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What Are The Dangers of Overloaded Vehicles?

Posted on March 7, 2022

Overloading a vehicle, especially a large truck, puts the driver and others on the road at risk. Here are the potential dangers. 

Do Overloaded Vehicles Contribute to Car Accidents?

Vehicles have weight limits because an excess load can seriously impinge on performance and cause the following issues: 

  • Steering Difficulty: Overloaded vehicles are unstable and challenging to control. Since the cargo is typically in the back of the vehicle, it causes the front wheels to touch the road surface under less weight resulting in a loss in traction and steering control. In extreme cases, the front wheels may, at times, even lift off the road surface.
  • Increased Chance of Mechanical Failures: A primary cause of mechanical failures, such as transmission failure, tire blowouts, and suspension failures, is overloaded vehicles
  • High Rollover Risk: Heavy cargo puts a vehicle at an increased risk of a rollover accident when there is sudden braking, speeding, or over-steering, especially if the cargo isn’t evenly distributed. 
  • Increases Brake Time: The excessive weight increases the amount of time a vehicle needs to stop in time to avoid a collision. 

Risks to Other Drivers

Operating an overloaded vehicle not only puts its driver in danger but also other road users. Aside from the increased chance of the overloaded vehicle crashing into them, it may also cause: 

  • Debris on the Road: The equipment used to secure cargo may not be designed to hold weight beyond a specific capacity. When a vehicle is overloaded, the equipment may fail and cause cargo to spill onto the roadway, which may hit another vehicle or cause an accident when a driver attempts to avoid it.
  • Damage to the Roads: An overloaded vehicle can cause serious damage to road surfaces, which can lead to potholes and cracks, making it dangerous for other drivers. 

What’s The Maximum Gross Weight of a Vehicle in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, the maximum weight limit for any vehicle is 80,000 pounds. To operate a vehicle outside of this weight limit requires a permit from PennDOT. The width of a vehicle cannot exceed eight feet, six inches and a maximum height of 13 feet, six inches is allowed. 

Who Is Liable for an Overloaded Vehicle Accident?

After an overloaded vehicle accident, the following parties may be liable: 

Whether or not the driver of an overloaded vehicle is responsible for causing a collision, they may be found partially liable for an accident due to the fact that their vehicle was carrying an excessive load. In Pennsylvania, each party involved in an accident will be assigned a percentage of fault. If the overloaded vehicle’s driver is found 51 percent or more to blame, they cannot recover compensation. 


The Driver’s Employer

If the overloaded vehicle is owned by a company that the driver was working for, the company may be liable for an accident. Companies have a legal obligation to ensure their vehicles are safe for the road, drivers are trained, and cargo is secure. 

The Cargo Loader

If another party other than the driver was responsible for loading the vehicle’s cargo, they might be liable for overloading it. However, when a cargo loader overloads a vehicle due to their lack of training or experience, liability may fall on the company that owns the vehicle. 

Determining which party or if multiple parties are liable will depend on the facts of each case and once an investigation is complete.