Illinois Responds To Increase In Frequency Of Accidents Involving Overweight Trucks
High diesel and labor costs tempted many owner-operators and trucking companies to push the limits of vehicle weight. They overloaded their trucks in an effort to reduce the number of trips they had to make, but in doing so, they put the public at risk.
Overweight trucks are a serious problem and lead to many of the accidents a Chicago auto accident lawyer processes. The vehicles are unstable, prone to accidents, and cause catastrophic injuries in a crash. State and federal regulations continue to address the issue.
Determining A Truck’s Weight Limit
There are two ways to determine a vehicle’s weight limit:
- Gross Vehicle Weight: The gross vehicle weight is the maximum weight for vehicles. The federal government limits weight to 20,000# on each single axle, 34,000# on dual axles, or a total of 80,000#. The gross vehicle weight may be lower on state highways and local roads than on Class I interstates.
- Vehicle Weight Distribution: While gross weigh is standard for large semis, smaller trucks cause more of the accidents a Chicago auto accident lawyer handles. Commercial trucks must also calculate the distribution of the weight within the vehicle. Calculations take into account the horizontal and lateral centers of gravity for the vehicle and require an even distribution of weight across the frame.
A truck that violates the gross vehicle weight of a road damages the road surface, while increasing the accident risk for other drivers. Those trucks that do not follow proper weight distribution guidelines put drivers and the public at risk of accidents a Chicago auto accident lawyer pursues.
Problems Overweight Trucks Cause
An overweight truck causes six problems for the public.
- Braking On Inclines: An overweight truck creates added pressure on the braking system, especially when going up or down a hill. A brake that might stop a fully loaded truck in 145 feet at 55 mph may take more than 250 feet to stop the vehicle when it is overweight. The increased distance exacerbates driver errors, and leads to more accidents.
- Blowouts: A study by Texas A&M University discovered the deadly link between overweight trucks and tire blowouts. Maintenance crews inflate tires to a standard psi based on the assumption that the truck is at its maximum gross vehicle weight. When the truck is overweight, the additional force on the tires radically increases the internal psi. The air has no place to go, and presses out against the sidewall of the tires. As the sidewall weakens, the risk of blowout grows. A steel belted radial flying off a semi truck tire at highway speeds has enough force behind it to kill anyone it touches.
- Steering Problems: Uneven weight distribution is most common at the rear end of a truck, because loading crews did not want to take the time to move the cargo further into the trailer. Overweight rear ends are difficult for drivers to control, because the unexpected weight in the back of the truck increases the momentum of the trailer around corners or along a curve.
- Rollover Accidents: Along with steering problems, overweight and unevenly distributed trucks are prone to rollover accidents. The increased momentum of the trailer creates a torque force on the entire rig, and the imbalance in the center of gravity raises the risk of rollover.
- Damages: Force = Mass x Acceleration. This is one of the simplest laws of physics and points to one of the greatest risks overweight trucks represent. By increasing the mass of the truck beyond its normal limits, the force at which it collides with another vehicle rises significantly. What might have once been a minor fender bender can turn into a deadly situation a Chicago auto accident lawyer must examine.
- Road Problems: Roads are built with the maximum gross vehicle weight in mind. Trucks that exceed this limit cause damage to the road surface, creating potholes and road hazards that can cause accidents even when the truck is long gone.
Illinois is attempting to address the issue of overweight trucks with new regulations.
- Permits: For large cargo, the state will issue permits that alert surrounding drivers to the potential danger a truck represents. The warnings allow drivers to alter their driving patterns to take into account their increased risk.
- Weigh Stations: Weigh stations on major highways outside of large cities reduce the risk of accidents by limiting exposure to overweight trucks.
- Police Enforcement: Overweight trucks are such a problem that Illinois enacted tougher enforcement measures for the police. State Police Motor Carrier Safety Officers may now conduct periodic roadside inspections to check that safety and weight protocols are being followed.
Overweight trucks cause substantially more damage in the accidents a Chicago auto accident lawyer handles than a passenger vehicle. The stricter rules on vehicle weight will continue to reduce injuries caused by overweight trucks.