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Truck accidents can be some of the deadliest and most severe collisions on the roads in the United States. While crashes between two passenger vehicles often only involve a couple of thousands of pounds of metal and plastic colliding with each other, a crash that involves a truck can involve nearly 80,000 pounds of force. Even empty trucks weigh nearly ten times more than a passenger car.
Because of this danger, truckers and their trucking companies should take all of the precautions possible to avoid a serious collision. Unfortunately, all too often they do not. One way that truck accidents happen that is entirely avoidable is a crash that results from an overloaded truck. While this sounds like it should only happen through some sort of oversight, the reality is that truckers and their employers make more money when their trucks deliver a full load of cargo. When they deliver even more than that, the profit margin will increase even more. Unfortunately, overloading a truck increases the odds that it will cause a serious crash, and this can put innocent drivers at significant risk.
The Problem of Overloaded Trucks
It might not sound like a potentially dangerous situation, but overloaded trucks significantly increase the odds of a truck accident on the roads of the U.S. This is true, regardless of whether the truck’s payload is open to the elements on a flatbed trailer, or if it is inside an enclosed trailer.
When it is in the open on a flatbed trailer, the cargo on an overloaded truck can be difficult to tie down or restrain. This can make it fly off when the truck is traveling on the highway at high speeds when the wind from the journey gets under some of the cargo. The force of the wind can tear cargo off the flatbed and send it backward, into traffic following the truck. The same result can happen if the truck hits a bump in the road – the jostle of the truck underneath can make the cargo on the flatbed bounce up and down and send it backward into traffic, as well.
Even if the overloaded cargo is inside a trailer, it can still cause serious truck accidents. According to a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 7% of truck accidents involved cargo that either shifted in the bed of the truck or was improperly secured. Trucks that are overloaded carry a much higher risk of a weigh shift in their cargo trailer, which can cause the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle. This is because, when the cargo of a properly loaded truck shifts, the weight distribution can be uneven from one side of the truck to the other, making it handle improperly or causing it to be difficult to turn. Additionally, a cargo shift puts more weight on one side of the truck, which increases the chances that it will jackknife after the driver hits the brakes, or will tip over to the side if the driver takes what would otherwise have been a safe turn. If the weight is shifted to one side of the trailer, simply hitting the brakes without steering can result in a hazardous situation: The lighter side could slow down more quickly, sending the truck out of control.
While overloaded trucks increase the chances of a cargo shift in a properly distributed trailer, they are also far more dangerous simply because they are overloaded. An overloaded truck is heavier than a properly loaded one, and this impacts how safe it is to drive. Overloaded trucks will take longer to come to a complete stop, making them more dangerous because their drivers need to anticipate road dangers earlier, which is not always possible. Additionally, overloaded trucks can fail when going up a hill by overheating or blowing out a tire because of the extra weight they are hauling, or can get out of control when going down a hill.
Overloaded Trucks and the Gross Combined Weight Rating
Companies that manufacture trucks know how much weight a vehicle can carry safely. By taking into account the engine’s torque, the power of its transmission, and the capacity of the truck’s radiator, axles, chassis, and tires, truck manufacturers can determine how much weight the truck can safely carry in the vehicle itself, as well as in the trailer. This weight is the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR), and is noted on the truck’s plate. Federal regulations prohibit the truck from traveling with more weight than is allowed by the GCWR, and truckers are supposed to stop at highway weigh stations to ensure they are not traveling overweight.
Unfortunately, trucks make a profit by delivering as much cargo to the destination as quickly as possible. Overloading trucks, therefore, is a money-making technique, and trucking companies are only concerned with their bottom line. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that many trucks regularly travel the roads while overloaded, putting innocent drivers into harm’s way.
Truck Accident Attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian
Accidents involving trucks are notorious for leading to severe personal injuries or even fatalities. Unfortunately, the people who suffer the most are often drivers of passenger vehicles who are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
If this should ever happen to you or someone that you love, it is crucially important that you get the compensation that you need in order to make a full recovery. Not only are the costs of your medical bills likely to be significantly higher than you would expect, but the other expenses associated with a severe truck accident can accumulate, as well.
Having a personal injury attorney at your side throughout the process can make a huge difference in the outcome of your case. By serving as your legal representative both in and out of court, the lawyers at the law office of Gilman & Bedigian can ensure that you get the compensation you deserve. Contact us online or call our law office at (800) 529-6162.