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Secured load laws

  • Washington state law RCW 46.61.655external link requires every vehicle driven or moved on any public road to be constructed or loaded in a way that secures the load and any covering used.
  • Washington State law RCW 70A.200.120external link requires those transporting waste to a transfer station or landfill to secure or cover the vehicle’s load to prevent any part of the load escaping from the vehicle.
  • King County Code Chapter 10.12.040external link requires a fee to be charged to drivers of vehicles with unsecured loads arriving at any transfer facility or landfill. The unsecured load fee at King County facilities is $25.

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 covering used from becoming loose, detached, or leaving the vehicle while the vehicle is moving.

Washington State law, RCW 46.61.655external link requires every vehicle driven or moved on any public road to be constructed or loaded in a way that secures the load and any covering used.

Watch this video to learn how to secure your load for safer roads (YouTube)
Watch this video to learn how to secure your load for safer roads Youtube

These loads are NOT secured

They lack adequate or any securing equipment to ensure that items cannot leave the vehicle while it is moving.

tip truck with unsecured load
pickup truck with unsecured load
pickup truck with unsecured load
Even if you are going a short distance, driving slowly, hauling heavy items, or have placed items below the top of the truck bed, you must still secure your load.

Unsecured loads cause injury and death

plywood through windshield on freeway as result of unsecured load
couch on freeway as result of unsecured load
  • According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2019 there were 739 deaths, 17,367 injuries and 89,915 property damage crashes caused by unsecured loads and road debris.
  • According to the Washington State Department of Ecologyexternal link , unsecured loads cause over 300 crashes in Washington every year.
  • A study by the AAA Foundation for Safety found that nationwide, 40% of road debris comes from unsecured loads.

What is a secured load?

A load is secure when nothing can slide, shift, fall, or sift onto the roadway, or become airborne while the vehicle is driven or moved on any public road.

These loads ARE secured

Heavy items are tied directly to the vehicle, netting contains items within the vehicle, and straps and a tarp are used to secure the load.

pickup truck with unsecured load
pickup truck with unsecured load
pickup truck with unsecured load

Examples of load securing equipment

  • Tarps
  • Netting
  • Rope
  • Straps
  • Chains

Tips to secure your load:

  • Tie down using rope, netting, straps, or chains. Securely fasten 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 directly to your vehicle.
  • 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.
  • Don’t overload your vehicle.
  • Double-check that your load is secure.

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?
  • Would I feel safe if I were driving behind my vehicle?

Secure your load as if everyone you love is driving in the car behind you.

Robin Abel, King County resident and secured load advocate whose daughter Maria was severely injured by an unsecured load

Maria's Law

"Maria's Law" 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. Victims of such crimes are eligible for money from the state's Crime Victims Compensation program.

Why should you secure your load?

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

Call 911 if you see an unsecured load

If you see a dangerous unsecured load while driving, or you see something fall off a vehicle that could cause a crash or injure someone, call 911.

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

Contact Us

 Call: 206-477-4466

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King County Solid Waste Division mission: Waste Prevention, Resource Recovery, Waste Disposal