Proposed law would increase tractor-trailer weight limits by more than 8,000 pounds
A survey conducted by AAA revealed that Georgia voters overwhelmingly oppose allowing heavier trucks on Georgia roadways.
Currently, the Georgia General Assembly is debating a law change that would increase the limit on tractor-trailer truck weights from 80,000 pounds to 88,200 pounds. The AAA survey showed that 80 percent of Georgia voters oppose this law. An even higher percentage of respondents - 84 percent - support increasing the fine for overloading trucks.
Heavy trucks are involved in a disproportionate number of serious truck accidents in Georgia and nationwide. Crashes involving at least one large truck caused 14 percent of Georgia traffic fatalities in 2013, and 71 percent of those fatalities were occupants of other vehicles, not truckers.
Georgia voters are correct to cite safety concerns in their opposition to the new law. Overloading isn't just a major general risk factor for truck accidents; it contributes to some of the deadliest types of truck accidents.
Larger loads lead to more injuries and fatalities
Overloading causes a truck's performance to suffer in several key ways. When overloaded trucks go down inclines, they may pick up unexpected speed, making it more difficult to stop. Large amounts of cargo can shift more easily than smaller loads, leading to improper weight distribution - which can lead to rollovers and tire blowouts.
An overloaded truck is likely to have difficulty negotiating turns, which can cause deadly jackknife accidents. Moreover, the larger the load, the more likely it is that cargo will fall off the truck, which again can cause accidents.
The proposed law change could also increase the risk of accidents in an indirect manner. Having heavier trucks traveling over Georgia roads and bridges could cause the condition of those roadways to deteriorate. Poor conditions make the roads unsafe for motorists, truckers and motorcyclists alike.
Regardless of whether the law is changed or not, the reality is that some truckers - and some trucking companies - will continue to put motorists at risk by loading their trucks in excess of the legal limit.
Accidents involving overloaded truck can make for complex cases. Under some circumstances, the truck driver is to blame. Often, however, the trucking company can be held liable for actively encouraging the driver to overload the vehicle, or for failing to adequately train or supervise the driver. Depending on the relationship between the driver and the trucking company, victims might be able to sue the company under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior - the idea that an employer is vicariously liable for the actions of employees on the job.
By law, trucking companies have a responsibility to operate their vehicles in a way that keeps truckers and other motorists safe. That includes keeping loads down to a reasonable weight. When trucking companies put profits ahead of safety, they need to be held accountable.