Eighteen-wheelers are a common sight on our Tennessee roadways. Most of the time, everyone gets where they are going safely, but you may notice something odd about the truck traveling in the next lane that raises red flags in your mind.
The rear of the truck has a noticeable sag in the middle, which may indicate that the cargo is overloaded. This is a dangerous practice that could lead to a devastating accident.
A violation of regulations
Overloading a commercial truck is a violation of various state and federal regulations, but the practice still goes on with trucking companies looking the other way because more product delivered means more profit. Overloading may cause cargo to shift when the truck driver changes lanes or makes a sudden turn, and the imbalance may lead to a disastrous rollover accident.
Less stopping power
A serious problem with braking comes to the forefront when a big rig is overloaded because it reduces the driver’s emergency handling capabilities. Braking distances increase and the driver—especially a novice driver—can easily midjudge how long it will take to stop. If, for example, an overloaded truck is traveling down an incline, the shifting cargo will cause the truck to go faster than it should, and the driver may not be able to stop in time to avoid an accident when he or she comes to the intersection at the bottom of the hill.
Signs to watch for
In addition to the tell-tale sag at the rear of the truck, excessive tire wear is another sign of an overloaded truck. Tires run hotter because of the heavier load, and other components will begin to fail due to the extra strain. Be aware of signs that the driver is having trouble controlling the truck, especially at high speeds. There may be some shimmying or drifting toward the shoulder of the road.
What to do
If you have any concerns about your safety, try to move away from the truck. If it should sideswipe you, or if your vehicle is in the path of a rollover, you and your passengers could suffer devastating injuries. When the flow of traffic permits, hang back or move forward, putting a couple of car lengths between you and the big rig. It may be the safest move you make all day—and you can stop staring at that sagging rear end.