As a California driver, you have likely seen the many weigh stations that line our major highways, including those here in Santa Barbara County. And what gets weighed? Vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 lbs. These weigh stations exist to ensure that large commercial trucks and trailers meet all California and federal safety standards and to ensure these vehicles are not overloaded.
If a truck driver does not stop at these stations or overloads the vehicle, this is negligence, which can cause a serious accident.
Who Has to Stop at Weigh Stations?
In California, anyone operating a truck that weighs more than 10,000 lbs. must stop at a Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Facility, as required by the California Department of Transportation (DOT) and enforced by California Highway Patrol (CHP). While these laws mainly apply to commercial semi-truck drivers, they also include moving trucks and rental trucks.
Exceptions exist for certain vehicles, including:
- Motorhomes and RVs
- Public utility vehicles
- Logging trucks
- Horse trailers
- Trucks that are near a loading or unloading facility, such as a distribution center
- Trucks with local overweight permits
What Do Weigh Stations Check For?
Weigh stations inspect each vehicle’s weight, certifications, and safety features to ensure that the vehicle is safe to operate. The DOT has strict rules for how heavy a semi-truck and its trailer can be. Typically, the maximum weight for a single-axle vehicle is 20,000 lbs., and there are several other rules for heavier vehicles, including a federal one that limits 18-wheelers to a maximum of 80,000 lbs.
In addition to a vehicle’s weight, these stations can check:
- Trucking logbooks and the driver’s hours of service records
- Vehicle paperwork, including maintenance reports
- Freight paperwork
Truck drivers and trucking companies are expected to follow all of these regulations and apply for specific certifications when overloading a vehicle. When they fail to do so, it is considered negligence. Overloaded vehicles are extremely dangerous and can cause serious trucking accidents.
The Dangers of an Overloaded Trailer
Big rigs are powerful, heavy, and large vehicles that can cause serious damage in an accident. Due to their weight, these vehicles need extra time to come to complete stops. If a trailer is overloaded, the truck takes even longer to stop, potentially leading to a rear-end collision with other cars if the brakes fail or the trucker isn’t paying attention.
Overloading a trailer can also lead to other catastrophic truck accidents. For example, if a truck is traveling at high speeds and comes to a sudden stop, the trailer may jackknife. When a trailer jackknifes, it can swing out to either side of the truck and form a right angle, crossing multiple lanes of traffic and striking other vehicles. If the truck’s hitch is strained or damaged, the trailer may come loose and cause further destruction.
Cargo spills are another risk of overloading trailers and tanks. Whether a truck is transporting Amazon packages or brand-new cars, if the cargo spills onto a busy highway, anyone in its path can be severely injured. These accidents become more dangerous when they involve hazardous cargo, such as oil, gasoline, or chemicals.
It is a simple fact that the heavier a truck is, the more dangerous it can be in a collision. More than 75% of all fatal truck accidents involve trucks that weigh more than 26,000 lbs., according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). There is no room for mistakes when loading a truck’s trailer. If a shipping company or driver violates our state’s weight limits, it can result in a deadly trucking accident.
Contact an Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer
If you have been injured by a negligent truck driver or trucking company, you should contact a San Barbara injury lawyer as soon as possible. Our team at NordstrandBlack PC has worked with numerous clients who were injured in trucking accidents. We know how to get you full and maximum compensation for your injuries. In one case, we successfully recovered compensation for an elderly couple injured by a semi-truck in an intersection collision. We have more than 40 years of combined experience and can personally investigate the cause of the accident to secure you compensation. To sit down and talk to us in a free consultation, call us at (805) 962-2022.