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Why don’t we want bigger trucks on our roads?

Written by Steve Gursten Posted May 28th, 2015

Ask the families of the 5 victims of deadly I-16 truck accident in Savannah, Georgia

I16 truck accident Savannah

The truck lobby is always pushing for larger commercial trucks on our roads. There have been many proposals to increase truck weight limits and even to allow triple tractor trailers.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations govern the weight of commercial trucks. They address the gross commercial weight, combination weight, axle weight and tire load.

Sadly, many of the wrongful death cases our Roundtable attorneys handle involve trucks that are overloaded and driving above this federal weight restriction.

So when people ask my take on whether we need larger trucks on our roads, I tell them you don’t need to be an attorney who litigates these cases for a living to understand what’s involved:

It’s simple physics that if trucks are bigger and weigh more, the injuries and deaths that will inevitably occur when a wreck happens will be more serious and deadly.

The lobbyists are pushing hard for weight increases because trucking companies stand to make more money. Whether or not legislation is passed to allow bigger and heavier trucks, the reality is that today many motor carriers often overload their trucks illegally  —  without seemingly a care in the world that they’re putting other innocent drivers in jeopardy with every mile that passes.

Ask the families of the five victims of the deadly Interstate 16 truck wreck in Savannah, Georgia.  According to, five people were killed May 19 in a fiery wreck involving three commercial trucks that shut down parts of I-16 for hours.

Witnesses told police that a tractor-trailer struck several vehicles before crashing into the rear of a car and forcing it into the tail-end of another semitrailer. The tractor-trailer driver had allegedly been drifting in and out of the lane as if distracted. All five victims died at the scene.

What’s the problem with overloading trucks?

Overloading trucks affects steering and braking. It can turn a stop into a catastrophic crash. It will often cause swaying and toppling on exit ramps. Upon sudden braking, especially if the heavy loads are not properly loaded and secured, a tractor-trailer can jack-knife.

An overloaded truck takes longer to stop. Additionally, the truck will go slower on upgrades and faster on downgrades. When brakes are forced to work too hard, they can and will fail —assuming the brakes and other mechanical equipment are in working order. Note: This is a huge assumption, considering every year, about one in four trucks on our roads are found to be in out-of-service condition.

The Savannah truck accident is being investigated by the Georgia State Patrol and Pooler police. It has yet to be determined whether the truck that caused the crash was overloaded. It is simply a reminder of the devastation that tractor trailers can cause on our roads. The sheer size and weight of these vehicles, and the increased risk it causes to the public, was the reason why the federal government adopted special safety regulations that have since been adopted by every state, including Georgia.

What is the weight limit for commercial motor vehicles?

National weight standards apply to commercial vehicle operations on the U.S. Interstate Highway System. Off the Interstate Highway System, states may set their own commercial vehicle weight standards.

Here are the Federal commercial vehicle maximum standards:

Single Axle: 20,000 pounds
Tandem Axle: 34,000 pounds
Gross Vehicle Weight: 80,000 pounds

– Source: U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, Commercial Vehicle Size and Weight Program

Commercial motor vehicle size and weight standards

Commercial motor vehicle size and weight standards

– Photo courtesy of

Related information:

Federal Highway Administration evaluates new law to increase truck weight limits

Steven Gursten Photo

About Steve Gursten

Attorney Steven Gursten is president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association and past president of the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. He has been named a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Leader in the Law" for his efforts to prevent truck accidents and promote national truck safety. Steve was also a Michigan Lawyers Weekly "Lawyer of the Year" for a record settlement in a truck accident case. He has received the top reported truck accident jury verdict and top reported truck accident settlement in Michigan for multiple years, according to published year-end compilations of all jury verdicts and personal injury settlements by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. He has been named a "Top 50 Super Lawyer," by SuperLawyers, is listed in Best Lawyers in America, and has been awarded an AV-rating by Martindale-Hubbell, which is the highest rating for legal ability and ethics. Steve speaks to lawyers throughout the country on truck accident litigation. He is a founding member of the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable, head of Michigan Auto Law, and has dedicated his legal career to making our roads safer.
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