How Overloaded Trucks
Put Drivers in Danger
By Jeff Burns —
Good drivers realize that an accident could happen at any place or time, and act accordingly. While this danger is also a reality for commercial truckers, they often prioritize a different fact.
For trucking companies, putting drivers on the road with overweight trucks is profitable, despite being dangerous.
Trucks carrying more than their recommended load are unbalanced, causing them to stray across lanes more easily or roll over, especially in high winds. They also require a greater braking distance that drivers may not be used to. In wet weather, this is a big accident factor. Oversized loads are also harder to secure, which increases the risk of dropping heavy and dangerous objects onto the road.
Why is it so hard to keep dangerous commercial vehicles off the road? Because for some truck companies, it’s a game of numbers. The more freight they can move in a short amount of time, the more money they make. Overloading trucks is a shortcut that’s all too easy for them to take advantage of.
On the other side of the coin, it’s difficult for police officers and weigh-stations to monitor every truck on the road. There simply aren’t enough of them. And even when truckers are penalized for driving overweight, the consequences are minimal. Driving with 2,500 extra pounds on a tractor-trailer could be worth thousands of dollars, while the penalty could be as low as $10 (in the state of Florida).
The result of this offset in risk vs. reward is the high number of dangerous trucks on the road. A 2010 study estimated that 30 percent of trucks on some states’ roads are overloaded on a given day. According to the Department of Transportation there were 133 million trucks on the road in 2012. When you do that math, the number of overweight trucks on our roads is staggering.
Trucking companies go to great lengths to pack more freight into less space. Modifications to trucks to increase payload are endless, but truckers usually start with the following:
- Changing tire size.
- Adding spring-kits.
- Adding air shocks.
- Installing heavy duty brakes.
- Adding anti-sway kits.
- Reinforcing axles.
While some of these modifications may seem like good precautionary measures, they can actually change the integrity of a vehicle and make it less safe. For example, if an axle is reinforced with parts from the wrong manufacturer that don’t fit properly, they can snap at high speeds. The impact of the heavy load suddenly applied to the axle alone could bend or break it and cause a crash.
Given this information, how can drivers better protect themselves on the road? Being well-informed is the first step.
These safety tips are written by truckers for the rest of us, and can help us understand the perspective of a trucker on the road: