The commercial trucking industry is the foundation of American commerce. Millions of tons of products are transported on roadways in the United States each year. Trucking companies are bound by myriad state and federal regulations which are designed to protect road users. As regulated as the trucking industry is, trucking companiesmay be tempted to improve efficiency or delivery tonnage by overloading. Overweight freight truck incidents have been responsible for property damage, vehicle losses, injuries, and deaths. The negative consequences of overweight trucks far outweigh any potential benefits. In this guide, we will take a deeper look at overweight freight trucks and share things you need to know about this potentially costly practice.
Weight Limits: Regulating Overweight Freight Trucks
The United States first established size and weight limits on commercial trucks in 1913. Since then, regulations have evolved on both the state and federal levels. The goal of these laws was to improve safety on America’s highways by regulating truck weights. Today, the laws are a blend of both state and federal regulations and include provisions for truck type, road type, and certain factors like transportation infrastructure limits. In general, federal limits on trucks using the Interstate system are:
- 80,000 pounds of gross vehicle weight;
- 20,000 pounds on a single axle, and;
- 34,000 pounds on a tandem axle or tandem axle group.
Any truck over these limits is considered an overweight freight truck. It is important to note that certain states have limits in excess of federal regulations for vehicles on non-interstate highways.
A detailed look at state and federal limits on truck weights can be found by visiting the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration Freight Management and Operations division, which has compiled laws for federal and state truck size and weight limits.
Five Factors to Consider with Overweight Freight Trucks
Commercial trucking companies are expected to deliver goods on time and without damage or loss. These risk exposures sometimes cause trucking companies to try options that may have serious consequences. For these companies, taking a hard look at overloading trucks and the problems that may arise from these practices can be a sobering experience. Five factors to consider are:
- Drivers of overweight freight trucks can be arrested and may face jail sentences in excess of two months in certain states. Those drivers may also lose their commercial driver’s licenses.
- Trucking companies, including freight haulers, may face significant financial penalties – penalties ranging into the tens of thousands of dollars. Repeat offenders may be fined with even higher penalties, potentially resulting in expensive insurance claims.
- Overweight trucks may, in fact, arrive late to their final destinations, negating any perceived benefits of overloading them in the first place. Overweight freight trucks may be grounded at weigh stations and not allowed to continue until the excess weight is offloaded.
- Customer relationships may be damaged through overloading practices. If cargo arrives late through a state- or federally-mandated grounding, or if cargo is somehow damaged during the overloading process, this can put a damper on hard-earned business relationships.
The fifth factor to consider is perhaps the most important: overweight trucks are dangerous. Trucks filled with cargo beyond their rated capacity may cause drivers to lose control of their rigs, especially in hilly terrain or in harsh weather conditions. An overloaded truck can cause injury, property damage, or death, again resulting in more expensive insurance claims and even the possibility of legal action against the freight company and its driver.
In short: overweight freight trucks are bad business. Trucking company owners can manage risks not only through comprehensive insurance policies, but also by adhering to published state and federal truck weight regulations. By doing so, they can avoid expensive claims as well as helping to protect the safety of all road users.
About Gain Insurance Agency
Gain Insurance Agency protects trucking businesses against liabilities and claims in the industry. We combine products provided by respected insurance providers with our expertise and custom packages to meet customers’ individual needs. Our goal is to give you the coverage that you need at the lowest possible price. To learn more about our products and services, contact us today at (877) 424-3344.