Brian J Riker
October 8, 2019
Peer pressure. We all fall prey to it occasionally however, we can’t allow it to cloud our judgement or cause us to take unnecessary risks. We must always think for ourselves and error on the side of caution, especially when safety and compliance is concerned.
Some of the more common areas in car haul where even experienced drivers are likely to succumb to pressure is building load configurations they are not comfortable with, especially regarding height. Although common to run above the statutory legal height I can not condone the practice, ever. No load metric such as asset utilization is so important to justify risking a collision with an overhead obstacle.
Back when I drove, early in my career, I was one of those drivers that measured height with the base of the stick on my boot so to speak. Really, I often cheated the east coast height of 13’ 6” when running local and confident in my routing. This bite me in the arse one day when I was forced off my usual route by an unplanned detour and struck an unmarked bridge.
Expensive lesson and from that day forward I made it a point to always be at legal height for the area I was operating in, even when that cost me one or more units from my load. Still cheaper than buying a car, paying a citation and dealing with the loss on my insurance record for years.
The same can be said about weight. It is a shame we were granted the 80 foot length rule a few years back without an accompanying weight increase to make the best use of these wonderful trucks. My reasons to beg you not to exceed weight are two fold.
First, although failure may not happen immediately, you are stressing your tires, wheel end, axle and suspension components every time you are loaded heavy. Fatigue will set in and failure will happen, usually when you least expect it. We all have seen the results of a failed steer tire. Tragic.
Second, should you even be involved in a serious crash one of the first things the ambulance chasers will look at is your level of regulatory compliance. If they can prove you have a pattern of operating outside the rules, such as a few overweight or over height citations, they will be able to convince the jury that you are dangerous. I have seen this play out in court many times while working as an expert witness, they know just how to spin it to make you look like a monster even if you were legal and proper at the time of the crash in question. They are great at forming patterns of abuse and focusing on them.
Lastly, by routinely running over height, weight or even over length you are making car haulers in general an easy target for enforcement actions. No one likes interacting with the DOT, except maybe one of my former students and close friends Steve, but he is a different bird altogether.
Please take a moment to learn what the actual rules are for the states you operate in, not just what your buddies think they are, and figure out a plan to run compliant. This is just like saying no to cheap freight, if we all run compliant the industry will eb forced to reevaluate how they build and dispatch loads which will be a win for all of us.