When a commercial truck is overloaded or improperly loaded, it can affect how the truck handles, trigger excessive wear and tear on the tires and brakes, and be subject to loss of control and rollover accidents. A 2014 study found that over 5,000 people are killed and nearly 150,000 are injured in commercial vehicle accidents.

These statistics concerned the Federal Motor Carrier safety Administration who then enforced new rules and regulations on cargo placement and restraint in January of 2004. The general rule now enforced is, “Cargo must be firmly immobilized or secured on or within a vehicle by structures of adequate strength, dunnage or dunnage bags, shoring bars, tie downs or a combination of these.” All rules are based on a multi-year research program that evaluated cargo securement in both the U.S. and Canada.

Legal load factors for commercial trucks:

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration limits commercial vehicle loads to 80,000 lbs. on interstate highways. But be wary; even if your load does not exceed the weight limit of your truck, your load still may not pass regulations.

  • Gross combination weight rating (GCWRF) is the maximum allowable combined mass of a towing road vehicle, passengers, and cargo in the tow vehicle, plus the mass of the trailer and cargo in the trailer.
  • Gross axle weight rating (GAWR) is the maximum distributed weight that may be supported by an axle of a road vehicle.

Accidents caused by overloaded or improperly loaded trucks:

Improperly loading trucks, overloaded trucks, and unequipped commercial vehicles are hazardous on roads and highways. By taking extra time to review trucks loads and by researching equipment financing, truckers can save lives.

  • Jackknife accidents: Jackknifing is when the cargo in the trailer shifts and causes a weight imbalance. With an imbalanced trailer, braking can cause the trailer to slide perpendicular to the cab of the truck, which creates a V shape.
  • Braking issues: Overloaded trailers can affect the brakes on a truck. Trucks are designed with a maximum weight capacity; loading the trailer above that weight can affect the truck’s ability to brake.
  • Tire problems: Commercial truck tires are designed to carry a certain amount of weight. Overloading a rig puts additional pressure on the tires and can cause them to burst.
  • Dangerous cargo: Commercial trucks can be hazardous and cause serious property damage and physical injury if the cargo shifts or falls off during transport. Dangerous commercial cargo ranges from heavy concrete pipes, metal coils, large appliances, timber and even other motor vehicles.

Federal commercial vehicle maximum standards on the Interstate Highway System are:

National weight standards apply to commercial vehicle operations on the Interstate Highway System, an approximately 40,000-mile system of limited access, divided highways that span the nation. Off the Interstate Highway System, states may set their own commercial vehicle weight standards.

  • Single axle: 20,000 pounds
  • Tandem axle: 34,000 pounds
  • Gross vehicle weight: 80,000 pounds
Trucking accidents caused by overloaded trucks, improperly loaded cargo or unequipped commercial vehicles may result in severe accidents that cause injuries and death. Truck drivers across the country can combat these high statistics by taking the extra precautionary steps to secure their cargo.