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Tips from CHiPs: How to react to trailer spills on the road 

In this new column, Ken Antonetti, an officer with the California Highway Patrol based out of Coalinga, answers questions from motorists and, at times, explains the laws and the reasons they’ve been enacted into law.

This installment of Tips from CHiPs discusses what to do when a semi-truck is spilling something off of it’s trailer.


It is illegal for any vehicle to lose, spill, drop or otherwise lose their load with some exceptions

Ken Antonetti, author of Tips from CHiPs

Ken Antonetti, author of Tips from CHiPs, is an officer with the California Highway Patrol based out of Coalinga.

–A very common but frustrating event is being behind a semi-truck when it’s spilling something off its trailer. Whether it is a piece of gravel cracking your windshield or tomato juice spilling all over your newly washed car; when a commercial vehicle spills a part of its load it can lead to a very frustrating and potentially dangerous situation. Some material is more dangerous than others, but the fact remains it is illegal.

California Vehicle Code section 23114(a) makes it illegal for any vehicle to lose, spill, drop or otherwise lose their load, or any part thereof with only three exceptions, hay/straw, clear water and feathers from live birds. Any other material spilling or dropping from a vehicle’s cargo area is a violation. If you observe a vehicle spilling its load, and in your opinion it is creating a potentially hazardous scenario, call 911 immediately.

Be sure to provide a good description of the vehicle, a plate if possible, and most importantly provide a good location and direction of travel. Here are a few Tips from CHiPs regarding spilling loads:

1. If you are following behind a vehicle which is spilling its load, get away from it. Not only can your vision be obscured from any liquid coming from the vehicle, some much larger material can cause damage to your vehicle. If you find yourself stuck behind a vehicle that is spilling their load, the best course of action is to put some time and distance between you and the other vehicle. The safest way to do this is to take an exit or pull into a service station and take a break. This will allow for some time and distance between you and may prevent damage to your vehicle.
2. If you are transporting anything in the cargo area of your vehicle, ensure it is all tied down and secure. This section also applies if any type of trash or other material comes out of the rear of your pickup truck.

Remember, when transporting or following behind a vehicle transporting any sort of load, it is paramount you keep a safe following distance and stay off your cell phone. Not only can you possibly prevent a hazardous situation, you may also avoid getting cited. As always, follow all traffic laws, make sure all occupants in your vehicle are secured properly, never drink and drive, stay off the phone and drive safe.

Any questions for CHP can be written to Officer Ken Antonetti either by mail, email, or in person. Our office is located at 125 South Sixth Street, Coalinga, CA 93210. Any mail can be sent to Coalinga CHP at the above address, please make it attention to Officer Ken Antonetti. My email address is or if you would rather ask a question in person, feel free to drop by our office Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

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