Liability for Truck Overloading Accidents

Liability for Truck Overloading Accidents Large trucks carry cargo. That’s their job: to carry as much cargo as possible to destinations throughout Washington and across the country. The more cargo that can be carried in one trip or in one truck, the more money everyone involved in the truck shipment makes.

The primary incentives for trucking companies and truck drivers to “safely” load cargo are two-fold. The first incentive is that there are federal and state laws that regulate cargo transport. The second is the likelihood of paying a significant settlement or verdict if the cargo contributes to a truck accident.

What are the rules for loading trucks?

There are different weight limits and loading rules for commercial trucks:

The US Code of Federal Regulations has the following rules, among others:

  • The maximum gross vehicle weight shall be 80,000 pounds except where lower gross vehicle weight is dictated by the bridge formula.
  • The maximum gross weight upon any one axle, including any one axle of a group of axles, or a vehicle is 20,000 pounds.
  • The maximum gross weight on tandem axles is 34,000 pounds.

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has separate rules for the proper loading and loading and loading of trucks that take into account the types of products being loaded and unloaded from the vehicle including the loading and unloading of hazardous materials. The OSHA rules regulate many aspects of the load including the materials and devices that should be used to secure the load in the truck.

The US Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also regulates different aspects of safe weights for trucks and proper loading safety rules.

Washington State also has loading rules. For example, these are the 2023 rules for oversize permits and regulations in Washington. These are the rules for acceptable weight limits for commercial vehicles.

In addition to the laws that regulate overloading, other factors that dictate the proper weight of a truck with cargo include the number of axles, the number of tires, and manufacturer safety ratings.

What are the dangers of an unloading truck?

Trucks carry all types of cargo including the consumer goods America buys, tools and equipment for businesses, energy products, agricultural products, and many other goods. Some of the dangers of overloading a truck that can cause serious or fatal accidents include:

  • Loss of control. If a truck isn’t filled properly, the cargo can shift and move while the truck is in operation, causing the driver to lose control of the truck. If the truck is filled with too much cargo, the weight of the truck due to the excess cargo can cause the truck to be more difficult to operate.
  • Cargo spills. Unsecured cargo and overloaded cargo could spill out onto the highway – especially if the driver hits a pothole, needs to swerve suddenly, or for other reasons. Cargo spills usually cause havoc. In addition to the driver losing control of the vehicle during the spill, drivers near the spill can be injured or killed in several ways. The cargo could spill directly onto another driver’s vehicle. A nearby driver could lose control of his/her vehicle by driving over the cargo spill or in an attempt to avoid the debris. When there are multiple vehicles near the spill, multiple people are likely to be injured or die in any resulting crashes.
  • Truck and car rollovers. The center of gravity of a truck can shift if a trailer is overloaded causing the truck to roll over. The truck or nearby vehicles could roll over as they drive over any part of the inventory on the road. Truck rollovers are often deadly. When trucks roll over, they often take up several lanes of highway creating a nightmare for everyone nearby.
  • Tire blowouts. Tires are designed to carry certain weight limits. Excess weight could cause a dangerous tire blowout.

Who is responsible for an overloaded truck accident?

The defendants in a truck overload accident case may include one or more of the following:

  • The driver of the truck. Truck drivers are required to ensure their truck is safe for traveling. The truck driver is responsible for checking the weight of the truck and securing the vehicle. Drivers are also responsible for following the traffic laws and driving responsibly.
  • The truck driver’s employer. Trucking companies are generally liable for the negligence of their employees. They may, in some cases, also be liable for the negligence of an independent contractor they hire to make a delivery.
  • The company that loads the truck. Often, a separate company loads the truck. The company might be the company whose products are being shipped or an independent company. Companies that prioritize profit over regulatory compliance and safe trucking practices should be held accountable for any accidents that occur due to the improper loading of the cargo onto the truck.

At Philbrook Law Offices, we file personal injury claims, product liability claims, and wrongful death claims against every responsible party.

How do your lawyers prove that an overloaded truck caused my truck accident?

Our injury lawyers in Vancouver and Battle Ground, WA are skilled at showing that improperly loaded cargo caused a truck accident. Some of the ways we use to show overloading noncompliance or negligence include:

  • Working with investigators who examine the truck immediately after the accident
  • Reviewing all records of inspections, examinations, and loading safety protocols used by trucking companies, cargo companies, and truck drivers prior to the loading of the truck
  • Examining black boxes and electronic logging devices. Black boxes can help show how fast the truck was going a the time of the crash, the mechanical condition of the truck, tire pressure, the position of the steering wheel and tires, whether and how hard the truck driver applied the brakes, whether the driver was using cruise control, the amount of time the truck was on the road, and the truck’s mileage. It is critical that black boxes be examined promptly before any critical data is overwritten. We understand how to preserve this critical data.

We also thoroughly question everyone involved in the accident who observed or who has knowledge of the accident.

Truck overload accidents often involve multiple plaintiffs and multiple defendants. At Philbrook Law Office, our lawyers understand the unique challenges involved with proving liability and with showing the full severity of your injuries. We demand full compensation for all your economic injuries and your personal injuries such as pain and suffering.  To speak with our experienced truck accident lawyers in Vancouver and Battle Ground, Washington, please call us or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation.