Brad Pistotnik Law
Abogado El Toro

Improper Loading & Weight Shifting Causes Truck Accidents

Common Causes | Improper Loading & Weight Shifting

An improper cargo load is a common cause for fatal large trucks (also known as big rigs, tractor trailers, semis, and 18 wheelers) accidents on American roads. Loads that are unbalanced, overweight, or shift in transit can be cause a semi truck to loose control.

Loading the Truck

A truck driver is responsible for and must have knowledge of the load being transported, including its weight, placement and how it is secured. Correct truck loading is very important for the safety of the driver and the other vehicles on the road. The result of a load shift or load loss can be a serious or even fatal semi truck accident. To avoid potential semi truck accidents, a truck driver must have knowledge of the cargo, the cargo weight, optimum placement of the load, and confirmation the load is secure. The cargo must be inspected by the truck driver during the pre-trip inspection. It is only when the load is sealed and the truck driver has been instructed not to open the seal, that he isn’t required to make that inspection.

Overweight Cargo

As is, trucks require a much greater distance to stop than passenger cars. But the heavier the truck, the greater the distance it needs to stop, and the likelier a misjudgment in stopping distance will lead to a rear-end collision.

Overloading a truck can affect its braking and steering, leading to potentially fatal accidents. An overloaded truck goes slower on upgrades, faster on downgrades, and when the brakes are forced to work too hard, they may fail. In addition to straining the brakes, the additional weight stresses the tires, suspension, drive train, and cooling system. And if the weight of the trailer is greater than that of the towing vehicle, there is a great likelihood of a loss of control, especially when traveling downhill.

Federal, state, and local regulations govern the weight of commercial vehicles. They address the gross commercial vehicle weight, gross combination weight, the axle weight, and tire load.

80,000 lbs happens to be the legal total weight for an eighteen-wheeler without an overweight permit. A passenger car, in contrast, weighs approximately 5,000 lbs. But the law also requires the weight to be longitudinally distributed. The steer axle weight limit for an eighteen-wheeler is 12,000 lbs whereas the limit for the drive and trailer axles is 34,000 lbs for each set.

There are also legal limits with regard to the size and dimensions of truckloads. Outsize loads or high trailers can also cause collisions when routes are not well planned.

Just because a load is within legal limits, however, does not make it safe. Drivers should check the truck’s gross vehicle weight and towing capacities in the truck’s owner’s manual. Also, weight that is not laterally well distributed can pose a myriad of problems, from steering difficulties to a higher propensity for jackknifing. Loads that are top-heavy increase the likelihood of a rollover accident, especially at high speeds or in emergency steering maneuvers.

While an overloaded truck is more difficult to steer, weight that shifts can compound this problem. Examples of weight that shifts include livestock, cargo that has not been properly secured, and liquid cargo in tanks lacking baffles. On poor road conditions, controlling a truck with cargo that shifts its weight can be especially difficult.

In all large truck cases it is essential that measures be taken promptly to preserve evidence, investigate the accident in question, and to enable physicians or other expert witnesses to thoroughly evaluate any injuries. If you or a loved one is a victim of a large truck accident, call the Truck Accident Lawyers Group, Inc. now at (877) 736-4222 or CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT A SIMPLE CASE FORM. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to accept your case, we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Don’t delay! You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires.