There are many factors that can contribute to trucking accidents, but one that is often overlooked or difficult to prove is overloaded and improperly loaded trucks. Trucking regulations impose requirements for the securing of loads and maximum load requirements in order to limit the risk of load-related accidents. Overloaded trucks require longer braking distances and are less responsive and unable to respond as well to potential hazards that require sharp steering maneuvers. Furthermore, the brake system may malfunction or fail because of excessive demand on the system when it is overloaded.
Federal law dictates that the maximum weight is 80,000 pounds for a fully loaded tractor-trailer. However, research conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) indicates that a semi loaded to 50,000 pounds is half as likely to be involved in a fatal trucking accident than one loaded to the federally imposed maximum. In the case of overloaded trucks, other research conducted by UMTRI indicated that trucks that exceed 100,000 pounds are at a much more significant risk of being involved in an accident and causing more serious injuries.
In addition to federal regulations, states impose their own trucking regulations regarding semi load limits and securing requirements. Oversize loads must be approved with a permit from the state.
Improperly loaded trucks may result in the load shifting while in transit, causing the semi to be unbalanced. Unbalanced trucks are especially susceptible to jackknife and rollover accidents. Also, if loads are not secured properly, items may fall onto the roadway or another vehicle, causing collisions or obstructions in the road that can then lead to collisions.
When an improperly loaded or overloaded truck is the cause of an accident, a trucking accident attorney will have to establish proof that the load was a major factor in the accident and determine with whom the fault lies, be it with the original shipper, the trucking company, or any other party involved with the care of the cargo, either through packing or loading.