Large commercial truck accidents are among the deadliest types of motor vehicle crashes on the road today, and the consequences of overloading semis and tractor trailers are serious and far-reaching. Imbalanced or poorly loaded cargo can lead to catastrophic outcomes on America’s roadways.
Commercial trucking companies and their drivers are required to comply with strict federal cargo regulations and must operate within specific weight limits and follow the guidelines for loading and securing cargo. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for companies to circumvent the laws on weight and height restrictions in order to meet delivery deadlines and save money. When paired with a driver who is under pressure to arrive at his or her destination on time, weight plus speed is a recipe for disaster.
The driver of an overloaded truck is not only putting himself or herself at risk; they put other drivers at risk as well. Overloaded or improperly secured loads are a hazard to all vehicles. Too much cargo, unbalanced freight, or improperly secured loads can lead to shifting, tipping, and spilling of a load onto the highway, creating hazards for other drivers. If you notice a truck that appears to be overloaded on the roadway, maintain a safe following distance, especially if the load doesn’t appear to be properly secured.
Even though it’s against the law to drive an overweight commercial vehicle, overloaded truck accidents continue to happen in Omaha and across the state of Nebraska. If you or a family member has sustained serious physical injuries or has died as the result of an overloaded truck accident, you may be able to file a personal injury claim and recover damages for medical bills, lost wages, loss of future earnings, pain and suffering, or wrongful death.
What Are the Hazards of Overloaded or Overweight Commercial Trucks?
Although unsafe driving behaviors are often blamed for commercial truck collisions, there are a number of other factors that can lead to accidents that involve semi and tractor trailer trucks, including trucks that exceed the allowable weight limit. When a truck is too heavy or its cargo is allowed to shift from side-to-side, the vehicle’s momentum is altered. This makes it more difficult for the driver to stop or to maintain control, especially while performing necessary defensive maneuvers.
Some of the major hazards stemming from overloaded, overweight, or improperly secured commercial trucks include:
Rollover Truck Accidents
Errors in cargo loading are the leading cause of rollover truck accidents. Too much cargo raises a truck’s center of gravity, causing it to become top heavy and making it prone to rolling over during maneuvers made at high rates of speed. Partially loaded tanker trucks carrying liquid, which has a tendency to slosh back and forth during transport, are especially susceptible if they are thrown off balance when their natural center of gravity is disrupted.
When the weight of an overloaded truck shifts to the rear of the vehicle, steering also becomes more difficult, increasing the likelihood that a driver may lose control of the vehicle, resulting in a rollover accident.
An improperly loaded truck puts added stress on a truck’s tires, which can lead to a dangerous tire blowout on the road. When this occurs, a driver may have a difficult time maintaining control of the truck, causing them to swerve into other lanes or into oncoming traffic. Other vehicles around a semi or tractor trailer during a tire blowout are put in harm’s way because blowouts often lead to rollover accidents as well.
Falling or Spilling Cargo
When not properly secured, a truck’s cargo can fly off or spill onto roadways. Depending on what a commercial vehicle is transporting at the time, unsecured cargo can impede another driver’s vision, strike a vehicle and its driver, or introduce hazardous material into the environment. Cars behind or beside a truck are at greatest risk for being hit by unsecured cargo, resulting in accident, injury, and in some cases, death.
Extra strain on a truck due to excess weight may lead to mechanical failures. Overloading can cause friction to brakes, leading to uneven wearing and potential brake failure, especially when traveling downhill.
Bridges and roadways are designed to support a pre-determined amount of weight. Overweight trucks can cause infrastructure to collapse under loads they were not designed to hold. Truck drivers should always follow the weight restriction rules for bridges and overpasses.
Rear End Accidents
Semis and tractor trailers already require extra time and distance to come to a stop. When they are overweight, that time and distance are even greater. Consequently, driving an overloaded truck increases the risk of rear end accidents.
What Are the Consequences of Overweight Truck Collisions?
Due to their size and weight, accidents involving large commercial trucks tend to cause more serious injuries and outcomes than those involving smaller vehicles. These injuries often require the need for long-term medical care and rehabilitation. Some of the most common injuries resulting from large truck accidents include:
- Internal bleeding/organ damage
- Traumatic brain injury
- Neck and spinal cord injuries
How Are the Weight Restrictions for Commercial Trucks Determined?
The federal government regulates the maximum weight that commercial trucks are allowed to carry. Since commercial trucks cross state lines, they must follow both federal Department of Transportation guidelines as well as state laws governing load limits.
The amount of cargo that a truck is permitted to carry is based on the number of axles it has. Because total weight is calculated after cargo is already loaded onto a truck, drivers, truck owners, managers, and loading dock workers should all be well-informed of the weight of a vehicle when it’s empty. The weight of a loaded commercial vehicle is figured by adding the weight of the empty truck to the weight of the load it will carry.
Loading dock workers may not pay close attention to the amount of cargo they’re loading onto a truck, so it’s the responsibility of the driver or loading manager to weigh a truck before taking to the open road. If they notice that a vehicle is overweight, the responsible party should stop to unload some of the weight and prevent the possibility of a serious accident.
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How Are Load Limits Enforced?
Weigh stations are typically set up at state borders and other locations across the country for the purpose of weighing and inspecting large commercial vehicles to ensure that they are in compliance with load weight limitations.
Since it would be impossible to weigh and inspect each of the thousands of trucks that cross the nation’s highways each day, weigh station checks are done at random. Even when a truck is inspected and found to be overweight, the driver may simply be issued a ticket and sent on his or her way. As a result, overloaded trucks remain on the road with other unsuspecting drivers.
In some cases, a truck that doesn’t pass inspection may be delayed until the driver can have an overweight permit issued. Oversized or overweight vehicles are required to obtain such a permit, post appropriate caution warnings for other drivers, and drive only during specific hours. For excessively large loads, accompanying pilot cars in front of and behind a truck can help to warn other motorists of an oversized load.
Who Is Liable for Damages if an Overloaded or Improperly Secured Truck Causes an Accident?
Sometimes overloading a truck is done deliberately. Company owners and managers may force workers to overload trucks to save time and money at the expense of the safety of others. It can also occur as the result of an inexperienced driver.
Regardless of whether overloading was intentional or not, the persons involved in loading and signing off on the truck can be held liable for any injuries that occur to another person as a result of their negligence. When cargo loading rules and regulations are ignored and someone is injured as a result, filing a personal injury claim may be the victim’s only option to recover fair compensation from the negligent party or parties. A truck driver who was not made aware that his or her truck was unsafe for operation may also file suit against the loading company if there is an accident and they are injured.
What Should I Do if I’ve Been Involved in an Overweight Truck Accident?
It’s important to seek legal assistance if you’ve been involved in an accident with an overloaded or improperly secured commercial vehicle. Overweight truck accident liability can be complicated since there may be more than one defendant involved in the case.
When large commercial vehicles cause an accident, the truck driver, trucking company, truck manufacturer, maintenance company, or loading company could all share responsibility for the wreck. A skilled Omaha trial lawyer can help you to identify the liable parties and recover the compensation owed to you following an accident.
While financial relief can’t restore your physical health, it can ease the burden of stress that medical debt often brings to victims and their families. Reach out to one of the dedicated tractor trailer accident attorneys at Berry Law today.