What Can Happen if Semi-Trucks Are Overloaded

Categories: Personal Injury


Semi trucks travel through and around San Luis Obispo every day, delivering goods to stores and consumers. While they are generally safe, there are factors that can make driving around semi trucks quite dangerous. One such factor is an overloaded truck.

Overloaded trucks are dangerous for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, they’re one of the leading causes of truck-related accidents. As San Luis Obispo truck

accident lawyers, we’ve seen the devastation of overloaded trucks firsthand.

It’s important for both truck drivers and passenger vehicle drivers to understand the dangers of overloaded trucks, and the rules that are implemented to prevent this issue from happening in the first place.

1. Reduced Stopping Time

1. Reduced Stopping Time

In optimal conditions, semi trucks traveling just 65 miles per hour need about 200 yards to come to a stop — that takes about 4 seconds. Of course, if it’s raining, if the truck is going down a hill or is otherwise in non-optimal driving conditions, that stopping time and distance increases dramatically.

Trucks take so long to stop because they have so much weight and momentum behind them. If trucks are overloaded, there is even more momentum and weight. On top of that, trucks are designed to only carry a certain amount of cargo, and exceeding that weight can lead to too much stress on brakes, especially in emergency situations when the truck needs to stop immediately.

2. Greater Risk of Mechanical Failure

2. Greater Risk of Mechanical Failure

When too much weight is loaded in a truck, the stress put on brakes is much greater. This can cause the brakes to burn out more quickly — or catastrophically fail altogether. What’s more, too much weight puts undue stress on the truck’s tires. This can cause blowouts and other tire failures, causing the driver to lose control, jackknife and/or overturn.

Beyond the tires and brakes, too much weight can cause the axles to snap. When an axle snaps, the truck becomes unbalanced, which can lead, again, to the jackknifing and possibly overturning of the truck. At the very least, the loss of balance could cause the cargo to fall from the truck, spilling onto the road.

3. Collapsed Roads and Bridges

3. Collapsed Roads and Bridges

This risk isn’t nearly as common as the others, but it’s still important to note. Certain roads and bridges are certified to withstand a specific amount of weight. Because of these restrictions, you may see signs that say “No Truck Over 5 Tons” or something similar. The engineers that designed the roadways took other cars into account to decide the heaviest trucks that should be on that road.

If an overloaded truck goes onto one of these roads or bridges, it’s probably not going to automatically collapse. But over time, the foundation for the roadway will start to weaken. If enough overweight trucks use the roadway, there is a great chance that a collapse will happen, which could have devastating ramifications.

How Heavy Are Trucks Allowed to Be?

Limitations on semi truck weight are set my state and federal laws. In general, federal law states that semi trucks can weigh no more than 18,000 pounds, including cargo. Truck chassis manufacturers also set limits on the maximum weight of the truck itself plus cargo the chassis can handle. This limit is called the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR).

Though these are in place, they’re often ignored. Trucking companies want to be able to move as much cargo as possible at once. Often, this means cheating a little and adding in more cargo than the truck is licensed to carry. When this happens, the driver and others on the road are put at risk, all because a trucking company was selfish — or just negligent — when it came to the weight of their trucks.

Why Aren’t Some Trucking Companies Caught Breaking the Law?

When a truck accident happens in San Luis Obispo due to an overloaded trailer, there are a few different parties that may be held reliable. The truck driver themselves may be held liable, but because the company usually owns the truck and employs the driver, they may also be held responsible.

If you’re injured in a wreck and talk to an attorney, they will likely try to get every relevant record of maintenance, inspections, manifests, and other evidence they can. These records will show whether the truck has been kept in good condition, if there was too much cargo in the trailer, and other vital information.

Though many truck companies will eventually hand over this evidence, especially after a judge gets involved, others may try to manipulate or even destroy the evidence. This is called spoliation, and is obviously illegal. It’s important to speak to a San Luis Obispo truck accident attorney as soon as you can so they can try to get a hold of this evidence before it gets altered or destroyed.

Talk to a San Luis Obispo Truck Accident Lawyer Today

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident, whether because the truck was overloaded or for some other reason, you have legal options. At Ernst Law Group, we have decades of experience helping victims get the compensation they deserve.

Call us today at (805) 541-0300 or contact us online for your free, no-obligation consultation with an experienced San Luis Obispo truck accident lawyer.