Tractor trailers, due to their size and weight, are inherently hazardous. An overloaded or improperly loaded trailer increases the risk of a truck accident significantly. A tractor trailers cargo weight limit is determined by the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) calculated by brake, powertrain, frame and suspension limitations. An overloaded 18-wheeler is operating with a dangerous strain on that equipment. The stopping distance of the truck is dramatically increased. The truck is more likely to jackknife, especially on wet roads. With a raised center of gravity and the possibility of load shifting, the chance of a rollover is much higher. Some overloaded trailers have been known to buckle in the middle and split open on the highway. In many situations, the driver is not even aware of the weight issue until the truck does not respond properly when corrective measures are employed. Despite federal and state regulations, many overloaded tractor trailers are still traveling the nation’s highways
Why Are Overloaded Tractor Trailers Still on the Road?
To determine the actual GVWR of a tractor and trailer combination is not easy and in some cases, almost impossible.
A great percentage of semi-trucks operating on U.S. highways are a combination of a trailer and a tractor that have never been hooked together before. In a large percentage of cases the tractor is independently owned and operated and the trailer is consigned to the driver. The freight company wants to move as much weight as possible at one time. The motivation of the driver is getting the load to its destination on time and collecting a paycheck. He simply signs some papers, hooks up and heads out on the highway. He is not aware that the trailer is overweight or off balance. The driver may feel a strain on the equipment when he begins to ascend the first hill, but at that point, turning back is not an option. In fact, he may even speed down the next downhill to gain momentum for the next uphill.
DOT and State Police Checkpoints
On interstate highways, weigh stations are placed at strategic locations and manned by the state police or the Department of Transportation (DOT). At these check points the tractor trailer combination can be weighed and inspected for safety violations. Too frequently, due to lack of funding or other reasons, these checkpoints are closed. When a station is open and attended and a trucker is determined to be hauling an overweight load, he is often given a ticket or a warning and permitted to continue on his way. Once the driver reaches his destination the trailer is often left at a transfer station where it is picked up by a local operator and taken to an urban destination. The possibility of the second tractor being inadequate is as high or higher than the first one.
The Difficulty in Determining Fault in a Truck Crash
The aftermath of a tractor trailer accident due to equipment failure or loss of control, is often catastrophic, with fatalities, injuries and extensive property damage likely. Determining culpability can be extremely difficult requiring the skills of an experienced truck accident attorney. When multiple parties are involved, each will try to shift the blame to another. The driver will blame the freight company for loading the trailer improperly. The freight company will blame the driver for not verifying the weight before accepting the load. There is also the possibility of a third party loading the trailer such as the owner of the cargo. There also exists the chance of defective equipment on either the tractor or the trailer making a case for product liability or improper maintenance.
The Qualified Truck Accident Attorney
The experienced truck accident attorney is aware that the freight company will have a powerful and tenacious legal team defending them. The independent trucker and his insurance company will also wage a vehement battle to protect his livelihood. The experienced truck accident attorney will know how to ignore the finger pointing and uncover the real facts in the case. If accident reconstruction is required, the attorney will have the resources available. Investigators for the attorney will go through police reports, safety records, driving records and check the data from any log books or trip recorders to uncover any pertinent evidence.
If you or someone you care about was injured or a life was lost due to a tractor trailer crash, it is imperative that you are represented by an experienced truck accident attorney. The qualified attorney will know the true compensatory value of your case and will not settle for less than you deserve.