Obviously, the size and the weight of tractor trailers and other big rig trucks are why truck accidents are incredibly dangerous. The average empty tractor trailer weighs approximately 30,000 pounds in combination with a semi truck (just the trailer alone weighs 10,000 to 15,000 pounds). So even an empty tractor trailer is extremely heavy compared to a passenger vehicle or truck.
Full truck loads average 50,000 pounds but our truck accident lawyers have seen cases with loads as heavy as 80,000 pounds. Tractor trailer combinations are typically 60-70 feet long and 8-9 feet wide.
How much does the average car weigh? The average passenger car weights approximately 3,000 pounds. So the weight differential is like a middle linebacker hitting a first grader.
There are also risks associated with heavy cargo shifting during the route. If a load is not adequately secured, it may shift during transit which can cause a truck accident because the imbalance in the load causes the truck to either flip or the driver otherwise loses control of the vehicle, typically during a turn or with the help of a gust of wind.
Federal law places a burden on truck drivers to make sure the load is adequately secured. See 49 CFR Section 392.9. It is generally not a defense under this regulation for the truck driver to claim that someone else loaded the vehicle although shippers, manufacturers, and distributors may also be liable for truck accidents caused by load shifts. This federal regulation also requires the truck driver to regularly inspect the cargo during transit.
Loads are sometimes not adequately secured because the cargo itself is not secured or because it was loaded improperly. This often happens with trucks carrying cargo of varying weights. Obviously, prudence mandates loading the cargo with the heaviest objects on the bottom of the load. Loaders quickly throwing cargo on a tractor trailer often do not see it that way, however.
- California allows even heavier trucks
The gross axle weight rating, or GAWR, is the most distributed weight that he truck can support.
The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, or GVWR, is the weight limit from the truck's manufacturer, indicating the most the truck is permitted to weigh.
The Department of Transportation evaluates vehicle weight by Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. GVWR is established by determining the weakest of all the components that are used. Each component has a weight rating provided for it by its manufacturer. For example, the tires, rims, suspension, axle and brakes all have known ratings.
In many cases, the GVWR is the sum of the GAWR for the truck. But if, for example, the truck's wheelbase is long, the frame could be a limiting factor of the GVWR. If the total weight of the vehicle, based on the estimates for payload, trailer tongue weight, fuel, and occupant's weight is greater than the GVWR, you are playing with fire.
The weight of an empty tractor-trailer varies but the average is around 30,000 pounds.
The federal bridge law limits the amount of weight that can be carried on a truck or tractor-semi-trailer combination to preserve our roads and bridge. The Bridge Law allows truckers to add axles to distribute the truck's weight and lessening pounding the truck gives our roads.
“Commercial motor vehicles” are defined by Department of Transportation regulations as vehicles with “a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of at least 10,001 pounds, whichever is greater.” 49 C.F.R. § 390.5.
Fuel adds real weight to a vehicle. One hundred gallons of diesel fuel weighs approximately 730 pounds.
Why are you telling us all of this? Are you just trying to fill up more truck accident pages? Well, the point is that weight-related truck accident cases are cases trucking companies regularly deny because they claim the crash was not the result of negligence. To get the real answers, you have to understand how big these loads can be and how they need to be secured.
The federal minimum allowable semi-truck length limit is 48 feet. Federal law prohibits states from imposing vehicle length limits on semi-trucks.
The average semi-truck weight depends on whether one measures the unladen or laden weight. It also depends on the engine power, towing capacity, and whether the semi-truck is a sleeper cab or not. A semi-truck's unladen weight can range between 10,000 to 25,000 pounds. The laden weight varies by the load amounts. According to federal law, a semi-truck's gross vehicle weight cannot exceed 80,000 pounds.