Federal regulations allow an 18-wheel truck to carry 20,000 pounds per axle, and the maximum weight is not to exceed 80,000 pounds. Loads are to be evenly distributed over the truck’s entire length. Depending on what the cargo is, the driver may have loaded it, or may just be responsible for checking on it each time he pulls in to a truck stop. Some cargos require special qualifications of the person who does the loading.
Any freeway driver has seen the weigh stations dotted along the sides of the road, but you may have noticed that they are often closed. Some states follow a practice of issuing a ticket and then allowing the overloaded truck back on the road. Add the fact of hectic schedules for truck drivers, and the chances of an accident are greatly increased.
Large trucks are designed to safely carry the $80,000 maximum, but not necessarily more than that. Therefore an overloaded truck is an even greater danger on our roads than a legally-loaded one.
- The added weight makes it harder for the driver to keep control on downgrades.
- The truck will take longer to stop because of the increased momentum caused by the extra weight.
- The larger load can raise the truck’s center of gravity, making it more likely to overturn in a strong wind or during any sudden maneuvers. In this way they have the same susceptibility as an SUV, which also has a relatively high center of gravity and SUV rollovers are a continual danger.
- An overly heavy load increases weight on the tires, perhaps more than they are designed to bear, and a tire blowout could involve many other vehicles nearby as the big-rig swerves out of control.
- Roads and bridges are designed to bear a certain maximum weight. In some incidents, a bridge collapses under the extra weight of an overloaded truck.
There is not necessarily any way for a passenger car driver to know if any given big rig is overloaded. The best thing to do is to give each big rig a wide berth. See our blog in this space posted May 15.
If you have been badly injured in a truck accident and would like to know more about your legal rights and options, please contact the truck accident attorneys at Long & Long to schedule a free case evaluation.