Almost every driver has, at one time or another, felt a sense of dread at the sight of an overloaded commercial truck traveling down the highway. Whether prompted by a general sense of self-preservation or one too many viewings of Final Destination 2, we tend to give these vehicles an extremely wide berth, and for good reason: Overloaded commercial trucks are inherently dangerous. They are prone to brake failure, uncontrollable downhill speeds, tire blowouts, rollovers, greater stopping distances, and bridge collapses. For these reasons, strict regulations designed to protect other drivers have been enacted on both state and federal levels. Regrettably, these laws are not always followed by truck drivers or the companies that employ them. If you were injured in an accident that involved an overloaded commercial truck, you need to work with an experienced Virginia Beach truck accident attorney to make sure your right to financial compensation is protected.
Is There a Difference Between Overloaded and Oversized?
Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they don’t actually mean the same thing. According to federal regulations, a commercial truck, such as a tractor-trailer, and its payload, can weigh no more than 80,000 pounds. If the vehicle’s gross vehicle goes any higher, the truck is considered overloaded.
An oversized load is one that exceeds the capacity of the vehicle transporting the load, such as those flatbed trucks that haul construction equipment or modular homes down the highway. These loads are usually much wider, and sometimes much taller, than the vehicle that is carrying them. Vehicles transporting oversized loads have markers in the front and rear identifying them as such.
Some oversized loads are accompanied by escort vehicles to ensure a safe space is maintained around the truck and its load at all times.
How is a Truck’s Maximum Weight Decided?
A commercial truck’s maximum weight and length are both set by federal law. These limitations vary among the different types of trucks with vehicle size being the primary determinant. For instance, the maximum load weight for a tractor-trailer will be different from the maximum load weight of a single-frame truck.
These regulations and limits are enforced by state police, as well as the motor carrier enforcement units of local sheriff’s offices and police departments.
Why are Overweight Tractor Trailers Dangerous?
The weight limits assigned to commercial trucks are not arbitrary. These limits were established after numerous crash tests and other studies were conducted. For example, if a truck’s maximum weight limit is 80,000 pounds, then the brakes on that truck are designed to stop an 80,000-pound vehicle at a given distance. If, however, the truck is overloaded and weighs 90,000 pounds, its brakes are not going to work as intended. Should the truck driver need to brake suddenly, those extra 10,000 pounds are going to greatly increase the amount of room it takes him to safely do so.
Are Oversized Loads Dangerous Too?
In and of themselves, no, oversized loads are not particularly dangerous. This does not mean that they do not present a hazard on the highway. Their operators are held to a higher duty of care and must take extra caution to be mindful of their turning radius, clearance height, and other considerations.
Were You Involved in an Accident With an Overloaded Commercial Truck?
Freight companies are for-profit businesses. Factors such as improper driver training, management oversight, and old-fashioned corporate greed can all result in overloaded trucks on our state’s roadways. When their carelessness causes an accident, an experienced Virginia Beach truck accident lawyer can help you recover compensation, like the $2.4 million settlement we obtained for the family of a man who was killed by a negligent truck driver. Contact Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp today by calling (833) 997-1774 to schedule a free consultation regarding your Virginia Beach commercial truck crash. We have offices in Virginia Beach, Hampton, Portsmouth, and Norfolk.