Truck Load Limits, Weight Restrictions and When Overloading Causes Accidents in Maryland


Trucks traveling on Maryland highways must adhere to strict weight limits and restrictions to protect road infrastructure and improve public safety. When trucks exceed these limits due to overloading, they become prone to dangerous accidents. This article outlines Maryland’s truck weight regulations, where they apply, the consequences and risks of overloading trucks, and what to do after an overloaded truck accident. Speak to a Baltimore personal injury attorney to discuss the details of your specific case.

Maryland Truck Weight Limits and Restricted Routes

Under Maryland law, the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) – the maximum allowable total weight of a road vehicle and its contents – may not exceed 80,000 pounds on any state highway. Lower gross weights apply on interstate highways and bridges. For example, the maximum is 73,000 pounds on Interstates 70, 270 and 495 in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. Bridges have separate posted limits.

In addition to gross weight limits, restrictions apply to axle weights. For a typical five-axle tractor-trailer, axle weight limits are:

  • Single axle: 20,000 pounds
  • Tandem axle group: 34,000 pounds

Maryland also enforces Federal Bridge Formula standards on axle spacing and weight distribution to prevent over-stressing of highway infrastructure. Exceeding these limits strains tires and brakes, making vehicles harder to control.

The Maryland State Highway Administration identifies restricted transportation routes incapable of safely accommodating standard legal trucks. Restricted bridges have posted limits below 29 tons to reduce structural stress. Trucks must adhere to defined routes avoiding low bridges. Permitted vehicles may transport oversize/overweight loads on restricted routes through Maryland’s Hillegas permit program. Fines apply to violations.

Consequences of Overloading Trucks

While overloading increases payload efficiency for trucking companies, it causes accelerated wear on vehicles. Braking distances grow longer, steering responsiveness decreases, and tires deteriorate faster. These factors heighten crash risks with devastating human costs. Further dangers from overloading trucks include:

Increased Stopping Distances: Studies by federal safety agencies like NHTSA confirm heavier trucks require substantially more time and distance to stop completely. Overloaded trucks can take over 40 percent longer stopping distances. This makes collisions more likely.

Difficult Vehicle Handling: Excess static weight raises a truck’s center of gravity while shifting loads decrease stability. This reduces control during maneuvers and increases roll-over risk. Sudden movements cause further load shifts that can catastrophically affect handling.

Catastrophic Tire Failure: Overloading trucks places excess pressure on tires increasing the chances for rapid air loss or sudden blowouts. These events precipitate the immediate loss of vehicle control and harrowing jackknife accidents.

Excessive Component Wear: The braking systems, suspensions, transmissions and frames of trucks strain under increased dynamic loads which accelerates wear-and-tear. This breakdown of components becomes safety hazards that can cause accidents.

Clearly, overloading trucks substantially increases threats to roadway safety in Maryland through decreased vehicle control, lengthened stopping distances, and accelerated mechanical breakdown. When large truck weight limits are callously ignored by trucking companies, truck stability suffers considerably while crash risks escalate.

The Risks of Overloaded Truck Accidents

While statewide data is limited, academic studies, news reports and transportation agencies confirm a clear link between truck overloading and increased crash risks:

A recent National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the causes of truck accidents determined vehicles exceeding weight restrictions had a disproportionately high representation in serious wrecks.

Researchers at the University of Maryland analyzed crash data finding tractor trailers weighing over 10% above legal limits showed drastically longer stopping distances and a heightened roll-over risk.

Interviews with commercial drivers indicate trucking companies routinely pressure them to overload trucks carrying goods for retail chains desperate to cut shipping costs – jeopardizing everyone’s safety.

Federal regulators fine violators and cite drivers for overloaded trucks. But with profit motivations trumping concerns for consumer safety and infrastructure integrity, more comprehensive solutions are needed. Strict enforcement and stringent punishments on overloading could prevent untold disasters on roads statewide. Mandatory loaded container weighing stations and increased scrutiny of truck payload manifests may provide part of the oversight equation.

What to Do After an Overloaded Truck Accident

If you have suffered injury or vehicle damage from a trucking accident caused by a provably overloaded truck, take these steps to protect yourself:

  1. Seek Medical Care: You must visit a doctor for a complete diagnosis and documentation of injuries, even if you don’t have obvious trauma from the truck crash. Only professional medical evaluation can detect less visible harm like concussions, internal bleeding, or spinal damage.
  2. Report the Accident: Contact police immediately to file an official report precisely documenting all aspects of the trucking accident. Note specific factors like truck overloading contributing to the crash. This police report creates a vital record supporting any legal claims later.
  3. Gather Evidence: Use cell phones or cameras to extensively photograph accident scenes, vehicle damage, observed injuries, road defects preceding the crash, and any posted truck weight limits. Also obtain police reports, commercial vehicle inspection records, and weigh station tickets validating truck overloading.
  4. Contact an Attorney: To determine fault and ensure the trucking company’s insurer pays full damages, contact an experienced Maryland truck accident attorney from Monge & Associates to represent your legal rights and interests following the crash. We will assist in compiling extensive evidence of negligence and securing accident reconstruction expertise. We offer free consultations and only get paid if you win damages.
  5. Follow Medical Advice: It’s critical to follow all medical advice including attendance at consultations, diagnostic tests, and prescribed treatment plans which document the full extent of any injuries. Attempting to tough out symptoms can negatively impact injury claims.

Truck overloading presents an ongoing preventable danger decreasing vehicle control and elevating accident probability. Yet simple compliance with Maryland gross weight regulations promotes safer cargo transport protecting innocent motorists. If you are the victim of an overloaded truck collision, ensure you receive urgent medical care, collect documentation, retain counsel, and file a claim so negligent parties are held financially accountable. Working together, we can restrict harmful overloading and its tragic consequences.

Monge & Associates has offices in 32 locations and 19 states, including Maryland, Georgia, and Colorado. Get in touch with us today.

Call now for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597.

Voted Best Law Firm by American Institute of Trial Lawyers