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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. 

How an Attorney Can Help

After an accident caused by an overloaded vehicle, an Philadelphia car accident attorney can be invaluable in the following ways:  

Liability Determination

Attorneys can help determine liability by assessing whether the overloaded condition of the vehicle directly contributed to the accident. If the driver violated regulations or the weight contributed to mechanical failures (such as brake issues or tire blowouts), the attorney can use this information to establish the negligent party responsible for the accident.

Proper Valuation of Your Claim

An experienced lawyer can accurately assess the full extent of your damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and non-economic damages like pain and suffering, to ensure that you are adequately compensated for your current and future losses.

Insurance Negotiations

An attorney can navigate the negotiations with the at-fault party’s insurance company, protecting you from tactics used by adjusters to deny or devalue your claim and ensuring that you receive fair compensation. 

Trial Experience

If a lawsuit becomes necessary, an attorney can provide representation in legal proceedings. They will present the case before a court, arguing on your behalf and advocating for your rights. 

Peace of Mind

Having a lawyer handle your case allows you to focus on your recovery without the added stress of dealing with paperwork and legal procedures.

Contingency Fee 

Many attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, meaning you do not have to pay any legal fees upfront. Instead, they only get paid if you win your case.

How To Prevent Overloading a Vehicle

Preventing the overloading of a vehicle is crucial for ensuring safety on the road, avoiding legal issues, and maintaining the vehicle’s optimal performance. Here are some practical tips to prevent it:

  • Know the Vehicle’s Weight Limits: Familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s specifications and weight limits for your vehicle.
  • Weigh Cargo Before Loading: Before loading the vehicle, especially for transporting goods or equipment, weigh the items to ensure they do not exceed the vehicle’s capacity. Consider using scales at truck stops or specialized weighing stations to accurately measure the total weight of the load.
  • Distribute Weight Evenly: Distribute the load evenly across the vehicle to maintain balance and stability. Avoid concentrating weight on one side or in one area, as uneven weight distribution can affect handling and increase the risk of a crash.
  • Use Proper Tie-Downs: Secure cargo properly using appropriate tie-downs and restraints. This not only prevents shifting during transit but also helps maintain stability and reduces the strain on the vehicle’s structure.
  • Understand Towing Capacity: Be aware of the vehicle’s towing capacity. Exceeding this limit can lead to issues such as brake failure, increased stopping distances, and compromised vehicle stability.
  • Check Tire Ratings: Check the load-carrying capacity indicated on the tire sidewalls to ensure that the vehicle’s tires are rated to handle the load. 
  • Regular Vehicle Maintenance: A well-maintained vehicle is better equipped to handle the demands of transportation. This includes checking the brakes, suspension, and other critical components that may be affected by excessive weight. 
  • Educate Drivers and Operators: Drivers of large vehicles should be provided training on proper loading procedures, weight distribution, and the potential consequences of overloading. If you’re managing a fleet or responsible for loading vehicles, educate drivers and operators about the importance of adhering to weight limits. 
  • Use Technology: Take advantage of technology, such as load sensors and weight monitoring systems, to track the weight of the vehicle in real time. These systems can provide alerts if the load exceeds safe limits, helping prevent overloading.

By following these guidelines, individuals and organizations can significantly reduce the risk of overloading vehicles.