Overloaded trucks are a menace on the road. When a truck is overloaded, every component of the machine is stressed. From the engine to the brakes to the suspension to the tires, every component of an overloaded truck is susceptible to catastrophic failure. Also, an overloaded truck cannot maneuver the way it is meant to, leading to accidents when turning, stopping, or starting.
Truck Weight Regulations
Trucking laws restrict the amount of weight a commercial truck may carry and how heavy the vehicle can be. In general, this is limited to 20,000 pounds per axle, or 34,000 pounds per pair of tandem axles, and 80,000 pounds total. The load is supposed to be evenly distributed throughout the length of the trailer, and a driver is responsible for ensuring this, although due to the unrealistic schedules imposed by shipping companies, they may perform only a cursory inspection or allow improper loading procedures to keep on time.
States are allowed to restrict the movement of large trucks on roads other than national highways, and they are also allowed to deny the movement of trucks over certain bridges if they submit the rationale to the federal government.
If you've ever been on an interstate, you've seen the weigh stations set up along the highway, at state lines and at random intervals where commercial vehicles are weighed and inspected. Ideally, these weigh stations protect against overloaded trucks and illegal or falsely reported cargo. They will also check the driver's log to make sure of compliance with Hours of Service laws that keep drivers from becoming so fatigued that they cause accidents.
However, these weigh stations are often ineffective because:
- Some states simply issue a ticket before allowing an overweight truck to return to the road
- States often casually issue overweight truck permits
- Log books can be forged
- Weigh stations are often closed or unmanned
Because of this lax enforcement, many overloaded trucks drive on the road despite federal regulations.
Dangers of Overloaded Trucks
Overloaded trucks can cause accidents in many ways:
- Too much weight can lead to tire blowout accidents
- Overloaded trucks slow dramatically when climbing hills causing danger to following vehicles on blind corners
- Going downhill, on the other hand, overloaded trucks can go too fast and get out of control
- More weight means longer stopping distance and slower stopping in response to traffic
- More weight means increased stress on brakes and greater likelihood of failure
- Overloading raises the center of gravity on trucks, making them more likely to tip when steering or during wind gusts
- Overloading shifts the center of gravity back away from the steering wheels, impairing steering
- Overweight trucks can lead to the premature collapse of bridges, such as the I-35 bridge in Minnesota
Despite all these dangers, an explicit or implicit conspiracy exists between trucking companies, drivers, loaders, and the government to keep overloaded trucks on the road and will continue to exist until all those responsible are made to pay for their actions.
If you or a loved one has suffered a severe injury or death during an accident with an overloaded truck, you need an experienced attorney from Long & Long to bring those responsible to justice. Contact us in Mobile or Orange Beach, Alabama, today by calling (251) 432-2277 or filling out the form on this page.