Trucks are subject to regulations regarding how much the truck can weigh and how the truck must be loaded. A commercial motor vehicle can weigh no more than 80,000 pounds and can sometimes be required to weigh less if the bridge formula dictates that a lower limit is appropriate. If a truck is a tandem axle vehicle, the maximum weight is 34,000 pounds and if the truck is a single axle vehicle, the maximum weight is limited to 20,000 pounds.
These weight limits exist for a reason: to reduce the risks of truck crashes caused by a truck carrying too much cargo.
Truckers can often make more money by delivering larger loads, and trucking companies could be more profitable if a trucker was able to transport more cargo. This creates the temptation to overload tractor trailers and other commercial trucks, which can make the trucks much more dangerous to drive.
Regulations are supposed to prevent trucks from being weighed down, but what happens if a trucker or trucking company doesn't follow the rules and a truck does become overloaded? What are the risks?
According to a Large Truck Causation Study published by the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, an overloaded truck is especially likely to cause a rollover collision to occur. The researchers reviewed 239 truck accidents in which the truck rolled over. The researchers discovered that a total of 26 of the rollover accidents could be attributed to problems with the load.
Oversized loads were one of the main load problems leading to truck crashes, but issues also arose when the load was mounted too high or was fastened insecurely. The researchers found that, whatever the specific load problem was, it could create a major safety risk. In fact, load problems were found to have twice as much of an impact on increasing rollover crashes as the impact the load issues have on increasing the risk of other types of truck crashes.
The incidents of "load-induced rollovers" was found to be a substantial enough concern that the researchers recommended truck drivers become better acquainted with possible impacts of loading cargo on overall vehicle stability.
Truck drivers have to make certain they comply with all rules and regulations regarding loading their truck safely, securing their cargo, and keeping their total truck and cargo weight below maximum allowable weight limits. If a trucker does not load the cargo safely, the truck driver could potentially be held legally responsible for all losses that result from a truck collision due to overloading. Often, the trucking company is also liable for losses, either because of its own negligence or because the trucker employed by the company is considered to be an agent acting on that company's behalf whenever the employee is doing work duties.