t tie that down, it too can fly off and be turned into a projectile that can go through a windshield.”


Tackett said while some motorists may not be concerned about losing small objects from their load, they should be because those small items can still cause major damage for others.


“When you have an object that weighs 20 pounds and it comes out of the back of a vehicle moving at 55 mph, it hits with the impact of one ton,” Tackett said. “It can tear through a vehicle quickly and destroy the lives of the people in that vehicle.”


McAlavy said he did not know how much debris-removal operations cost TxDOT in Grayson County each year, but Dallas County alone racks up $1.3 million annually and that figure is just a portion of the expense statewide.


“Yes, that’s a major metropolitan district and it will require some additional cost, but when you start adding in the cost it takes to keep Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Fort Worth and El Paso clean, you realize that’s millions and millions of dollars,” McAlavy said. “And, that’s money that could’ve been spent on improving or repairing roads.”


McAlavy said even if a driver is carrying a small load or only traveling within their neighborhood, they are responsible for their vehicle and everything it carries on the road.


“Don’t be the person who says, ‘I’m only going a few blocks, a few miles. It’ll be okay,’” McAlavy said. “If that thing flies out of your truck bed or trailer, it could prove deadly for the people behind you.”


Drew Smith is the crime and emergency reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at asmith@heraldemocrat.com.