Does Improper Loading Lead to Semi-Truck Accidents?

You don’t need to possess specialized mechanical or trucking knowledge to appreciate that semi-trucks pose a grave threat to the motoring public. The sheer size of these massive vehicles is enough to make anyone aware that a crash with one could easily be fatal. Most of us have witnessed, whether in person or by news footage, a mangled car on the side of the roadway that had the misfortune of crashing with an 18-wheeler.

Many of the same negligent actions that cause automobile drivers to have accidents are obvious and also affect semi-truck drivers. Examples include:

  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • Driving under the influence of intoxicants
  • Distracted driving
  • Failure to keep a proper lookout
  • Failure to obey traffic laws and rules of the road

But maintaining safety with a tractor-trailer truck is more complicated than safely driving a passenger automobile. Truck drivers encounter issues that do not affect automobile drivers, and it’s not always immediately apparent what causes a driver to lose control of the truck.

And that brings us to the topic of this article: Does improper loading lead to semi-truck accidents?

Properly Loading a Semi-Truck Trailer

We’ll start with an answer to this article’s question - yes, improperly loading a semi-trailer can be dangerous and can cause semi-truck accidents. In fact, loading is so important that there are state and federal laws that govern many elements of semi-trailer loading and operation. Failure to abide by these laws is both dangerous and illegal. We’ll discuss some of the issues below.

Maximum Load - Unless they have special permission to carry more, semi-trucks are limited to 80,000 pounds. That’s a lot of weight and provides some insight into why tractor-trailer accidents cause death and such serious personal injuries.

Naturally, heavy things are harder to stop than light things. Thus, it takes a semi-truck longer to stop than it takes a passenger car. However, if a truck is overloaded (beyond the maximum weight), the stopping time and distance can be even greater, which can cause crashes. 

Plus, overloaded trailers can put stress on different systems or parts of the truck. For example, overloads may lead to brake system failures or can overstress a tire and cause a blowout. Overloaded tractor-trailer trucks are also more difficult to steer. Finally, even when a load falls within the maximum limit allowed by law, it’s important that the weight of the trailer not exceed the capabilities of the particular tractor and trailer being used.

Weight Distribution - Specific rules and regulations also exist on how cargo weight in a trailer must be distributed. There are specific weight limits for different sets of axles. When loading a semi-trailer, it’s also important to make sure that the center of gravity of the cargo is not too high and that the load is balanced. Otherwise, problems can result. For example, a high center of gravity can cause a truck to turn over, or can affect the traction and turning of the truck.

Improperly Secured Load - Even if everything is initially loaded correctly, if the cargo is not secured properly inside the trailer, it can shift during transit and result in the same problems discussed above. And if cargo is not properly secured on an open-bed trailer, it can actually fall onto the roadway or onto a car. This can obviously constitute an extreme hazard.

Call with Questions

The trucking industry is crucial to a healthy America. However, regulation of the industry is necessary to maximize the health and safety of the motoring public. When trucking companies and truck drivers fail to abide by these rules, the results can be disastrous.

If you have been injured in a semi-truck accident, we are here to answer your questions. Please call us. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield represent injured victims across Oregon. We know the regulations with which trucking companies must comply and we know how to effectively investigate accidents. We believe that wrongdoers must be held accountable for their actions so that all of society will be safer.


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