You might think a careless truck driver is typically the reason for accidents involving commercial trucks. It’s a common assumption. After all, they’re the ones behind the wheel of the vehicle, and it’s their job to get to their destinations safely. However, an overloaded or oversized truck changes the weight and balance of a semi, making it challenging for the driver to maneuver correctly. Even the slightest change in momentum could cause the driver to lose control, resulting in a collision with other cars. The truck accident lawyers of Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C. know the devastation accidents like this can cause and are ready to help you seek the justice you rightfully deserve.
Various laws require cargo and commercial vehicles to stay within specific size and weight limits. Exceeding those limits could put additional pressure on the truck’s tires, causing them to explode from the extra weight. Oversized cargo loads can also shift during transport or fly off the back of the truck if they’re not securely in place, creating hazards for other drivers. The person or people responsible for loading trucks should ensure they follow all federal and state laws associated with cargo loads to prevent an accident from occurring.
To learn more about the services we offer at Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C., do not hesitate to call (770) 205-8827 for a free consultation with one of our Alpharetta oversized/overloaded vehicle accident lawyers.
Federal and State Regulations for Commercial Trucks
Multiple regulations on the state and federal levels require many types of commercial trucks to remain under the maximum allowed size and weight limits to mitigate the risk of collisions from cargo that falls off, shifts, or puts too much pressure on the tires.
Federal weight limits for drivers crossing state lines and traveling on the Interstate Highway System are:
- Single axle – 20,000 pounds
- Tandem axle – 34,000 pounds
- Gross vehicle weight – 80,000 pounds
Federal size limits for drivers operating commercial trucks on the National Network of Highways are:
- Overall truck length – Most truck tractor-semitrailers don’t have to follow a federal length limit. The only exception is any combination vehicle with specially designed racks for transporting boats or automobiles. Depending on the tractor and trailer connection type, it cannot exceed a 65 feet or 75 feet overall vehicle length.
- Trailer length – Individual states cannot restrict a semitrailer’s size to under 48 feet for truck tractor-semitrailer combinations. Length limits under 28 feet for truck tractor-semitrailer-trailer combinations are also not allowed.
- Vehicle width – Federal laws prohibit states from issuing width limits less than or more than 102 inches. Width calculations should not include any devices utilized to operate the vehicle safely and efficiently, such as mirrors.
- Vehicle height – There is no height limit on the federal level.
Truck drivers operating commercial trucks in Georgia without a special permit must adhere to the gross weight limits below:
- Low-pressure tires – 20,340 pounds
- High pressure, solid rubber, or cushion tires – 18,080 pounds
- 34,000 pounds
- Gross vehicle weight under 73,280 and length less than 55 feet – 40,680
- Per Federal Bridge Formula (FBF)
- 80,000 pounds
- Gross vehicle weight between 73,280 and 80,000 pounds – subject to FBF
- Tolerance on axle loads – 1,000 pounds
Any truck driver operating their vehicle on a non-interstate highway could exceed state weight limits if their load is over 23,000 pounds on a single axle truck, 46,000 pounds on a tandem axle truck, and the gross weight is over 80,000 for vehicles carrying:
- Feed to a farm from a feed mill
- Forest products cut from a forest to the first point of processing or marketing
- Freshly mixed and unhardened concrete for delivery to a customer
- Naturally-occurring raw mineral or ore, including sawed or block granite, transported from a stockpile area or quarry to a processing plant in the same or adjoining county
- Cotton or live poultry from a farm to a processing plant
- Poultry waste to a farm from the point of origin
- Solid waste or recovered materials going to a solid waste handling facility or another processing facility
A permit is available for commercial trucks operating within Georgia that exceed size and weight limits as long as they don’t threaten to cause damage to the roadways. An annual permit is available to those with a gross vehicle weight of no more than 100,000 pounds and up to 25,000 pounds for a single axle weight.
Federal cargo securement rules are also in place to ensure cargo is always secure on the truck and can’t shift while the driver is operating the vehicle. These rules apply to commercial trucks containing any type of cargo, except ones lacking a fixed shape or structure, such as gases, liquids, and sand.
Strapping, steel, cordage, and other types of tie-downs should function adequately and not contain any defects. The number of tie-downs used to secure cargo on a trailer depends on the length and weight of each item:
- Less than 1,100 pounds and under five feet long – one tie-down
- More than 1,100 pounds and less than five feet long – two tie-downs
- Between five and ten feet long – two tie-downs
- Over ten feet long – two tie-downs, with one tie-down for every additional ten feet
Violations of state and federal size and weight regulations could result in a fine. The amount of the fine typically depends on how much the weight or size exceeded the limits. For example, Georgia issues penalties for excess weight at 5 cents per extra pound. Unfortunately, this seems like a relatively low number. Let’s say the truck was only 1,000 pounds overweight. That means the fine would only be $50. That doesn’t seem like much of a punishment that would prevent trucking companies from exceeding limits again in the future, which is probably why accidents involving loads like this continue to happen.
Common Types of Oversized or Overloaded Vehicle Accidents
Large trucks are difficult to handle. The driver must have the necessary experience, training, and licensing to know how to maneuver their vehicle through traffic, avoid obstacles, and act appropriately in an emergency. If the truck exceeds the size or weight limits, the driver could lose control and crash into other vehicles.
The most common types of truck accidents involving an overloaded or oversized vehicle are:
- Rollover – Commercial trucks are naturally top-heavy and can tip onto their side if an overloaded trailer leads to an unbalanced vehicle.
- Lost load – Cargo could fall off the back of the truck if overloaded items don’t fit properly within the trailer. Securement rules and size regulations are in place to prevent extra items with nowhere to fit from flying off the truck and into oncoming traffic.
- Toxic chemicals – Drivers might transport hazardous chemicals and other dangerous substances. An accident involving these substances could result in a catastrophic explosion or fire.
- Jackknife – Uneven weight distribution on the trailer can throw the entire vehicle off-balance when there’s a sudden change in momentum. The front cab and back trailer end up folding towards each other, preventing the driver from maneuvering to avoid a crash.
- Tire blowout – Tires with extra weight on them can’t handle the pressure. They eventually explode while the truck is in motion, causing the driver to veer into another lane or collide with a stationary object.
- Rear-end collision – Commercial trucks require a longer stopping distance than small cars. The driver must brake well in advance of stopped traffic ahead to avoid crashing into the rear of another vehicle. However, an overloaded or oversized trailer adds more weight, creating the need for an even greater stopping distance than usual.
Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C. knows the devastation a truck accident can cause. Vehicles weighing in excess of 80,000 pounds can cause severe injuries and fatalities to the occupants of small cars during a collision. You will need the assistance of a qualified and experienced lawyer to investigate your case and determine who we can hold liable for your losses.
Liable Parties After An Oversized or Overloaded Accident
Georgia is an at-fault state when it comes to liability for a motor vehicle accident. The person that caused it would become financially responsible for injuries and resulting expenses. The trucking company’s liability insurance policy could potentially compensate for the losses you suffered. Federal law requires trucking companies to purchase minimum liability coverage for their drivers.
You could seek the following losses in a liability claim:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Lost wages
- Lost earning capacity
- Property damage
- Mental anguish
- Loss of consortium
However, the truck driver might not be the only liable party. The trucking company could be at fault for negligently hiring an inexperienced driver or instructing their employees to load the vehicle above weight and size limits. At Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C., we’re familiar with these types of accidents and can review the facts to determine who you can hold liable for your injuries.
The Alpharetta oversized/overloaded vehicle accident lawyers of Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C. have 30 years of experience advocating for our clients’ rights and seeking the maximum compensation they deserve. We provide each person who hires us with one on one attention so we can understand your interests and meet your legal goals. You can depend on us to fight hard against the truck driver and trucking company for the injustices you faced.
If you were injured in an accident involving an overloaded or oversized commercial truck, call Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C. at (770) 205-8827 for your free consultation.