Semi-trucks are a specifically dangerous type of vehicle due to their size and capacity. These trucks typically weigh 20 to 30 times more than a standard passenger vehicle, reports the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. It also notes that 3,852 people died in 2015 as a result of large truck crashes in the United States. Of those, 69 percent were occupants of cars struck by the semi-truck. Keeping these trucks safe on the road is essential, and yet mistakes in hauling capacity can make these vehicles an even larger risk.
Many factors play a role in why semi-trucks are so dangerous to share a road with if you are in a small vehicle. They are heavy, creating a significant force on another vehicle and its occupants in a collision. They are higher, which can allow a car to be forced under the semi-truck, causing crushing injuries to the passenger vehicle and catastrophic injuries in a rear-end collision. And, they cannot move quickly or maneuver easily. However, the capacity of these vehicles also plays a role in how much risk they present.
When a semi-truck is loaded over capacity, the dangers are very obvious. Many times, drivers or shippers pack too much cargo into these trucks to reduce ship times, improve costs, and improve efficiency. However, a truck that exceeds the manufacturer's recommended limits or the state's guidelines puts everyone else at risk.
Semi-trucks that are overcapacity do not have to be bursting at the seams to create these risks. Even a moderate amount of excess weight can lead to increased risk. More so, many drivers do not load vehicles themselves and are unaware of the excessive limits. Or, when they do know, they may avoid key highway areas where truck scales are in place to monitor limits, thus placing these vehicles on roads not ideal for their size and speed.
On the other side of this coin is the truck with too little weight in it. It is common for vehicles to travel from one area to the next with next to nothing in them. However, this can be a risk if proper precautions are not taken by the driver to reduce overall risk. Drivers that are operating a vehicle under-capacity must take steps to minimize damage to the vehicle and other drivers.
Having too little weight in the back of the truck, for example, makes it too heavy in the front. This can cause the vehicle to struggle, spin, or fishtail when going downhill. The limited weight in the back makes it hard for the wheels to remain on the ground, especially going downhill.
Another key concern has to do with stormy and windy weather. An open cargo area has air blowing through it. When it is lightweight due to having very limited amounts of cargo in it, the vehicle becomes a high risk of being blown off its course, swerving into another lane, or colliding with other vehicles. Drivers need to be aware of this risk to take action to prevent it.
These are a few examples of what can happen if a driver operates a vehicle that is under- or over-capacity. It is far from all of the risks involved. However, truck drivers should take precautions to avoid these types of risks. Trucking companies also have a duty to ensure their vehicles remain safe on the road no matter the condition.
Federal laws set by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration make it very clear what these obligations are. If you are involved in an accident that could be related to the lack of following these rules, take action. Report the incident, but also work closely with a truck accident attorney who can help ensure you get any compensation owed to you.
Contact CPM Injury Law, P.C. immediately for a free consultation to discuss your accident. Don't wait, and don't settle. When attorney Chris Cagle established our legal firm, it was to specifically help those who needed it to obtain personal service without a "big firm" feel.