Many trucking companies push the limits on how much their tractor-trailers, big rigs, and other commercial vehicles should carry. While company profits depend on shipping the maximum loads possible, public safety depends on drivers and companies obeying federal and state oversize and overweight limits, as well as trucking industry safety standards.
Exceeding size and weight limits is more than just a matter of being fined. The drivers and companies who exceed these limits endanger everyone on the highway, as oversized and overweight trucks can cause truck drivers to lose control of their vehicles. When the vehicles roll over, jackknife, veer into other lanes, or spill their cargo, the result can cause death, injuries, and havoc in multiple lanes of traffic.
Common types of oversize and overweight trucks include tractor-trailers, rigs, semis, cranes, and trucks that transport prefabricated homes, vehicles, trees or lumber, and heavy machinery.
Why do oversized and overweight trucks cause accidents?
- They have a high center of gravity, which makes them difficult to control. A truck with a lower center of gravity is more stable.
- They’re difficult to steer, especially in curves.
- It’s more difficult for the driver to respond to traffic emergencies.
- Shifting cargo makes it hard for the truck driver to control the truck.
- When trucks are too big or too heavy, tire blowouts are more likely.
- The mass of the truck makes it hard for a truck to stop – especially if the truck is going downhill.
- It’s likely cargo will spill, especially if it isn’t secured properly.
Oversized trucks (including wide load trucks) and overweight trucks generally require that the truck driver or company has a special permit. Failure to have this permit can result in substantial fines. Repeat truck driver offenders may lose their commercial driver’s license.
In addition to size and weight restrictions, most states (like North Carolina) restrict the hours these large trucks can operate when they do have the correct permits. In some states, oversize and overweight trucks require a car escort and the truck may be required to have a banner and use strobe lights to warn other drivers.
What are North Carolina’s oversize and overweight truck regulations?
North Carolina regulates the size of trucks because of infrastructure concerns, including:
- The width of the highway. Trucks must be small enough so that when the truck travels down the highway, the truck doesn’t take up the whole lane. Generally, the truck should be small enough to leave several feet of the lane open on each side of the truck. The sizes of the lanes vary depending on the type of highway.
- The height of the truck. Trucks can’t be so tall that they can’t pass through tunnels and overpasses. They also shouldn’t be so tall that they make it too difficult for any vehicles near the truck to see around the truck in normal driving situations.
- The weight of the truck. A truck shouldn’t weigh so much that it causes damage to the roadway infrastructure, or makes it likely the driver will lose control of their truck.
According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT), permits are required for trucks that:
- Exceed the North Carolina weight limits
- Have a width greater than 8’6”
- Have a height greater than 13’6”
- Are more than 40 feet long – for single trucks
- Are more than 60 feet long – for combination vehicles
However, there is one exception: “Truck tractor/53-foot semi-trailer combination with no overall length limitation are allowed on all roads.” There are other length, weight, width, height, and travel time limitations noted by the DOT.
According to Oversize.io, oversize/overweight trucks may not operate on Sunday without special permits. Holiday travel is prohibited for trucks weighing more than 112,000 pounds. Other holiday restrictions apply. Banners should be in yellow with black letters, and be seven feet wide and 18 inches high. There are other banner requirements, such as where the banners must be placed on the truck. Flags are also required on vehicles wider than eight feet, six inches. They also state that “red brake lights must be displayed on any rear overhang. Headlights on during highway movement. Red or amber light at rear of overhang, visible for 200′ or more.”
At Warren & Kallianos, PLLC, our experienced Charlotte, NC truck accident lawyers review whether an oversized or overweight truck complied with all the necessary permit and documentation requirements. When an accident happens, we investigate whether the truck driver, truck owner, shipping company, and other responsible parties failed to follow state regulations. We also work to show negligence on the part of the truck driver and trucking company. Our firm has a strong track record of success in truck accident cases. Call us at our Charlotte, North Carolina office by phoning 704-377-7777, or reach us by filling out our contact form.