Semi-truck accidents are far too common in Texas, and overloaded or improperly loaded trailers is one of the leading causes of accidents. In 2016, Texas had the highest fatal truck accident rate in the nation according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Semi and other industrial trucks were involved in accidents that resulted in 484 fatalities.
Overloaded tractor trailer
Engineers designed semi-trucks to tow a trailer of a certain weight limit. Weight limits vary from state to state. In Texas, the weight limit for a single axle is 20,000 lbs., tandem axle is 34,000 lbs., triple axle is 42,000 lbs. and quad axle is 50,000 lbs. If truckers or dock workers exceed these weight limits, the tractor’s ability to control the trailer is greatly compromised. A truck and a trailer with too much weight can suffer brake failure, transmission and driveline problems, frame damage and much more.
At 20,000 to 100,000 lbs. or more, a semi-truck can cause catastrophic damage, injuries or death. The statistics reveal the stark truth. Heavier trailers have a higher likelihood of being involved into an accident. A University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) study determined the following. Trucks weighing 50,000 lbs. fully loaded are half as likely to be in an accident as a truck with a load of 80,000 lbs. In addition, overloaded trucks carrying 100,000 lbs. or more have exponentially greater risk of an accident with injuries and fatalities when compared to a truck/trailer weighing 50,000 lbs.
On the road ramifications
An overloaded trailer subjects the tractor to enormous stress, and it can exceed the design and equipment limits of the tractor. That means that the driver can lose control of it. On the highway, an overloaded truck requires a far longer stopping distance than one within the weight limits. If a driver must execute an emergency stop, the driver may not be able to avoid other vehicles. An excessive load also puts a great strain on brakes and tires. When overloaded, the brakes can overheat and fade. In some cases, the brake fluid can get so hot that it boils, and then the brakes will fail. Additional trailer weight puts a greater load on the tires. That generates more heat and can lead to a tire blowout and loss of control.
Improperly or dangerously loaded trailer
The driver needs to have the utmost control over the tractor and trailer for safe operation. A trailer can be improperly loaded in many different ways. An unsecured load can lead to trailer failure. In fact, unsecured pallets, industrial equipment and other goods can crack or break the trailer’s frame. If an unsecured load creates a structural failure of the trailer, the risk for a traffic accident dramatically increases. A damaged trailer puts the driver in a dangerous and potentially lethal situation.
An improperly loaded trailer impedes or prevents the driver maintaining control over the rig because the load is unpredictably shifting from one side of the truck to the other. The driver can lose control when accelerating, braking or changing lanes. This erratic weight shifting can easily lead to a jackknife condition, crash or collision. In addition, this becomes even more dangerous in inclement weather, such as rain or snow.
Texas roads and highways need to be made as safe possible. Truck drivers and personnel in the shipping industry must not overload nor improperly load trailers. One can never replace a life. Truck drivers and motorists expect and require safe road conditions.