While the general perception is that trucking accidents are caused by unsafe driving, there are other factors involved in many accidents involving large commercial trucks. When an 18-wheeler is too heavy, the momentum of the truck is changed, making it more difficult to stop and more likely to skid out of control during a minor swerve. Even though there are laws in place which dictate weight and height limits, these laws may be circumvented in the interests of getting a load delivered quickly.
Therefore, in addition to the safety hazard of an overloaded truck, the driver is likely to be exceeding the speed limit to get the load to its destination. Recently an entire load of telephone books spilled out onto a busy highway.The truck was overloaded and the load was also improperly secured. While this particular accident resulted in no fatalities, there were a number of injuries, from minor to serious. Overloaded trucks can cause accidents due to any of the following:
- Tires on the truck may burst from the excess weight.
- Brakes may wear excessively due to the friction caused by the overloading.
- Roads can collapse from trucks which exceed the weight ratings.
- Trucks are more likely to roll over when the center of gravity is shifted from overloading.
- Excess weight adds momentum to a truck traveling downhill, and it severely slows a truck traveling up an incline.
- Overloading a large truck shifts the weight to the rear of the truck, making steering much more difficult.
- The cargo in a tanker truck which is only partially loaded with liquids can slosh back and forth, upsetting the natural center of gravity of the truck.
In short, overloaded trucks or those with improperly secured loads can be a hazard to all other vehicles on the road. Each state has independent control over the legal load limits for trucks on its roadways. Because so many trucks travel between states and cross-country, there are also U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) load limits in effect. Those trucks which are oversized or over the weight limits are required to obtain a special permit, display appropriate caution warnings, drive during specific hours and, in some cases, have accompanying pilot cars in front and back to warn motorists.
Are Weigh Station Checks Enough?
While many cases of overloaded trucks are deliberate, other times they are the result of an inexperienced truck driver. The job turnover rate of truck drivers in the United States is extremely high, which means that relatively inexperienced drivers may be taking the place of more experienced drivers. Weigh stations are set up at state lines and other places within the states in order to weigh and inspect large commercial trucks. The checks are random, so many overloaded trucks remain on the road. Even if an overloaded or oversize truck is detected at a weigh station, this does not necessarily mean that the truck will be prohibited from returning to the road. Most likely, the driver will receive a ticket and be sent on his or her way, while others might be detained until an overweight or oversize permit is issued.
If you notice a truck which looks dangerously overloaded or oversized, keep your distance. If the load does not appear to be properly secured, be especially aware that sliding cargo can cause very serious accidents and injuries. If you are injured by an overloaded or oversized truck, or in any accident involving a large truck, you may need legal help as soon as possible. In trucking accident cases, there is often more than one party that is at fault. The truck driver could be at fault, the trucking company may bear some responsibility, the manufacturer of the truck could be at fault, or even the maintenance company or loading company could have been responsible for the accident. Some trucking accidents result from a combination of acts or omissions by some or all of these parties.
Gary P. Koederitz is a Louisiana attorney with extensive experience representing individuals injured by trucks and other vehicles. At Koederitz Law Firm, we will gather all necessary information to determine liability and to establish the amount of money you are owed for pain and suffering, mental stress, lost wages, medical expenses, property damage, and any other damage you may have suffered. Call us today at (225) 295-9494 for a free consultation.