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Who is Liable in Truck Accidents Caused by Overloaded Cargo?

Published: December 11, 2023

The purpose of large trucks is to carry cargo. They carry cargo to destinations across the USA. Trucking companies would like to load as much cargo as possible per truck, so that they make as much money as possible per shipment.

However, there are Federal and State laws that regulate how much cargo can be loaded per truck. According to the Chicago truck accident lawyers at TPMB, if the truck is overloaded and it gets involved in an accident, they would have to pay a significant amount in settlement to the affected parties.

This article will discuss who should be held liable for truck accidents caused by overloaded cargo.  

Rules for Loading Trucks

The rules for loading trucks and transporting cargo across the USA are primarily set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). The maximum weight allowable would depend on the size and type of truck.

Large trucks known as 18 wheelers should weigh a  maximum of 80,000 pounds including cargo. The maximum cargo load allowed is 20,000 pounds for single axle vehicles and 34,000 pounds for tandem axle vehicles.

The maximum gross weight (with cargo) and net weight of the truck (without cargo) should be mentioned on the vehicle identification plate.  The type of axle of the truck should also be stated.

Dangers of Overloaded Trucks

The FMCSA has rules for loading trucks and properly securing cargo. This is included in a handbook that is given to every truck driver. There are various dangers associated with overloading a truck. Some of these are:

Loss of Control.  If a truck has cargo that has been unevenly loaded, the cargo can shift while the truck is on the road. This can result in the driver losing control of the truck.

A truck with overloaded cargo means excess weight, putting pressure on the wheels, suspension and other parts of the truck. It makes the truck more difficult to operate.   

Spilling of Cargo. Overloaded and unsecured cargo could spill onto the road, if the driver has to swerve to avoid other vehicles, or negotiate a pothole. Cargo spills can cause havoc, leading to damage to other vehicles or worse still, injury or death to other drivers. It all depends on how many vehicles there are near the crash site.

Rollover of trucks and cars. An overloaded truck can lead to a shift in the center of gravity if the cargo shifts. Nearby vehicles and the truck itself could roll over. A truck rollover could take up many lanes of highway and create a nightmare for passing vehicles.

Blowout of tires. Truck tires are designed to carry a specific maximum weight load. Overloading trucks leads to excess weight and danger of tire blowouts.   

Responsibility for Truck Accidents Caused by Overloaded Cargo

The responsibility for truck accidents caused by overloaded cargo could rest with the driver of the truck, the truck driver’s employer, or the company that loaded the cargo on the truck.

The truck driver. Truck drivers need to make sure that the truck is safe for driving. They should check the weight of the vehicle and see that the cargo has been loaded and secured properly. The driver is responsible to check the vehicle and its cargo at regular intervals. He is also required to drive carefully.Failure to comply with these requirements can result in his liability for the accident.

The employer of the truck driver. The truck driver’s employer can be held liable if there is negligence on the part of their employees who loaded the truck to overcapacity.

The loading company. There are instances where the company who is shipping the goods loads the truck themselves. The truck driver is simply responsible for transporting the goods to their intended destination.Companies that flout regulatory requirements in the quest for profitability should be held accountable for accidents caused by overloading.

Conclusion

Accidents involving overloaded trucks can have serious consequences.

Determining who is responsible is a complicated matter, involving examining the black boxes, eyewitness accounts and reviewing the records of investigators who examined the vehicle and its loading protocols immediately after the accident.

This can help greatly in fixing the blame for who exactly is liable for a truck accident involving overloaded cargo. 

Founder, Editor-in-Chief Carmelo Pickel is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Keep Driving, with almost 20 years of experience working in the industry. Before founding Keep Driving, Carmelo held leadership roles for over a decade on top automotive dealership corporations across North America, handling various leadership roles in Sales, Marketing, and Incentives.
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