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When It Comes to Semi-Trucks, the Trailers Are the Danger

When It Comes to Semi-Trucks, the Trailers Are the DangerSemi-trucks are already pretty risky on the roads because they’re large and heavy, but the roads can get even more dangerous if those trucks aren’t loaded correctly. When these trucks are loaded past their designated capacity, their brakes can fail, making them more difficult to bring to a stop, increasing the chances of accidents. However, if the trailer is too light, the trucks can become unstable and difficult to control, especially in adverse weather conditions.

Weight matters

Whether a trailer is loaded or empty it significantly affects how a truck behaves on the road. When a trailer is fully loaded (but not overloaded), the extra weight has a substantial impact on the truck’s stability and handling. The added weight lowers the center of gravity, making the truck more stable during turns and challenging weather conditions. This stability plays a significant role in helping to prevent rollovers. Additionally, the increased weight improves traction, ensuring better grip between the tires and the road, which is essential for safe driving.

On the other hand, when a trailer is empty, the dynamics of the truck change noticeably. An empty trailer can result in a higher center of gravity, making the truck more prone to swaying or instability, especially in windy conditions. The reduced weight may also affect traction, potentially compromising the truck’s ability to maintain proper contact with the road.

When it comes to how much a truck can legally weigh, according to Arizona law, there are specific weight limits:

  • 20,000 pounds for any one axle.
  • 34,000 pounds for a tandem axle.
  • 80,000 pounds for a combination of five axles or more.

Certain trucks with specific characteristics and permits are exempt from these weight limits. Heavy-duty vehicles with idle reduction technology or those powered by natural gas, battery electric, or hydrogen may have slightly higher weight limits if certain conditions are met.

What are the dangers of an overloaded trailer?

While having properly loaded cargo in the trailer can be beneficial to the control of the truck, overloading a trailer can also pose serious dangers on the road. The weight of a trailer is regulated for various reasons, primarily to ensure the safety of the truck, its driver, and other road users.

Significant dangers associated with an overloaded trailer include:

  • An overloaded trailer requires a longer distance to come to a complete stop. Excessive weight puts additional stress on the braking system, potentially leading to brake failures or increased wear and tear. This can result in compromised braking performance, making it challenging for the driver to stop the vehicle promptly in emergency situations.
  • Overloading a trailer raises the center of gravity, diminishing the truck’s stability. This makes the vehicle more prone to tipping over, especially during turns or sudden maneuvers. A destabilized truck is a significant hazard on the road, posing risks to the driver and other motorists.
  • Excessive weight places undue pressure on the tires, increasing the likelihood of blowouts. Overloaded trailers can wear down the tires fast and lead to overheating, making them more susceptible to failure. Tire blowouts can result in loss of control, leading to an accident.
  • Continuous overloading can lead to structural damage to the trailer and the truck itself. The additional stress on the frame and chassis can compromise integrity, posing a significant safety risk. Structural failures can result in catastrophic accidents on the road.
  • Overloaded trailers affect the handling characteristics of the truck. Steering becomes more challenging, and the overall responsiveness of the vehicle is compromised. This can make it difficult for the driver to navigate the truck safely, especially in situations that require quick and precise maneuvers.

An overloaded truck only increases the chances of fatalities and catastrophic injuries in the event that an accident occurs. The heavier the truck, the more damage it can wreak on whatever vehicles or pedestrians with which it collides.

The risks of an empty trailer, or no trailer at all

While an overloaded trailer is dangerous, an empty trailer or no trailer at all also comes with its fair share of risks:


Bobtailing is when a commercial truck’s cab is driven without an attached trailer. Typically occurring after a delivery, the cab operates independently, without the extra weight and size of a trailer. Driving a cab without a trailer carries risks, including increased stopping distances. The braking system, reliant on the rear wheels bearing the load with a trailer, can lead to skidding when braking without one. This can be particularly hazardous on busy highways, where abrupt stops may be necessary. The absence of a trailer can also result in rapid acceleration, making steering and braking more challenging and potentially causing dangerous situations on the road.


Deadheading involves a truck’s cab being connected to an empty trailer after completing a delivery. This scenario, similar to bobtailing, occurs while en route to pick up a new load. Potential accidents during deadheading stem from reduced traction and stability due to an empty trailer altering the truck’s weight distribution. The risk of truck rollovers increases, especially during turns or sudden maneuvers, and adverse weather conditions, such as strong winds, can further complicate the situation.

It’s clear that making sure a semi-truck’s trailer is loaded correctly is important for keeping our roads safe. When vehicles are loaded properly, they’re more stable, have better traction, and are easier to control, which helps prevent accidents.

At Plattner Verderame PC, we understand how serious accidents caused by semi-truck trailers can be, leaving victims suffering from catastrophic injuries or the loss of a loved one. If you find yourself in such a situation, our dedicated team is here to provide unwavering support and legal guidance. We will diligently investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident, including factors related to the semi-truck’s trailer, to build a strong case on your behalf. Our experienced Phoenix truck accident attorneys are well-versed in the intricacies of trucking regulations, ensuring that every aspect of the accident is thoroughly examined. From negotiating with insurance companies to pursuing a truck accident lawsuit, our commitment is to seek the compensation you deserve for any injuries, damages, or losses you may have suffered. If you have been in an accident caused by a semi-truck’s trailer, call us or use our contact page today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your options. We have offices in Phoenix and Tempe.