Loose Gravel On Utah Highways
You’re driving down I-15 when you hear a dreadful “ping.” A piece of gravel landed right in the middle of your windshield, leaving a small chip in the glass. Surprised, you scan the road before you and see that it fell from a truck hauling gravel, one of hundreds that seem to be on Utah’s highways delivering rock products to fuel our current construction boom. What should you do next?
Utah drivers that end up behind gravel haulers may find themselves in this frustrating, and sometimes expensive, situation. When you do, it’s important that you act fast. Reporting the situation to the Utah Highway Patrol, filing a claim with the hauling company and repairing the chip immediately are just a few ways you can minimize damage to your car and to your wallets.
It is illegal to haul an unsecured load of gravel.
It is illegal for trucks to carry unsecured loads on the highway, according to Utah Code 72-7-409. But so many trucking companies that haul gravel and sand don’t seem to care and take their chances. By law, trucks that haul gravel must have a tarp securing the load unless the load is six inches below the top of the trailer.
If a truck driver is caught carrying an unsecured load in violation of the law, the Utah Highway Patrol will issue a citation — $500.00 for the first offense and $1,000.00 for the second offense. Violations of this law will also negatively affect the hauling company’s safety rating. Moreover, any driver whose unsecured load causes an automobile accident or personal injury could be charged with a misdemeanor and issued a fine.
Will the trucking company pay for damage to my car caused by loose gravel?
Trucks carrying loose loads often display signs warning motorists to keep their distance. Have you seen these? Here is one:
These same signs may also say the trucking company is not responsible for any damage caused by their load. Such claims, however, are not legally binding, and truck companies may nonetheless be responsible for any damage they cause.
But gravel is considered a road hazard, and proving that the trucking company caused the damage to your car may be difficult. To improve your chances of recovering compensation for your windshield and/or paint damage, the Utah Highway Patrol suggests you write down where you were, what time the incident happened, the direction the truck was travelling and a description of the truck and driver. Writing down the license plate number and make and model of the truck can also be very helpful.
Unless law enforcement witnessed the truck dropping rocks or debris, you will need to settle the matter directly with the hauling company. Some companies have generous policies and are willing to pay for any damages their trucks may cause. Others are much less agreeable. But, if you are sure the damage was caused by debris dropped by the truck, then you should contact the trucking company as soon as possible and file a complaint along with all the details you recorded.
What should I do if my windshield was damaged by loose gravel?
It’s important to fix a chipped windshield as soon as possible. If you don’t, the chip may turn into a big crack, requiring a complete windshield replacement. Windshields are made out of laminated safety glass, and companies like Safelite AutoGlass can fill in minor chips and cracks for a quick repair. Whether a windshield chips or cracks depends on the size, speed and shape of the gravel, and fixing a windshield can cost anywhere between $180 and $400. Under some insurance policies, insurance companies may waive high deductibles to cover the cost of filling a chip or crack.
Driving with a cracked windshield in Utah can be illegal. By law, motorists must repair seriously cracked windshields as soon as the damage occurs. Small cracks in the outer six inches of the windshield are acceptable, but cracks that expand beyond that area will result in a failed auto inspection. Oh wait, Utah has decided not to do inspections anymore, so no problem! But there is still a law that such cracks cannot obstruct your view of the road and can still get you a ticket. The simple truth is that driving with a cracked windshield can put you and other motorists on the road in danger.
If you see a truck carrying loose gravel, report it.
For your safety and the safety of others on the road, you should report any unsecured loads that may be in violation of the law to the Utah Highway Patrol. On average, the highway patrol gets 51 complaints in Salt Lake City and 34 in Utah County each month. Helpful information includes the license plate number and a description of the vehicle.
Most importantly, if you see a truck carrying an unsecured load of gravel, you should back off, change lanes and safely pass the vehicle. Defensive driving is the best way to avoid damage from loose gravel and a potential accident.