Trucking companies in Georgia and around the country are paid to move cargo from one place to another as quickly as possible, and they are also heavily regulated by government agencies like the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to ensure that their efforts to improve efficiency do not compromise safety. Some of the strictest regulations deal with the way cargo is loaded because unbalanced, unsecured or overweight loads can make commercial vehicles much more difficult to control.
Unbalanced and unsecured loads
Unbalanced tractor-trailer loads are dangerous because they affect the way commercial vehicles respond to driver commands. Too much weight on either side of a trailer increases the chances of a rollover accident, and too much cargo placed at the front or back of a trailer affects the way the truck brakes or handles. Unsecured loads are even more of a threat to truck drivers and other road users because they can shift without warning, which can lead to jackknifing and big rig accidents.
Commercial vehicle suspensions and braking systems are complex and extremely capable, but they are not designed to cope with overweight loads. When trucks are overloaded, their brakes heat up very quickly and could fail completely in an emergency situation or on a steep descent. According to the FMCSA, brake failures are a contributing factor in almost 30% of catastrophic truck accidents. Overweight loads compromise commercial vehicle suspensions and make them less able to deal with irregular road surfaces and potholes, and they also cause truck tires to wear unevenly and prematurely. This is particularly worrying because blowouts can make overweight commercial vehicles difficult or impossible to control.
Protecting the public
Tractor-trailers all look much the same, so there is no way for other road users to know which of them have unbalanced, unsecured or overweight loads. It is up to the authorities to check these things, but spot checks are rarely conducted unless a nationwide road safety campaign is underway. To better protect the public, spot checks of commercial vehicles and harsh penalties for trucking companies that violate cargo regulations should become the rule rather than the exception.