Overload Accidents: Reckless Semi Trucks Pose a Threat to Us All


Image courtesy KING5.com

More and more accidents are caused by semi trucks that seemingly refuse to obey load restrictions put in place to protect the public, an epidemic that started sometime around 2007 when over height loads of semi trucks damaged highway overpasses roughly every 10 days.

On June 14th of this year, a Mack truck hauling an excavator (an exceptionally large piece of construction equipment) caused a full traffic stop on I-5. Its load crashed into the 128th street overpass near Mill Creek. Not only was the struck overpass damaged but another vehicle’s tires were destroyed by falling debris. Accidents like this too often cause injuries that can result in life-altering medical operations and expenses.

Perhaps the most notable instance of a collision involving an over-height vehicle in Washington state occurred on May 23, 2013, when a semi truck carrying a large shipping container struck the overhead support beams on the Skagit River Bridge in Mount Vernon. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the collision, and eventually determined that the semi truck’s load was too high to cross safely, and that the pilot car never alerted the truck driver of the problem.

What are Seattle's Limitations on Oversized Loads for Trucks?

The city of Seattle limits the loads of semi trucks in the following dimensions:

WIDTH: Operators are required to have a “pilot vehicle” ride before and behind any load that crosses the center line of a two-way street within the city of Seattle. On multiple lanes vehicles that are between 12 feet and 13 feet 11 inches must have a rear pilot vehicle. Vehicles with widths between 14 feet and 15 feet 5 inches need a front and rear pilot vehicle. Exceeding this width requires a commercial vehicle enforcement car to escort the load through the city. 

LENGTH: Rear pilot vehicles are required for load lengths of between 81 and 89 feet. Lengths between 90 and 99 feet require front and rear pilot vehicles. Special traffic escort are required for loads exceeding 100 feet in length as well as a manned steering trailer with some sort of communication device.

HEIGHT: By law, a pilot vehicle must precede any load between 14 and 15 feet. A front and rear vehicle are required for loads between 15 and 15 and half feet. Higher than that and the city has to escort the vehicle. 

WEIGHT: A load’s weight is critical to safety. Weight can destroy a road, endangering drivers and pedestrians alike. Loads on a single-axle trailer cannot exceed 20,000 pounds. Loads on a dual-axle weight shall not exceed 34,000 pounds.

OVERHANG: Overhang describes the part of the load that isn’t touching, and therefore stabilized by, the bed of the trailer. It can’t exceed a third of the vehicle’s length. The vehicle operator is required to have a pilot car if the overhang stretches 15 feet past the rear axle.

Drivers are responsible for determining if their routes can handle their loads prior to starting it. Failure to do so endangers all nearby travelers, perhaps fatally. Some of these drivers haul “superloads” that increase the probability of injury to people and property.

If you have been injured by an overloaded vehicle it may be in your best interest to consult with a personal injury attorney who has experience in handling semi truck accident cases. Call our office at 206-727-4000 if you would like to schedule a no-obligation consultation, and our legal staff will help you determine the best legal options available for you and your family.

Chris Davis
Top-rated, award-winning, attorney practicing wrongful death & serious injury law in Seattle.
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