As you drive down the interstate, you’ll often see many weight stations sprinkled along your path. If you’ve ever wondered why tractor-trailers have to be weighed, there are various reasons why that’s the case.
One reason is that overweight trucks can cause significant damage to bridges and roads. Another reason is government officials in some jurisdictions impose a tax depending on a trucker’s load. Weighing trucks is also done for safety-oriented reasons, which we’ll unpack below.
What Constitutes an Overloaded Truck?
Before we deep dive into the dangers associated with overloaded 18-wheelers, let’s first tackle what is considered an overloaded or overweighted truck.
Truck manufacturers assign tractor-trailers a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). It’s against the law for a trucker’s load to exceed that amount. Government regulators require truckers to periodically stop at weight stations along their trip to verify that their load doesn’t exceed the GVWR.
In some situations, weight station staff may merely detain overloaded trucks at weight stations until another carrier can take on a portion of their above-limits load. There are other instances in which weight station officials or law enforcement may impose penalties for a trucker exceeding their truck’s GVWR, including a revocation of their commercial driver’s license, fines, and jail time.
How Do Tractor-Trailers Become Overloaded?
Many trucking companies arrange to pick up trailers at different ports of entry or warehouses and transport them to their final destination. Fleet companies are supposed to ensure that the GVWR and load their trucker is picking up coincide. Many trucking companies don’t apprise themselves of the tractor-trailer operator’s GVWR because they wait to assign them to the job at the last minute. Or, since their pay is contingent upon load weight, fleet companies may purposely exceed the GVWR limits, hoping that they won’t get caught.
Overloaded Tractor-Trailers Are More Likely to Crash
National Safety Council (NSC) data shows that an estimated 118,000 truck-involved crashes resulted in injuries in 2019. These collisions resulted in over 4,000 fatalities.
Data compiled by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration suggests that the more a truck is overloaded, the more likely it is to become involved in a rollover. The federal agency notably concluded this regarding tanker trucks that tend to carry liquids that slosh around in transit. However, virtually any overloaded truck may have a higher propensity to crash, thanks in large part to how truck braking works.
What Should You Know About Truck Braking?
Most motorists wonder if there’s a way to tell that a truck is overloaded. While the trailer portion of an 18-wheeler may not give you any indication of this, if it looks like a trucker is struggling to slow down, then this may be a sign that it’s overloaded.
Data compiled by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) shows that tractor-trailers can weigh up to 10,000 pounds, an amount up to 30 times the weight of a passenger car. An 18-wheeler’s weight load, speed, and road conditions directly impact how quickly it can come to a full stop.
That same IIHS data suggests that loaded trucks can take up to 40% longer to reach a complete stop than passenger car operators. Other factors that can also significantly impact a trucker’s braking distance include:
- Perception and reaction times
- Poor tractor-trailer maintenance
- Oil slicks
- Inclement weather
Another industry report published by Trucking Truth suggests that a trucker who travels 55 miles per hour (MPH) on dry roadways needs an average of 216 to stop fully. A heavier load would warrant a longer stopping distance.
As someone who sees many trucking accident victims come through their doors, a truck accident lawyer in Lexington will quickly tell you that braking isn’t the only thing motorists need to worry about when sharing the road with an overloaded tractor-trailer.
Can An Overloaded Truck Cause A Transmission To Fail?
Two primary factors can lead a truck’s transmission to give out on them; improperly secured loads and overloading. If you’re curious how the latter can cause an 18-wheeler’s transmission to give out, it has to do with it and just about any other car part having certain weight or pressure load limits.
A truck’s transmission system must work harder the heavier the truck’s load is, especially when traveling uphill. A truck’s transmission can cease up, resulting in a chain-reaction crash or rollover when it does.
An Overloaded Truck’s Impact on Its Suspension
Tractor-trailers’ shock or suspension systems soften the impact when a truck traverses poorly maintained roads. An overweight 18-wheeler is more apt to be put under stress, resulting in wear-and-tear, such as cracks, which can cause responsiveness issues.
Are Overweight Tractor-Trailers More Prone to Tire Blowouts?
Tires have weight limits that they can support just like any other truck component. Tires are more likely to experience a blowout when supporting an oversized load. As you might imagine, such an event could prove to be quite catastrophic if it were to occur at inopportune times or in unexpected places.
Where To Turn Following a Crash With an Overloaded Truck
A trucker operating an overfilled tractor-trailer is at a high risk of losing control of it. That individual may become involved in a jackknife, rollover or other serious crash when they do. These concerns often cause other motorists to fear sharing the road with 18-wheelers.
You don’t need to hire a Lexington truck accident lawyer to tell you that many of the mechanical issues that result from truck overloading are completely preventable. The Law Office of Todd W. Burris can help you determine who you can hold liable for any injuries that you unnecessarily suffered in a truck crash due to someone else’s negligence.