Because cab guards are marketed as effective at preventing drivers from being crushed by shifting cargo, thousands of logging trucks use them. Few people realize aluminum cab guards are too weak to save a driver’s life.
“There are thousands of log trucks in use today with worthless cab guards on them,” Beasley Allen founder Jere Beasley said. “The advertisements tell potential users that cab guards will protect drivers from shifting loads, although it’s totally false. We continue to see the devastating effects of their deception.”
Why are cab guards worthless? They simply do not do what consumers have been told they should do.
Merritt Equipment Co., which we first introduced in our previous article, is far from the only manufacturer to cut corners to reduce costs. Beasley Allen has handled eight defective cab guard cases against three different manufacturers; a majority were settled before going to trial. Each case has involved a life tragically lost due to corporate greed. Through litigation, Beasley Allen has been able to shed light on the history of deception within cab guard manufacturing.
As we previously noted, no design or performance standards actually apply to cab guard manufacturers as they did in the past, though looking at a cab guard’s warning label does nothing to clarify that. For example, the warnings on Merritt Equipment Co.’s cab guards continue to mislead consumers.
Prior to 2005, Merritt’s product warning read: “This cab guard has been designed and tested in conjunction with a Merritt mounting kit to meet the requirements of D.O.T 393.108, resulting in allowable cargo loads of 55,586 pounds.”
Merritt tried – and succeeded – in obscuring the truth from consumers. The warning makes it seem like their product will protect drivers according to a regulation that required it to prevent the movement of at least one-half the weight of a truck’s cargo. An average load of timber weighs around 110,000 pounds, half of which would be 55,000, so those reading would think it complies because it lists 55,000 as the apparent compliance weight. In reality, the warning said it protects against half of 55,000 pounds, not even close to the weight of a full load of timber.
“I think more people know about the deception than used to know, but it’s still not enough,” Beasley Allen lawyer LaBarron Boone, who handles cab guard litigation for the firm, said. “You hope manufacturers would check before claiming their products will protect you in a wreck, like you hope they crashed a car and tested the seatbelts before they claimed all seatbelts will protect you. These manufacturers just didn’t do that with cab guards.”
To make matters worse, the estimated weight for safety was determined through a static load resistance test. In technical terms, the cab guard’s ability to protect a driver was tested while the truck was not moving. No wreck is static, so not only did that warning lie to consumers about meeting a regulation, the company never tested a product meant to protect truck drivers in a crash during an actual crash scenario.
In Albritton v. Merritt, tried this year, LaBarron cross examined the defendant’s design expert, who admitted the cab guard would not protect a log truck operator from one log, let alone protect them against a full load of logs or approximately 55,000 pounds. Their hired witness ran the company’s first computer-simulated test on how a cab guard would hold up against a real-world crash through a computer simulation, meaning the company’s first real-world crash test was the result of a lawsuit.
“If they had just done that test at the beginning, they would have known it wouldn’t work and so many people’s lives would have been spared,” LaBarron said.
LaBarron cross examined an expert witness for manufacturer Road Gear who admitted that cab guards were not safe on log trailers, leading to a label change on the product, and after 2005, due to litigation, Merritt included warnings not to use cab guards on log or pole trailers. However, it remains unclear if that warning is properly passed along to the trucking companies when they are sold cab new guards, or to the drivers so they are aware of the safety concern.
Even with the warning, consumers are still being misled. The new label claims, “When the regulation and allowable load formulas do not apply, then the static load resistance test is the test to be used by the owner or operator when determining whether a Merritt limited security rack is appropriate for the owner or operator’s intended use.”
Again, no regulations on cab guard design or performance exist, and no outside entity is forcing manufacturers to run a useless test that proves nothing of how the cab guard would hold up in a real-world crash. Merritt’s expert witness admitted the cab guard would not withstand .7 Gs of force if it was struck by a 1,100 pound (or typical-sized) log – that is the force of a hard braking scenario, not even a crash.
The new warning label also states, “Over the years, the Merritt (Limited Security Rack) has been used as a storage rack for chains and other items as well as being used to resist loads, absorb and deflect energy and provide resistance to shifting cargo loads up to the static load resistance.” The company continues to market and sell a product it knows does not work. A static crash does not exist. A static resistance test is useless in determining driver safety.
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Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration