A truck driver operating an overloaded tractor trailer, which was transporting 16 to 20 million honey bees from Florida to Maine, was cited by Florida law enforcement for having an unsafe load. According to Delaware Online, the tractor trailer tipped over onto a guard rail after the load of bee hives shifted, unleashing a torrent of bees on the roadway. As a result of the accident, two men were sent to the hospital with nearly 100 bee stings.
Truck drivers in Illinois and elsewhere are often tempted to carry larger loads than the laws allow. However, doing so puts others on the road at risk of serious injury or death should a truck accident ensue.
Transporting a safe load
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, it is the truck driver’s responsibility to inspect their cargo and ensure that it is properly loaded, balanced and secured. The driver should perform a thorough inspection before driving, again within 50 miles of starting the trip, and after driving for 150 miles or a period of three hours.
The Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Freight Management and Operations is responsible for setting and overseeing heavy truck and bus weight standards, including the limits for overloaded trucks. Trucks driving on the Interstate Highway System are restricted to following these weight standards; which includes 20,000 pounds for single axles, 34,000 pounds for tandem axles, and 80,000 pounds for gross vehicle weight. States are allowed to set the weight requirements for all other roadways within their boundaries.
In Illinois, the state uses what is called a bridge formula to determine the amount of weight commercial drivers are allowed to carry on state roads. According to the Illinois Department of Transportation, this formula takes into account the number of axles a commercial vehicle has, the amount of spacing between the outer axles and the amount of weight a group of two or more axles can carry. Commercial trucks with six or more axles have a weight range of 66,000 to 80,000 pounds, depending on the spacing of the axles.
Dangers of overloaded trucks
The FMCSA reports the following dangers of driving with an unbalanced or overweight load.
- Trucks are limited to extremely slow travel speeds on hills or inclines.
- Trucks often gain substantial speed going downhill.
- Trucks must allow for longer stopping distances.
- Brakes are more likely to fail with the additional weight.
- Too much weight placed over the steering axle may result in difficult steering, as well as damage to the tires and steering axle. Excessive weight placed on the driving axle may lead to poor traction, which can be especially hazardous in poor weather conditions.
Trucks that have cargo piled up too high or have heavy objects stacked on lighter objects are more likely to tip over due to poor center of gravity.
Large truck accidents claimed the lives of 3,921 people in 2012 and injured an additional 104,000 people, according to an NBC News report. Ensuring that trucks are loaded properly may help to save lives and decrease the truck accident fatality rate in America.