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Can truckers who overload their vehicles be sued for crashes?

On Behalf of | Jun 5, 2023 | Truck Accidents

Maryland has weight regulations for semi-trucks, to promote public safety. However, these regulations are routinely broken. This can lead to devastating truck crashes and the possibility of a lawsuit.

Maximum semi-truck weight

In Maryland, the gross weight of a semi-truck cannot exceed a certain weight depending on the number of axles on the vehicle. If there are three or fewer axles, the semi-truck cannot weigh more than 55,000 pounds fully loaded. If there are four axles, the semi-truck cannot weigh more than 66,000 pounds fully loaded. If there are five axles, the semi-truck cannot weigh more than 80,000 pounds fully loaded.

Dangers of overloading

Exceeding these maximum weights can make operating a semi-truck very risky for other motorists sharing the road. An overloaded semi-truck can:

  • Make it difficult for truckers to judge how quickly the vehicle can come to a stop, especially if speeding or travelling downhill
  • Raise the vehicle’s center of gravity, which risks the chance of a rollover
  • Cause a tire blowout, or
  • Cause the truck’s load to fall out of the vehicle, obstructing the roadway

Simply put, an overloaded semi-truck can lead to trucking accidents, which are often catastrophic due to the heavy nature of a semi-truck.

Consequences for truck accidents

If a trucker causes a truck accident, they may be held liable for the crash. If they are an employee, rather than an independent contractor, their employer may also be held liable for the crash through the legal doctrine of vicarious liability.

To prove liability, the accident victim must show the trucker and/or employer was negligent. Truckers have a duty of care to ensure their vehicles are not overloaded as overloading is a safety risk. Employers have a duty of care to ensure they do not incentivize or order truckers to overload their vehicles.

A breach of these duties that cause crashes that were foreseeable can lead to liability.

A violation of trucking regulations is another way to show liability. This includes violations state weight regulations, along with violations of federal regulations such as hours-of-service regulations.

To show a violation of a trucking regulation constituted a breach of duty, the crash still needs to be the actual cause of the crash and a foreseeable consequence of violating the regulation.

Don’t assume semi-trucks are safe

It is natural to assume that the semi-trucks sharing the road with us are carrying their loads safely, but sadly many truckers choose to overload their vehicles putting other drivers’ safety at risk.

Truckers may be under the impression that if they overload their vehicle, they can transport more cargo to their final destinations, which could result in more money in their pocket.

However, an overloaded truck is at risk of causing a crash. Moreover, weigh stations are often closed, meaning there is a lack of accountability.

These factors combined can lead to a truck crash, in which the trucker and their employer might be held liable to the accident victims who were harmed by the truckers’ negligent actions.