Shifting Cargo: The Importance of Weight Distribution


The Importance of Weight Distribution in Trucks

It is well known that improper loading of cargo is a leading cause of tractor trailer accidents.  When cargo is not secured properly, it may result in a serious personal injury or death, in addition to causing a company’s cargo loss. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations contain specific rules for how drivers must monitor a trailer’s weight distribution and secure cargo, including the use of steel straps, chains, webbing, wire rope and cords. 

When drivers fail to follow these rules of safely transporting cargo, drivers on the road are exposed to serious dangers while driving. 

Monitoring Trailer Weight Distribution

Drivers must do more than secure their cargo – they also must make sure the weight on their trucks and trailers is distributed properly. This is important because poor weight balance on a tractor trailer can make a vehicle dangerous. The following problems can occur if weight is not balanced correctly: 

  • Too much weight on steering axles can cause hard steering;
  • Too little weight can reduce traction; or
  • Cargo loaded too high can cause a greater chance of a rollover accident

In order to prevent accidents caused by improper weight distribution, commercial drivers can adjust their trailer tandems to change the weight distribution between a tractor’s drive axles and its trailer tandems.  A driver can also adjust a load by adjusting the fifth wheel on the tractor, which is where the trailer is inserted into the back of a tractor. When a driver makes these types of adjustments, he or she must do so with caution to avoid causing an accident.  

A Case for Failed Trailer Weight Distribution

Sometimes, drivers are careless in how they inspect and adjust weight on their vehicles. In a case we handled, a worker at a distribution center was injured when a truck driver adjusted his tandem axles while the worker was inspecting cargo at the exit to the business. 

While the injured employee was looking to make sure the correct cargo was loaded on the trailer, the driver was trying to adjust the weight distribution to account for the way the cargo had been loaded. As the driver adjusted the position of the tandem axles, he did not pay attention to the worker who was on a ladder leaning on the trailer, which caused the worker to fall to the ground.  We were able to bring a workers’ compensation claim for the injured worker and make a trucking injury claim against the truck driver and his company. 

The safety lesson in our case was that the driver should have checked the trailer’s weight distribution and balanced his cargo before his trip. In other words, the driver of the vehicle should have adjusted his tandems at the dock, not at the exit gate where the injury occurred.  

Your Missouri and Illinois Tractor Trailer Accident Lawyers

Unsecured and shifting cargo may easily cause devastation, if drivers and trucking companies do not follow the law. Whether you are inspecting your trailer or securing your cargo to ensure equal weight distribution and prevent cargo shifting, make sure to observe your surroundings and keep your whole team on the same page to avoid an accident — both on and off the road. 

If you have been injured on the job or on the road due to shifting or unsecured cargo, the attorneys at MHM are ready to help you navigate your case. Connect with us today to schedule your free consultation.