You have no doubt seen 18-wheelers that have overturned on a freeway. You do not want to be involved in such an accident — at many thousands of pounds heavier than your car, the truck has the potential to cause death and destruction.
Many truck-car accidents occur because the truck driver was speeding, fatigued or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Weather could also be a factor, or the negligence of another driver. There is another simple factor that commonly causes or contributes to truck accidents: overloading the truck.
Cargo shift can be catastrophic
You may see a big truck ahead of you drifting between lanes or making an awkward turn. The driver might be distracted or drowsy, but overloading may also be at fault for the erratic driving. The cargo in an overloaded or improperly loaded truck can shift, and if the imbalance is significant, it can cause the vehicle to roll over or cause a semi-trailer to “jackknife.” Once the driver loses control of the truck, anything or anyone in its path will be destroyed.
Effects on operating performance
Overloading can cause poor operating performance and further safety concerns. For one thing, overloading increases wear and tear on the brakes and the truck’s suspension. In addition, tires run hotter because of the heavy load. Perhaps more important for public safety, an overweight truck is harder to steer and takes longer to stop.
Did the driver and trucking company do their due diligence?
Drivers in training should pay attention to proper loading practices. All drivers have a duty to check their trucks for irregular tire wear, brake wear and unresponsive steering and suspension. A sagging rear end is usually indicative of overloading. Truckers should examine their cargo inventory and get rid of miscellaneous equipment and anything else that is unnecessary, then ensure the proper balance for the load.
The federal government regulates the maximum weight of tractor-trailers and other large trucks. An 18-wheeler cannot exceed 40 tons (80,000 pounds) when fully loaded. The state of Maryland and counties may further restrict total weight or weight per axle on local roads to prevent damage to the road.
In addition to maximum weight, federal regulations also mandate how cargo should be secured (tarps, tiedowns, load balancing, etc.). The rules are even stricter for transporting hazardous cargo such as flammable or poisonous chemicals.
The liability factor
A company owning a truck that workers overloaded can be liable if this kind of negligence results in a traffic accident. The safety and risk factors simply increase the company’s exposure.
The difference in size between a big rig and a passenger car is significant. An overloaded truck has the potential of causing a horrific crash and extremely serious injuries for everyone involved.