April 28, 2022
Share this article:
As a truck driver, avoiding accidents and tickets is a critical part of your job. You may or may not know the weight, and the shipper may report incorrect weight for one reason or another. Regardless, you will be held accountable, and the infraction could include a fine as well as points on your driving record.
The Department of Transportation weight limit is 80,000 pounds. States can institute lower limits, but not higher ones. Oversized permits are available for freight that can’t be broken down and hauled separately. This is typically cargo like manufactured homes, steel beams, etc.
The weight limit on commercial vehicles is to protect roads from undue strain that can cause maintenance issues. It’s also a safety measure. Heavier loads are more taxing on the brakes and engines of semi trucks, and loads that are heavier than the brakes can handle will surely cause an accident.
You, your employer, the shipper, and cargo loaders can all share in liability in the case of an accident caused by an overweight load. But as the driver, you are ultimately responsible for the weight of your truck when it’s on the road.
In addition to getting a ticket for an overweight vehicle, you can potentially cause a traffic accident. Overweight trucks are much slower to accelerate, and unsuspecting motorists who come upon a slow-moving truck may not react fast enough. Overweight trucks are also more likely to roll or jackknife when involved in a collision.
Braking, especially in a downgrade, can be especially difficult with overweight loads, and if you need to stop suddenly you may find your brakes aren’t up to the task.
Tires on a semi are designed to withstand a specific amount of weight, and any time your truck is over that standard, you risk a blowout.
You should always verify that your cargo is secured and evenly distributed. Even if you are under the weight limit, it can still be a problem if it’s loose. If the freight moves or shifts while you’re driving, it could damage your axles or cause a collision.
Keeping your own truck scales allows you to check your weight before every trip. You won’t have to blindly trust the shipper’s word on the cargo weight, and the risk of getting an overweight infraction will be minimized. If you work for a carrier, ask your employer to provide this as a way for them to reduce their risks as well.
Planning your trip is important for a variety of reasons. But planning out your fuel refills can help you avoid overweight fines by ensuring that your fuel is at a minimum when you pass through the truck scales.
If you suspect your truck is overweight, you can try to contact the shipper. Sometimes they will agree to cover your fine or can make arrangements with the Department of Transportation to take care of the issue directly by getting a permit for an oversized load.