Truck safety is a serious issue on our roads, and one of the biggest hazards related to this issue is overloaded trucks. So, why are overloaded trucks so dangerous?
Let’s take a look…
Overloading a truck refers to the act of carrying more weight than a truck can safely handle, exceeding the weight limits set by regulatory authorities. This practice jeopardizes not only the truck and its occupants but also other road users.
In Kentucky, these load limits include:
- Single Axle – 20,000 lbs.
- Tandem Axle – 34,000 lbs.
- Tridem Axle – 48,000 lbs.
With Gross weight (truck & load) limits of:
- 80,000 lbs. on class AAA highways
- 62,000 lbs. on class AA highways
- 44,000 lbs. on class A highways
- All other highways: 36,000 lbs.
There are a lot of potential dangers associated with overloaded trucks, risks like additional strain on truck components, longer stopping distances, reduced maneuverability, and, of course, the injuries, deaths, and legal consequences that can follow an accident.
Increased Risk of Accidents and Rollovers
Overloaded trucks are a leading cause of truck accidents in the United States.
When a truck is overloaded, it becomes more difficult to control, increasing the risk of accidents.
The additional weight of the load shifts the truck’s center of gravity, making it more prone to rollovers and skids. Rollover accidents involving overloaded trucks can have devastating consequences, leading to injuries and multiple fatalities.
Overloaded trucks also have decreased braking performance, as that extra weight requires more time and distance to come to a complete stop.
A delay in stopping can have severe consequences, especially when unexpected obstacles or hazards, including other vehicles, occur on the road. The combination of poor braking and longer stopping distances can result in rear-end collisions, where the overloaded truck cannot stop in time to avoid colliding with the vehicle in front.
Given the sheer mass of an overloaded truck, these accidents can cause horrific damage and injuries to both the truck driver and the occupants of other vehicles involved.
Strain on Tires, Brakes, and Suspension
According to Kentucky Traffic Collision Facts report, 8,667 trucks were involved in collisions in Kentucky in 2020. 106 of these, tragically, included fatalities. Truck-related accidents accounted for 5% of vehicles in all collisions and 9% of vehicles in fatal collisions.
Of these, 77 were attributed to defective brakes, 105 to tire failure, and 7 to overload or improper loading.
Overloading a truck means exceeding the weight limits that its axles and suspension can safely handle.
This puts added strain on all of the truck’s related components, like tires, brakes, and the suspension system.
The tires bear the weight of the truck and its cargo, and an overloaded truck places more pressure on the tires than they are designed to handle. This can cause tire blowouts, where the added pressure causes one or more tires to burst while the truck is moving.
A tire blowout can result in a loss of control of the truck, especially one that’s overloaded, and is another leading to accidents.
Brake Fade & Failure
Overloading a truck has a significant impact on its stopping distances, making it harder to come to a stop in emergency situations.
The brakes of an overloaded truck also experience extra strain. When a truck is carrying too much weight, the brakes have to work harder to slow down or stop the vehicle. This can cause the brakes to overheat, leading to brake fade.
Brake fade is a deadly condition where the brakes lose their effectiveness and take longer to bring the truck to a stop. The longer stopping distances associated with overloaded trucks, combined with brake fade, also increase the likelihood of serious accidents.
The added weight increases the momentum of the truck, requiring a more extended braking distance and making brake fade or failure even more dangerous.
The suspension system of a truck is designed to absorb shocks and vibrations and provide a smooth ride.
However, when a truck is overloaded, the suspension system is forced to bear more weight than it’s designed for. This can lead to premature wear and damage to the suspension components, compromising their ability to function correctly.
A compromised suspension system dramatically decreases the stability and control of a truck, making it even more dangerous.
In addition to longer stopping distances, overloaded trucks have reduced maneuverability, making it challenging to navigate turns and avoid obstacles. The increased weight affects the truck’s ability to respond quickly to steering inputs, making it less agile on the road.
Truck drivers need to be aware of the limitations of their vehicles and make sure that their trucks are loaded properly and within weight restrictions to ensure the safety of themselves and others on the road.
Legal Consequences and Fines for Overloading
Overloading a truck is illegal, and weight limits are established by regulatory bodies such as the Federal Highway Administration.
The fines and legal consequences for overloading are in place to deter and penalize this unsafe behavior.
The specific fines and penalties for overloading vary by jurisdiction, but they can be substantial.
In Kentucky, the penalties for driving an overloaded truck can include:
- A fine of two cents ($0.02) per pound for each pound of excess load (minimum fine of $100.00)
- Possible imprisonment in county jail for not more than thirty (30) days
In addition to fines, truck drivers and trucking companies can also face other legal consequences, such as license suspension or revocation, increased insurance premiums, and potential lawsuits if an accident occurs.
If there is an accident with an overloaded truck in Lexington, many parties can be held responsible, including the truck driver, trucking companies, loaders of cargo, and even government agencies.
Proving negligence is the key to being compensated if you’re the victim of an overloaded truck accident.
Your truck accident lawyer must gather essential evidence and demonstrate that the responsible party, either by negligence or design, allowed the overloaded truck to be driven, leading to the accident.
This evidence can include records of the truck’s weight, maintenance history, cargo loading practices, and driver logs. A Lexington attorney specializing in trucking accidents is usually necessary to navigate the complex legal processes of an overloaded truck accident case and to ensure that your rights as an accident victim are protected.
The dangers associated with overloading trucks cannot be overstated.
These include increased accident risk, truck component failure, increased stopping distances, reduced maneuverability, legal consequences, injury, death, and more.
Overloaded trucks make our roads more dangerous, threatening the safety of both truck drivers and other motorists.
It’s crucial that trucking companies prioritize safety and adhere to weight limits to prevent accidents and protect road users. Failure to do so can result in severe accidents, injuries, and even fatalities.
If you or someone you know has been in a truck-related accident in Kentucky, and you suspect that overloading may have been a factor, contact Peterson Law Office today to ensure that your rights are protected, and you receive the compensation you deserve.