All trucks have a maximum carrying capacity and towing capacity. Overloading a tractor-trailer beyond these limits is dangerous and can lead to truck accidents that cause severe injuries or the wrongful death of other innocent drivers. in fact, crashes are much more likely when trucking companies allow overloaded trucks on the road.
At Zanes law, our truck accident lawyers have helped clients who have been injured in truck crashes for over two decades. Our law firm has a reputation for fighting with commercial insurance companies when our clients or a loved one has been injured by a reckless commercial truck driver. Our personal injury attorneys are experts at helping clients recover compensation, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, and other losses caused in truck accident cases.
But why is overloading a truck so dangerous? The simple answer is physics, but let’s dig into the details and some legalities of driving with an overloaded truck. Yes, you could run into legal trouble if you drive with too much weight in your vehicle, even if you’re non-commercial. Let our lawyers explain.
The Risks of Driving an Overloaded Truck
Even an experienced driver can have a lot of trouble with a vehicle with too much weight. Overloading creates several dangerous hazards. These include:
Tires are rated for a particular amount of weight. The weight of an overloaded truck puts too much pressure on the sidewall of the tire. This might cause a tire blowout. The sudden dip in elevation combined with a heavy vehicle could cause your truck to roll over or spill its load into the roadway.
An overloaded truck has to be loaded with something. If that load falls onto the road, it can cause a lot of accidents by other drivers swerving around the obstacle or hitting it. The driver of the overloaded truck is responsible for those accidents because they had too much weight and didn’t secure their load correctly.
A heavier truck needs more distance to slow down. Semi-truck drivers use special brakes to stop heavy loads quickly, but even air brakes can get overwhelmed by too much weight. Higher truck weights also increase downhill speeds, which compounds the problem of stopping the vehicle in a reasonable amount of time.
This change in speed and stopping distance increases the risk of creating a rear-end accident. If you’re the rear car in these accidents, the odds are high that you will be held at fault and have to pay for liability.
An unloaded truck’s center of gravity shifts when you add weight to the back of the vehicle. When the weight is under the limit, most drivers can handle the slight shift in handling. The heavier it gets, the harder it is to steer.
Adding extra weight both moves the center of gravity backward and raises it higher. A higher center of gravity means a truck will roll over more easily on a tight turn. Even a bump in the road can be enough to tip an overloaded truck over at highway speeds.
If you are carrying a heavy load and see a tipping warning with a speed limit, follow it. Those aren’t only for semi-drivers. If you tip on curves like this, the chances of a crash are high.
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Insurance Problems and Overloaded Trucks
If you’re driving an overloaded truck and get into an accident, there’s another wrinkle to consider. Driving a vehicle carrying more than the allowed load means you’re driving illegally. An insurer may try to deny your coverage because you were driving an overloaded truck.
Even if you’re not at fault for the accident, driving with an overloaded truck will give insurers an excuse to say you created a dangerous situation. You might share liability in the accident which will reduce the amount of compensation you can receive.
Loading Your Truck Safely
If you’re going to carry a heavy load in the truck, there are some safety precautions you can take to avoid overloading your vehicle. First, if you can find out the weight of your load before you put it on your truck, ensure the combined weight does not exceed your vehicle’s gross weight limit.
If you cannot weigh the cargo, you can also look at the vehicle once it is loaded. Is the rear sagging or slouching? Is the rear bumper too close to the ground? These are signs of too much weight.
If your cargo bed has multiple axles, distribute the weight as evenly as you can across the axles to balance the load. If you have a standard pickup truck, the best place to put the most weight is right behind the cab. This will help keep the center of gravity as close as possible to an empty truck.
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Using a Trailer
If your load is too heavy for your truck bed, you can spread the load out by using a trailer. However, an overloaded trailer has its own problem. Like a truck, it can sag too close to the ground if there’s too much weight.
There is also a chance of jackknifing the trailer if there is too much weight away from the attachment point. Trailers are much more likely to sway back and forth behind your truck if this happens. Always load a trailer with more weight closer to the ball to control the “fishtailing” that happens with overloaded trailers.
Also, just like with your truck, use tarps and tie-downs to secure your load to the bed. Losing any load you’re carrying onto the roadway puts other cars at risk for an accident, and you can be held liable for it.
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An Overloaded Truck is Illegal
In most cases, our Phoenix truck accident attorneys represent clients who are injured when their normal motor vehicle is in a collision with an 80,000-pound commercial vehicle. But we have also represented semi-truck drivers and passengers when they have been injured because the carrier has been negligent.
Finally, if your truck is carrying more than the weight on the gross vehicle weight sticker, you’re likely breaking the law. Heavy vehicles aren’t just dangerous to drive, they’re also dangerous for roads and bridges. This is why semi trucks must stop at weigh stations to ensure they’re not going over the limits.
If you get hit by an overloaded truck, you have a strong case for negligence. An overloaded truck is dangerous. Call Zanes Law to let us know what happened, and we’ll explain your legal options.
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