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  1. #1
    Trucker Geek txviking's Avatar
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    Overweight loads

    I've often been told that legally, "if you're pulling it, you're responsible". This leads me to wonder what recourse a driver has if he REFUSES to pull an illegal load and his employer penalizes or fires him.

    Many moons ago, I was a company driver for Covenant Transport. I picked up a load in a Chicago drop yard. At the first scale I got to, I found out the load was substantially overweight.

    I sent my dispatcher a Qualcomm message; he went to confer with the Load Manager. Eventually, they sent me back a Qualcomm message ordering me to run with it and that any fines would "be taken care of."



    The trailer was preloaded, so the ultimate fault here lies with the customer. I also believe the Covenant driver that delivered the trailer TO the drop yard had run overweight. I had a Kenworth W900 (inherited from Harold Ives Trucking) at a time when most Covenant drivers had Freightliners. However, the difference in tractor weight was not sufficient to make up for the amount over 80,000, let alone explain the overload on the trailer tandems. The drop yard had no dock and no facility for reloading the trailer.

    I didn't want to risk my job. I also didn't want my next 20 loads to be 150 miles each. I took a photograph of the Qualcomm message for my records, as I was aware Covenant could erase the actual message any time they wanted. Then I ran the load, knowing full well I was overweight.

    I used my CB radio to learn when the scale on the WI border closed. I bypassed the Eau Claire scale by detouring onto US Highway 10 into Minnesota. I increased my following distance to paranoid levels. I wasn't caught, but I felt like a common criminal.

    My dispatcher apologized and promised never to make me run another overweight load. For the rest of my time at Covenant, he kept true to his word.

    I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been in this situation. How have others handled it? In particular, I'm curious to hear from people who did the right thing and refused such loads. What were the repercussions?

  2. #2
    Heavy Load Member chief's Avatar
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    when they fire you, they aren't going to tell you it's because you refused to break the law. if you were to plow into a bus full of church nuns and school children, the company might get in trouble for encouraging you to break the law, but they probably won't end up in prison like YOU will.

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  4. #3
    Trucker Geek txviking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chief View Post
    when they fire you, they aren't going to tell you it's because you refused to break the law. if you were to plow into a bus full of church nuns and school children, the company might get in trouble for encouraging you to break the law, but they probably won't end up in prison like YOU will.
    Why would I plow into a bus full of church nuns and school children? I was overweight (and compensated by increasing my following distance). I wasn't sleeping behind the wheel.

    If I thought I was taking a safety risk (as opposed to a legal risk), I would not have run the load.

  5. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by txviking View Post
    Why would I plow into a bus full of church nuns and school children?
    Because "stuff" happens................

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  7. #5
    Heavy Load Member chief's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by txviking View Post
    Why would I plow into a bus full of church nuns and school children?

    because they'll cut in front of you and slam on brakes to get off on that exit they're about to miss.

    the point I was making is if you are over weight, you ARE taking a safety risk (as well as a legal risk.) you can increase your following distance all you want, ###### happens. and when it does, they'll investigate the crap out of you. and when they find out that you knowingly hauled an overweight (illegal) load, well, you better get ready for a long stay at the gray bar motel.

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  9. #6
    Trucker Geek txviking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chief View Post
    because they'll cut in front of you and slam on brakes to get off on that exit they're about to miss.

    the point I was making is if you are over weight, you ARE taking a safety risk (as well as a legal risk.) you can increase your following distance all you want, ###### happens. and when it does, they'll investigate the crap out of you. and when they find out that you knowingly hauled an overweight (illegal) load, well, you better get ready for a long stay at the gray bar motel.
    The same thing can happen when 20 nuns jump in front of your car. In other words, I consider your scenario pretty far-fetched.

    But yes, if an accident happens while you're overweight, I'm aware the consequences are greater, even if your being overweight was not a contributing factor.

    I don't have to worry about it -- I currently work as a network engineer, and while I do own a truck, it's strictly a hobby and nobody but me decides how it gets run. This incident was the only time in my life I have run an illegal load, and I do not intend to do so in the future.

    I was really just looking more for other drivers to share their stories, and in particular what happened to those who did the right thing and refused the load.

  10. #7
    Heavy Load Member chief's Avatar
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    but if they cut me off and I'm driving a car, I'm not going to prison. if you run over someone with an overweight CMV, even if it's the other person's fault, it's a "whole nuther....."

    what happens if you refuse to break the law? well, if a driver were working for a company that does this, or condones their employees doing it, that ain't a company I would be working for, for very long.

    I only had one overweight load that I refused. I told the forklift guy BEFORE he loaded that I couldn't haul that much weight. he said it might not be as heavy as the paper work says. if it is, will they take enough off to make it legal? "no," he says. I repeat, I can NOT haul that much weight. he loads it any way. I go around the corner and weight it - guess what?? OVERWEIGHT!! gross AND axle. I explain to the lady in the office. she's convinced that if the gross is 80K or less, that it's legal. I explained the axle weight limitations to her several times. she either didn't understand, or didn't believe me. the only option was to unload and leave. I wasted 5 hours of the day at this place. couldn't get another load, sat the rest of the day. sat all day the next day as well because they was no other load available. dispatcher didn't really have anything to say because he had never been in a truck and probably didn't know jack squat about the weight laws. total layover pay for the TWO days of sitting - $0. didn't work for them much longer. been out of work now 1 year.

  11. #8
    Road Train Member striker's Avatar
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    I refuse to pull overweight loads all the time, my employer never has a problem with it.

  12. #9
    Master FMCSA Interpreter GasHauler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by txviking View Post
    The same thing can happen when 20 nuns jump in front of your car. In other words, I consider your scenario pretty far-fetched.

    But yes, if an accident happens while you're overweight, I'm aware the consequences are greater, even if your being overweight was not a contributing factor.

    I don't have to worry about it -- I currently work as a network engineer, and while I do own a truck, it's strictly a hobby and nobody but me decides how it gets run. This incident was the only time in my life I have run an illegal load, and I do not intend to do so in the future.

    I was really just looking more for other drivers to share their stories, and in particular what happened to those who did the right thing and refused the load.

    You missed the point. If you're overweight then your truck is illegal and if ANYTHING happens it will go against you. It's like my company that had a speeding rule. For many years we had to run 55mph and if you were over and involved in an accident you would be charged by the company even if no fault was on your side. You can rufuse the load and you should but like the other poster said they will find a reason to fire you. If you're back into a corner you could go back to the shipper or you could keep your message and let the scale house people take a look and put you OOS. Don't ever think you have no choice. Protect your record so you can move up and away from lousy outfits like that one.

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  14. #10
    Road Train Member ChromeDome's Avatar
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    I find the weights they are using now interesting also.
    I drove 10 wheel dumps in Maryland for a number of years in the early 90s.
    Our Legal weight was 85,000.
    Then the bridge law came in and they lowered it for new trucks purchased. It became 85,000 for Tri-axle trucks and 80,000 for tandem trucks. Unless you had a truck before the law changed, in which case you could still run at 85k.
    I live in NY now. I drove mixers here for a while. With a permit my tandem mixer had a max weight of I believe it was 62k. The truck was built exactly the same as the ones I had run 85 on for years safely. The trucks could handle the weight no problem, and could stop fine. Granted, we were use to how they stopped.
    A well made Tractor is the same as those trucks were if not better. And with a trailer it extends the length of the vehicle, and adds 2 more axles with brakes. I can stop an oversize loaded truck at 100k without any issues. Though class 8 road trucks mostly have been made lighter and lighter and had there balls snipped to the point they will not pull the weight as well as a 10 wheel mack lol.

    Anyway. What I planned to post here.
    I was hauling a load of lumber out of Maine last year.
    They sent a guy out to load it that had no idea how to load the trailer. He went to the office 2 times to have them draw him a diagram of how to load it.
    I told him 2 times when he started that he was loading too far forward, and that he needed to move the load back at least 2 feet. He waited till the whole front of the truck was loaded before asking his supervisor.
    His boss agreed with me and he moved it back 4 feet. Which I let go, but knew it would possibly be borderline.
    Finally after he screwed with it for 3 hours I got out of there.
    I drove 75 miles to the nearest scale. I was over on my trailer by almost 1000 lbs. Would have been fine if he had only moved the load back 2 feet like I asked.
    This was on a 50 foot spread axle btw. So I had 41,000 on the trailer, but can legally only have 40k.
    I called my dispatcher and explained it to him, asked what he wanted me to do. It was 75 miles back, then full reload. He told me I could get reloaded or run with it and if caught he would cover it.
    So I ran it. I was not over gross. And the load pulled fine. Just a little over on the trailer.
    Had to stop at the travel plaza for my 10, so I could get out of Maine at 6am before the scale opened, and was lucky that the Conn scale was closed.
    The good thing is that if I had gotten a ticket I know the company would have covered it. The dispatcher is the owners son, and he is 100% true to his word. I still was not happy about it though.

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