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Washington lawmaker pushes for tougher 'cover your load' law

A Washington state representative wants tougher laws for commercial trucks with uncovered loads.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A Washington state legislator is planning a second attempt to force all commercial trucks to cover their loads.

Rep. Christine Kilduff (D-University Place) said she'll introduce a new bill in 2020 to change state law after hearing from drivers tired of dinged windshields.

"The problem is, if you're hauling gravel, sand, or dirt you actually don't have to cover your load," Kilduff said.  

She introduced a similar bill in 2016 that failed to make it out of the House Transportation Committee. Kilduff is more confident this time around.

“I think it’s time,” Kilduff said. “It’s a double standard.”

Commercial trucks hauling gravel, sand or dirt have something of a loophole when it comes to Washington state law. Those loads are considered secure, with no cover needed, as long as nothing is seen flying out and six inches of freeboard (or empty space) is maintained on the upper sides of the truck bed. 

All other drivers, commercial and private, have to physically secure every load or face a minimum $228 fine. 

Mount Vernon resident Jimi Burleigh filed two auto glass claims this year. He said trucks with uncovered loads are to blame. 

The most recent incident happened in June on I-5 in Seattle. Burleigh noticed a truck with an uncovered load several feet ahead of him and one lane over. 

"I was driving down I-5 and all of a sudden ... BOOM!" Burleigh said. "I went from seeing the cars next to me, to just a flash of white."

His driver side window shattered into tiny pieces, and glass cascaded down his arm and into his car.  Burleigh managed to pull over and take a few deep breaths.

"I was shaken," Burleigh said. "If my window had been down, that would've been my head."

"I would really like to see the law changed, so that construction trucks, gravel trucks, anything like that - have to cover their loads," Burleigh said.

RELATED: Washington loophole allows unsecured loads on some dump trucks

Some trucking companies said there's no need to change the law. 

"Anything that's going to blow, we've got to tarp that. And we already do. And if we don't, we get fined," said Tom Walrath. He's a second-generation owner of Tacoma-based Walrath trucking.  

Walrath said his company gets very few complaints from drivers about damaged windshields, and his company investigates each complaint. "We educate our drivers on what loads need to be covered."

He said any windshield damage from rocks comes from rocks in tires, pebbles already on the roadway, or from "leaky tailgates," not from the top of truck loads. 

Walrath said the current law is working. He is worried any new legislation would target small truck companies like his, and maintain a loophole for bigger companies involved in road construction and public works. 

Rep. Kilduff said her newest legislation will completely close the loophole, with the only exemption for sanding trucks during an ice or snow event. She said any voters who feel strongly about this issue need to contact their representatives in the state legislature.

RELATED: Legislator wants to hear from Washington drivers about secure your load law