ANNAPOLIS, FEB. 11 -- For the 26th year in a row, bills to require truckers to cover their loads met their demise in the Maryland General Assembly today as a House committee assembled hastily to deal the measures a swift death.

"It was strangled in its cradle," Del. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery), who favored one of the three bills, said wistfully.

The 14-to-9 vote by the Environmental Matters Committee came less than 24 hours after the legislators listened to dozens of impassioned appeals from advocates and opponents of the measures that would have forced truckers to fasten down their loads with tarpaulins.

Since the early 1960s, the issue has pitted highway safety advocates, who contend that debris from uncovered loads causes accidents and breaks windshields, against the trucking industry, which argues that the tarpaulins would be expensive and dangerous for drivers to install.

Invariably, the trucking lobby has prevailed, and this round was no exception. "They have incredible staying power," Frosh said. "The opponents were lobbying me this morning, and I'm about as hard-core {a tarpaulin advocate} as you can get."

Near the end of Wednesday's hearing, the committee chairman, Del. John S. Arnick (D-Baltimore County), whispered to his colleagues to convene for a voting session at 9 a.m. today, according to committee members.

"They had all the knowledge they are ever going to gain about the merits or demerits," Arnick said after the vote. "I could not see any logical reason for delaying when you know all the facts."

Similar measures remain alive in the state Senate, but even if they pass, it is improbable that the House committee would support them after killing its own bills.

After the defeat of the three bills, Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening said he would ask the County Council to require covers on trucks carrying loose or bulky materials while traveling on county roads.

Glendening's proposed bill is similar to one adopted recently by Montgomery County and would affect 1,425 miles of county roads but not the 440 miles of state highways that run through Prince George's.

He said debris falling from uncovered trucks cause "needless human and financial loss" and was a key factor in the $30,000 that the county spent on windshield replacements for county vehicles in fiscal 1987.

Staff writer Retha Hill contributed to this report.