Originally published October 16, 2017.

Truck accidents are often some of the most devastating that occur on the road, particularly due to their sheer size and weight. A number of factors can lead to these accidents, including fatigued driving, severe weather, an improperly maintained vehicle, and even the truck’s cargo.

In fact, improperly loaded and overloaded trucks can pose a serious danger, which is why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) sets strict regulations that trucking companies are expected to follow. Unfortunately, these rules are sometimes broken and crashes happen.

Commercial Trucks Have Cargo Weight Limits

On road trips, you may have seen signs on the highway announcing upcoming weigh stations. Most states require commercial truck drivers to stop at weigh stations to make sure their trucks are not overloaded.

Weight  regulations are set by the FMCSA and sometimes states, and vary depending on the type of truck and its cargo. As such, truck drivers and cargo loaders must pay attention to the truck’s identification plate to ensure they are at or under the maximum permissible axle weight and maximum permissible gross vehicle weight.

As a rule of thumb, 18-wheelers must not weigh more than 80,000 lbs. when fully loaded with cargo. When trucking companies break state and federal laws around weight restrictions, they can be held liable for resulting crashes.

What Makes Overloaded Trucks So Dangerous

If a truck is overloaded, there is a risk of mechanical issues occurring due to the extra weight. Overloaded trucks put extra strain on the:

  • Brakes
  • Tires
  • Suspension
  • Transmission
  • Axles
  • And more

Even in cases where the weight of the cargo does not result in a mechanical failure, it can still make it much more difficult for the truck driver to control the vehicle. For example, drivers will need to brake harder and longer with an overloaded truck, especially on inclines. They may also have a harder time steering and preventing the trailer from swinging out, especially on turns and curves, or in adverse weather and road conditions.

There’s a Right Way and a Wrong Way to Load a Truck

Properly loading a truck is just as important as ensuring the right amount of weight is being loaded. If there is an uneven distribution of weight, for example, the truck could flip, risking severe or fatal injuries to the driver and others on the road.

Additionally, if the cargo is not properly secured, a wreck can occur even if it has an acceptable amount of weight that is evenly distributed. The cargo could come loose and topple over, causing the truck trailer to unbalance and swing into another lane. It could also impact the distribution of weight if it shifts too much to one side.

If the cargo falls off the truck without immediately causing harm to anyone, it still creates a road hazard that can eventually cause an accident.

Need to Report a Driver?

If you are driving near a commercial truck that you suspect may be about to crash or that appears to be dangerously overloaded or improperly loaded, keep a safe distance and let the truck pass you. If it is safe to do so, pull over or use a hands-free device to call 911 or the FMCSA at 1-888-DOT-SAFT to report the truck.

Who Is at Fault in a Truck Accident?

The people who loaded the truck may work for a different company than the company that owns the truck or that owns the cargo. This means there may be multiple parties at fault for a crash caused by an overloaded or improperly loaded truck.

It can be difficult to determine who is liable, and even more difficult to actually hold them liable. That is why it is important to always work with an experienced truck accident lawyer.

Victims of Truck Crashes Should Call Fieger Law

Truck accidents can cause catastrophic injuries, leaving victims to face hospitalization, surgery, long-term care, and the possibility of never achieving a full recovery. Not only do they affect the lives of the injured, but their families as well, taking a financial and emotional toll.

If you or a loved one was injured in a truck accident, Fieger Law can help. Our Michigan-based legal team is nationally known, respected, and has decades of experience fighting for the rights of accident victims.