The Dangers of Oversize Truck Loads
At some point, every driver has seen a truck bearing the bright yellow and black “oversize load” banner and carrying an extra-large payload: industrial equipment, a pre-built house, or perhaps a steel shipping container.
If these trucks and their massive loads make you nervous and you drive with extra caution around them, you’re not alone, and you’re also not being irrational: oversize loads can pose significant dangers to other drivers on the road, and in the event of a crash, they can inflict massive damage on vehicles and serious injuries on their occupants.
You have rights if you’ve been injured in a trucking accident. Below, we’ll discuss some of the unique dangers that oversize loads pose to others on the road and what you can do if you’ve been injured or even lost a loved one in a crash.
Oversize Loads Increase Stopping Distance and Crash Risk
Oversize loads create safety issues for the trucks that carry them. Many of these issues are problems for large trucks in general, but they only get worse when an oversize load enters the picture. Major safety concerns associated with oversize loads include:
- Increased stopping distance: The average stopping distance for a loaded tractor-trailer is 196 feet, compared to 133 feet for a passenger vehicle. If you’ve ever studied physics, you know that as more mass is added to a vehicle, more force is required to stop it. So, as a vehicle’s load size increases, it takes longer to stop. In general, stopping distance increases roughly 25 percent for each 20,000 pounds added to a vehicle after the first 80,000 pounds, which is the upper legal limit of normal load size.
- Height and clearance issues: Oversize loads can come in all shapes and sizes, including those that are very tall. Drivers who haul extra-tall loads are responsible for traveling on suitable routes that avoid bridges and obstacles. If a driver doesn’t assess the height of their truck’s load correctly, heed clearance warnings, and/or travel along a suitable route, their load could collide with a bridge or overpass and then get dislodged or become stuck.
- Higher risk of crashes and fatalities: As a truck’s load gets heavier, the risk of a fatal crash rises. In fact, according to a study from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, trucks that weigh 80,000 pounds or more are 50% more likely to be involved in a fatal crash compared to trucks that weigh less than 65,000 pounds.
In addition, oversize loads are often so heavy that everyday roads and bridges can’t support them, and many areas don’t permit travel with oversize loads at all. When trucks carrying extra-large loads travel on unapproved routes, they can cause significant damage to the road itself, creating pavement cracks, potholes, and other road hazards.
Common Types of Crashes Associated with Oversize Loads
Oversize loads create an increased risk for several types of vehicle accidents, which are already associated with large trucks. Those types of crashes include:
- Rollovers: As you might guess, a rollover crash that involves an extra-large truck load can be devastating. These crashes often occur in places where a truck is forced to make a sharp turn, like on/off ramps and intersections. Oversize loads can cause rollovers if the workers who secure the load disregard weight restrictions or fail to distribute the weight evenly. Negligent driver behaviors like speeding can also contribute to a rollover wreck.
- Blown tires: Sometimes, oversize loads can get so heavy that a tire simply can’t handle the pressure and explodes. This is much more likely to happen when a company illegally overloads a truck. Tire blowouts are extremely dangerous because they can lead to complete loss of control over a vehicle.
- Jackknife crashes: Sometimes, when a truck comes to a sudden stop, the trailer can continue moving forward and create a dangerous situation where the truck’s cab and trailer fold together at a sharp angle. This type of incident is called jackknifing, and it usually results in a complete loss of control over the truck. Driver distraction and fatigue can play a role in jackknife crashes by creating situations where the driver has to slam on the brakes suddenly.
What Regulations Govern Oversize Loads, and What Happens When Companies Break Them?
Every state has laws in place that govern oversize loads on trucks, and many cities and municipalities have their own regulations for these vehicles too. In most cases, drivers who haul oversize loads need to obtain a special permit. In addition, due to the dangerous nature of these loads, drivers usually aren’t allowed to travel with them while it’s dark out, and in some areas this restriction extends to the weekends as well.
Some very large oversize loads even require the truck to travel with one or more special escort vehicles or pilot cars. You may have seen these vehicles on the road accompanying a truck that’s hauling an enormous load like a bulldozer or pre-built home. They usually drive in front of the truck (and sometimes behind as well) bearing additional oversize load signs and other attention-grabbing decorations like bright orange flags or flashing lights.
Unfortunately, too many trucking companies willfully ignore these regulations on a regular basis to squeeze out a bit of extra profit, often with tragic — and predictable — results. If a truck driver or trucking company fails to comply with the federal, state, and local regulations that govern oversize loads, then they may be liable when a truck crash results from their actions.
Injured in a Trucking Accident? Contact Morgan Adams For Help
If you or your someone you know has been injured or lost a loved one a crash involving an oversize load or any other type of large truck or bus, Seattle Truck Law Attorney Morgan Adams is here to help. With years of experience and a sole focus on large vehicle cases, Morgan Adams has the resources to protect your rights and represent you through the complex process of a trucking accident lawsuit.
Please contact Seattle Truck Law at (866) 580-4878 or fill out our online contact form if you need help. We offer free initial consultations to assess your situation and discuss your legal options, and we handle cases on a contingent fee basis, which means that you won’t pay attorney’s fees unless we achieve a financial recovery on your behalf.
CMV driving tips: Following too closely. (2015, March 31). Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/driver-safety/cmv-driving-tips-following-too-closely
Truck Safety Coalition. (n.d.). The Facts on Heavier Trucks. Arlington, Virginia: Truck Safety Coalition. Retrieved from https://trucksafety.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Truck-Weight-Fact-Sheet-TSC-2017-Final.docx
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.