How To Deal with an Overweight Truck

Big Heavy Fleet

It’s human nature to aspire for greatness; isn’t that the entire premise of the Guinness Book of World Records?

But there are some records that you just don’t want to be associated with.

Like the trucking firm that was fined a record $57,000 in July 2017.

For a traffic ticket!!!

The fine was issued for their attempt to drive through Rhode Island with an unpermitted 560,000-pound load. Being seven times over the legal limit of 80,000 pounds, officials of the Rhode Island DOT concluded that the truck’s original route would have led to a bridge collapse.

Overloaded vehicles = Wasted tax dollars

Overweight and overloaded vehicles have been implicated in the accelerated deterioration of roads, highways and bridges. In May 2017, an overloaded truck crossed Daley’s Bridge in Cresco, Iowa.

The driver disregarded the 3-ton weight limit for the bridge and drove over it. This caused the entire bridge to collapse under him, resulting in damage estimated at $775,000.

Overweight trucks damage roads due to the excess strain they put on them. One American Association of State Highway Transportation estimate says trucks weighing 5% over the legal limit would force the state to replace roads 5 years earlier than it should.

What a waste of tax dollars.

It’s not just structural damage.

Due to their weight, semi-truck accidents are already classed as the most dangerous type of highway collision. An accident with an overweight truck that’s harder to stop, will have more force when striking a vehicle causing even greater injury.

The financial cost of a violation, as seen in the opening paragraph, is also a huge blow to any company’s bottom line. Being overloaded might also trigger a full inspection. If the firm has a record of such behavior, the truck can be put out of service immediately.

With a view to protecting other road users, a number of federal laws and regulations aimed at overloaded/overweight trucks have been passed. Using the vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) as a baseline, the FMCSA/DOT stipulates that no commercial truck may be in excess of 80,000 pounds.

To ensure compliance with regulations, truck drivers are required to stop at weighing stations/scales along their route. But to avoid what they see as a hassle, many truck drivers find alternative routes in order to bypass these permanent scales.

So, who is responsible for overweight truck accidents?

  • Do you place the blame on the employers who put safety above profit and pressure drivers to transport loads that exceed weight limits?
  • Do you blame drivers who don’t bother to get these loads legal and agree to transport loads that ignore FMCSA and state regulations?
  • Or dispatchers too lazy to rework overweight vehicle loads i.e. unload and reload cargo properly?

Who do you blame?

In the end, the buck stops with the truck drivers who have a responsibility to adhere to state and federal regulations while operating their vehicles.

Getting Through with Permits

To avoid getting caught with an overweight load, drivers must get the right permits for the route they’re going to take before they depart. The DOT-issued permit will  state the exact route the driver can take, the requirements of each road. and any restrictions that apply (movement only in the daytime, number/type of escort vehicles etc.)

With this pre-approved route issued, drivers must stick to it and never deviate from it. Failure to do so can lead to you getting caught and issued an fine on the spot.

The fine depends on how much the truck is overloaded e.g. in North Dakota, fines cost $20 for every 1,000 pounds you’re overweight. Once the weight exceeds 10,000 pounds, the fine doubles, and continues to increase from there. One ND trooper admitted that he has issued a $14,000 fine on the spot. Ouch!

Other consequences for running overweight trucks include:

  • Jail time for offending truck drivers if caught with an overweight truck in Delaware, Alabama or Ohio. This can be for up to two months and carries the risk of losing their CDL.
  • Weigh stations can force drivers to “end” their operation if a truck weighs more than 6,000 pounds over GVWR. This will lead to overweight trucks arriving late to customers, and can subsequently damage customer relationships.

So how do you deal with being overweight?

Getting that red light at the truck weigh inspection can be a shock but don’t start arguing about the accuracy of the scales. These are government-certified scales that are calibrated on a regular basis.

You will get a ticket and some fines.

Depending on how many pounds overweight, your fine can range from a few hundred dollars all the way up to few thousands dollars.

The knock-on effect of this is that the violation goes on your record and you’ll find yourself facing more scrutiny every time you go into a weigh check point.

The best way to deal with fines is to pay up and learn the lesson. The next best is to work to avoid them altogether. The following are our top 5 tips for doing just that:

  1. Always weigh your load, preferably on a certified full-length platform scale.
  2. Remember that fuel is included in your GVWR. So check weight when fully loaded but before refuelling to ensure you stay within limits. This means you may be weight limited by how much fuel you can take on and have to make frequent stops to refuel but it beats getting slapped with an overweight  fine.
  3. On trips where you can’t find a scale between a shipper and weigh station, don’t chance it. Find the nearest US highway, there are weigh stations situated along highways. Not sure where to find one? Contact the local authorities and ask where the nearest permanent scale is.
  4. Sometimes in a bid to make the load legal, you can max out your options. If this happens, notify the company and ask if they will cover you if you got an overweight fine. Failure to do so can lead to you getting lumped with a hefty fine like this driver.
  5. If you transport overweight loads on a regular basis, make sure you obtain an overweight permit in advance.


Running overweight is illegal and can have  far reaching consequences if there’s an accident. By following these tips, you can ensure your loads get delivered on time and with minimal fuss.

Pushing your trucks to the limit with overloading puts the vehicle more stress than it’s built to handle. This results in rapid wear and tear of parts, further increasing the possibility that a truck will be involved in an accident.

Resist the temptation to cut corners and carry that extra load; your reputation is more important than a few extra dollars.

Keep other road users safe by having a regular schedule of maintenance for your vehicles.

You wouldn’t eyeball a truck to guess its weight, would you? So why do you eyeball your heavy truck and decide it’s not due for PM yet?

Let Perfit’s EMDECS help you develop a structured PM schedule. Let’s take the guessing out of your business operations and put you in total control.

Contact us here to learn more about how we can save you money by reducing the wear and tear of your trucks.

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