The reason truck accidents are so much more dangerous than normal car crashes is that trucks are far heavier than a normal vehicle. While passenger vehicles are usually around 3,000 pounds, tractor-trailers can be at least ten times as heavy – even when they are empty. Semi-trucks can weigh up to 80,000 when full of cargo.
That weight maximum is the result of a federal trucking regulation. But trucking companies know that they can maximize their profits by going over it. When they do, it increases the risks of a truck accident in Georgia and makes any crash even worse for the innocent drivers involved.
Federal Regulations Put a Maximum Weight on Many Trucks
Trucks that travel between states or use the interstate highway system – as most do – have to abide by federal trucking regulations. One of those regulations is 23 CFR § 658.17, which puts a maximum weight on trucks based on how many axles they have. Tractor-trailers trucks are limited to 80,000 pounds, although waivers may be issues to allow for higher weights in limited circumstances.
The reasons for this limitation are threefold:
- It minimizes the wear and tear on highways by prohibiting especially heavy vehicles.
- It keeps other drivers safe by prohibiting trucks that are heavy enough to cause extremely high amounts of damage in a crash or are too heavy to reliably control.
- It prevents damages to bridges.
Overloading Trucks Maximizes Profit, Though
While keeping a cap on truck weights is the safe thing to do, it also cuts into the bottom lines of trucking companies and independent truckers. They both stand to make more profit if they can squeeze as much cargo in their trucks as possible. Any empty space in their trailers or on their flatbeds is space that could be making them money.
In many cases, truckers and their trucking companies take the risk and violate federal weight regulations in order to make extra money. With law enforcement only occasionally monitoring them, more and more truckers are getting away with overloading their vehicles and violating the federal rules. As more truckers get away with overloading, other drivers and trucking companies decide to do it, too, creating a snowball effect of unsafe driving conditions for other people on the road.
When those risks end up causing a serious trucking accident, the responsible party should be held accountable and liable to the victims for their losses.
How Can an Overloaded Truck Cause an Accident?
Overloaded trucks can cause accidents in several different ways. Even when an overloaded truck does not cause the accident, it can still exacerbate the extent of the crash and how badly the victims were hurt.
Some of the most common ways for an overloaded vehicle to cause a truck accident or increase its severity include:
- Causing brake failure, as the truck's braking system is not strong enough to bring the extra weight of the overloaded truck to a halt.
- Causing a shift in cargo that leads to an equipment failure and the driver losing control and causing the crash.
- Causing the truck to jackknife or overturn because there is too much weight in the trailer or on the cargo bed.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an estimated 7% of truck accidents in the U.S. happen because the cargo shifted.
Who is Responsible for Overloading a Truck?
The responsible party in a truck accident that was caused by an overloaded truck can be either the driver or the trucking company that employs the driver. The main factor between the two is whether the driver is working as an independent contractor or as an employee.
When the driver is employed by a trucking company, the company can be held responsible through employer liability if:
- They instructed the driver to overload the vehicle, or
- They knew that the driver was overloading the vehicle but failed to take action against it.
Even if the driver was an independent contractor, state and federal laws could still impute liability to the company that put them on the road.
Georgia Truck Accident Lawyers at the Hadden Law Firm
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a truck accident in Georgia, the injuries are likely to have been significant. If the truck was overloaded beyond capacity, the extent of those injuries is likely to be even worse.
Someone made the decision to load their truck beyond what federal regulations allow. You deserve to be compensated for the costs of that decision. Contact the Hadden Law Firm online to get started on your case.