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Commercial Truck Regulations: Weight Violations

By: Allan M. Siegel

Trucking operators, drivers, and any distributors or companies that work with operators to load their fleet have legal obligations to comply with regulations designed to keep others safe from harm that can and should be avoided. This includes regulations regarding vehicle weight limits. When they fail to abide by the law, they create the potential for serious hazards and preventable truck accidents.

At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our Washington, DC truck accident lawyers fight for victims injured in wrecks involving tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles across DC, Virginia, and Maryland. We know the regulations companies in the trucking industry must abide by, including cargo securement rules, and we have the experience and resources to hold them liable for the damages victims suffer.

Vehicle Weight Limits & Increased Risks

Federal regulations capping vehicle weight vary depending on the type of truck and its length (for example, box trucks must meet lower weight limits than 18-wheelers) and the type of goods being transported (i.e. consumer goods, wood logs, concrete structures, and hazardous materials). While limits can vary, the maximum weight limit for a traditional tractor-trailer is 80,000 pounds – a limit that has been in place since 1982. At that size, commercial trucks are 20 to 30 times heavier than most standard vehicles, and take 20 to 40 percent longer to stop.

Trucking companies and others with legal responsibilities for loading cargo may exceed these limits out of negligence, or because they want to maximize their profit margins by transporting as much cargo as possible. When they do, however, they not only commit violations, but also create a number of risks, including:

  • Decreased Mobility – Overloaded trucks are slower to stop and more difficult to maneuver quickly, especially in collision-critical situations. The additional weight can lead to tip-overs, jackknifing, and rear-end collisions, most notably in slowed traffic and construction zones when trucks are not able to come to a complete stop before hitting vehicles in front of them. When churning up or down hills, heavy trucks also run the risk of stalling or brake failure.
  • More Devastating Crashes – Even though the number of commercial trucks on U.S. roads is far below the number of standard vehicles, they account for over 11% of all auto accident fatalities. Trucks that exceed weight limits not only increase the likelihood of crashes, but also the severity of those wrecks, which means greater risks for catastrophic injuries and death.
  • Road Damage – Tractor-trailers cause a great deal of wear and tear on our highways, roads, and bridges. Although the damage they cause is cumulative, heavy trucks also pose risks for damages roads while driving over them. This can create hazards such as potholes, debris, and collapse that cause trucks to lose control and crash, or cause other drivers to do the same.

As we have discussed in other blogs, the trucking industry has turned a blind eye to these statistics and concerns by continually waging efforts to rollback regulations and increase truck weight limits to 91,000 pounds. That 14 percent increase in weight directly conflicts with risk assessments and data showing steady spikes in deaths on American roads, and is a prime example of how the industry put profits over people.

Who Can be Held Liable for Accidents Caused by Overloaded Trucks

Violations are a clear example of negligence. When trucking companies, drivers, and others who may load commercial vehicles negligently or willfully violate weight limits, they put everyone at risk, and can be held liable for any damages they cause in resulting accidents. Our legal team at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is dedicated to holding corporations and individuals accountable for this type of disregard for the safety of other, and to securing the justice and compensation victims need after suffering preventable harm.

If you have a truck accident case you wish to discuss with a member of our team, contact us for a FREE consultation.