What you need to know about overweight trucks. (2023)

Overweight trucks are a problem for fleet and safety managers, truck drivers, and fleet owner operators. This article explains how a vehicle is marked overweight, and explores the potential risks and consequences of operating an overweight truck.

What is an overweight truck?

An overweight truck surpasses federally mandated maximum weights for vehicles on the road. The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHA) has mandated the following maximum weights for the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways and reasonable access thereto (23 CFR Part 658.17):

  • 80,000 pounds gross vehicle weight
  • 20,000 pound single axle weight
  • 34,000 pound tandem axle weight

Axle spacing is also a consideration. The FHA states, “to protect bridges, the number and spacing of axles carrying the vehicle load must be calculated.”

To calculate the Federal bridge formula use: W=500(LN/N-1 + 12N + 36); where W=overall gross weight on any group of 2 or more consecutive axles to the nearest 500 pounds. L=distance in feet between the extreme of any group of 2 or more consecutive axles, and N=number of axles in the group under consideration.

Is there a truck overweight allowance?

Although the federal government does not issue permits for oversize/overweight loads, carriers can apply to states where appropriate. State permitting office telephone numbers are conveniently compiled on a single list from the FHWA.

Manage your trucking or logistics operation with Motive.

States may also issue permits for nondivisible loads. This happens when separating the cargo into smaller loads or vehicles would compromise the vehicle’s intended function, destroy the load value, or require more than 8 hours to dismantle. Divisible loads may also get load permits based upon historic state “grandfather” rights or Congressional authorization for a state-specific commodity or route movement at a greater size or weight, according to the FHA.

Did you know? Truck weight limits first started in 1918 in Maine, where they were only allowed 18,000 pounds max.

What are the risks associated with overweight trucks?

The Federal bridge formula illustrates one risk of overweight trucks—the fear that a too-heavy truck would undermine a bridge’s stability. The excess weight can also damage the nation’s roads, which are already costly to maintain. Yet, those are not the only risks associated with overweight vehicles.

Overweight vehicles are also a safety concern. An overweight truck is going to be more difficult to handle, may go down inclines faster than usual, and will require additional time and space to brake. There is also increased risk of tire blowout, drivers losing steering control while changing lanes or making a sharp, sudden turn, or a vehicle rollover.

Who is responsible for an overweight truck?

Drivers are seldom the ones to load the truck, plan the route, or deal with load permitting. Still, in most cases, the commercial vehicle driver is held responsible for an overweight truck ticket. Texas, though, recently passed legislation making it possible to prosecute the people who overloaded the truck. You may work for a company that pays fines on the driver’s behalf, but you’ll want to review your contract to know for sure.

What happens if your truck is overweight?

Drivers of overweight vehicles can face several consequences. In the worst case, the driver of an overweight vehicle could go to jail. And not just for one night, but for months. The driver may also have their commercial driver’s license (CDL) revoked.

Vehicles with excess weight above the permitted maximum can face heavy fines. The driver can be fined as well as the commercial carrier company that sent that vehicle out. There are additional fines for repeat offenders.

Any run in with law enforcement can also delay deliveries. If a vehicle is held up at a weigh station and found to be overweight, that truck won’t be going anywhere any time soon. This means carriers need to send another driver to collect that load while communicating with the customer about the change in the delivery schedule.

Overweight truck fines

Fines vary from state to state. In California, for instance, a conviction could cost $3,000 or $4,000. Meanwhile, in Texas, the fines start at $100 to $150 for a first offense but can hit $10,000 for a load that is more than 40,000 pounds.

Does an overweight truck ticket go on your record?

In most cases, an overweight violation will not go on your record. Still, there are some states (e.g., California) where the overweight truck ticket can be recorded on your motor vehicle driving record (MVR) or be counted as a misdemeanor on a driver’s Pre-employment Screening Program (PSP) record.

What happens if a truck is overweight at a weigh station?

Drivers better have their overweight permit handy. Otherwise, if the vehicle weighs more than 6,000 pounds over gross weight, expect the government to stop that overweight truck from continuing on its route. There will be fines, possible jail time, and damage to customer relationships since the shipment is delayed.

How do I get an overweight truck permit?

To get an overweight truck permit, you’ll need to contact the vehicle permitting office for the state where you are driving. If the oversize or overweight cargo is traveling through multiple states, you’ll need to obtain permits for each state along the route.

The time it takes to get your permit can vary dramatically depending on the route, load, and vehicle used, so it is good business to plan ahead where you can.

If you’re going to be regularly transporting overweight or oversize loads, in some states you’re able to apply for an annual permit. This can save you the time spent applying over and over again for single trip permits. However, the fee may be prohibitive if you are not taking enough trips to justify the annual cost.

How much do overweight truck permits cost?

This is going to vary depending on the state. You’ll also want to calculate the price differential of getting a single trip or annual permit. For example, in California, one trip with an overweight load costs $16. An annual permit costs $90. Once you haul more than five overweight loads, you’ve saved money with the annual permit.

Top tips to avoid truck overweight fines

Using truck scales in your facility before hitting the road is an obvious way to reduce the risk of overweight truck fines. This will let you get an accurate weight before the vehicle is sent out.

Don’t forget to factor in fuel weight too. A vehicle with a near empty tank at loading that fills up before the weigh station could exceed the overall weight limit.

Plan routes carefully. Where the vehicle travels once loaded is going to make a difference as to whether it’s overweight or not. Fleet managers can use route optimization, even if it means a longer journey, to avoid routes that require weighing and permits.

Educate your employees about the risks. Not just financial, but safety too. You need everyone in your organization aware of the consequences of excess weight to avoid problems on the road or running into difficulties with authorities.

How Motive’s load board prevents fleets from carrying overweight loads

The Motive Smart Load Board can help you avoid overweight trucks. Divide up the cargo and find the right carriers with our freight matching service driven by artificial intelligence. Post loads to Motive’s network and leverage our massive scale, high carrier engagement, and unparalleled dataset to match carriers and loads. Or, if a truck is held up at a weigh station, use the load board to get that delivery back on schedule.

WIth Motive’s fleet management solution, it’s also easier to keep commercial drivers safe and optimize routes whether the vehicle is overweight or not. With our ELD devices, management and drivers can communicate easily, optimize drive time, and minimize violations with automated compliance management.

Learn more about Motive’s benefits for your fleet. Request a demo.


What you need to know about overweight trucks.? ›

Drivers better have their overweight permit handy. Otherwise, if the vehicle weighs more than 6,000 pounds over gross weight, expect the government to stop that overweight truck from continuing on its route. There will be fines, possible jail time, and damage to customer relationships since the shipment is delayed.

How do I know if my truck is overweight? ›

Signs of an Overloaded Truck

The truck appears overloaded: If the cargo is bulging over the sides of the truck or stacked over the top, it is probably carrying more cargo than it should be. The truck struggles to slow down: If you see a tractor trailer braking but taking too long to slow down, it is likely overloaded.

How do you know if your load is overweight? ›

The legal limits for a vehicle's size and weight are 80,000 pounds, 53' long, 13½' high and 8½' wide. If your vehicle exceeds those numbers, it's likely overweight or hauling an oversize load. But because the regulations aren't the same in every state, your best bet is to call and let us help.

What is considered overweight for a semi-truck? ›

Truck drivers need to go to a weigh station before continuing on their route. Legally, semi-trucks cannot exceed 80,000 pounds. The 80,000 pounds includes any cargo the vehicle carries on the road. The 18-wheeler weight limit protects everyone on the road.

What happens if your trailer is overweight? ›

If your trailer's weight (including all cargo and passengers) does exceed its maximum capacity, driving with the trailer attached is a huge risk. Overweight trailers put more pressure on the wheels and axles than they are designed to handle, which can cause tire blowouts or trailer sway.

What happens if your truck weighs too much? ›

Vehicles with excess weight above the permitted maximum can face heavy fines. The driver can be fined as well as the commercial carrier company that sent that vehicle out. There are additional fines for repeat offenders. Any run in with law enforcement can also delay deliveries.

What happens if a truck is too heavy? ›

Most weigh stations force drivers to “shut down” their operation if a truck weighs more than 6,000 pounds over maximum gross weight. Not only would you write a check to fund the salary of the officer who caught your driver, he would lose time and money waiting until another truck arrives to unload the excess weight.

What is the maximum weight a truck can carry? ›

Trucking DOT Weight Limits by State
CALIFORNIA20,000 lbs.34,000 lbs.
COLORADO20,000 lbs.36,000 lbs.
CONNECTICUT22,000 lbs.36,000 lbs.
DELAWARE20,000 lbs.34,000 lbs.
48 more rows

How much weight is considered a full truck load? ›

Generally, you should budget somewhere between 42,000 lbs and 44,000 lbs for a truckload. TIP: ask your carrier in advance if you're planning to be close to the weight limit for the vehicle. The carrier can give you some guidance on what should fit on the equipment they are sending in.

What is the maximum weight for a load? ›

Federal limits are 80,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, 20,000 pounds on a single axle, and 34,000 pounds on a tandem axle group. There are also Federal standards for length and width on the National Network (NN). The NN comprises the Interstate and certain roadways designated by the States.

Can my steer axle be over 12000 lbs? ›

Steer axle weight - The legal maximum weight for a steer axle is 12,000 lbs. Drive axle weight - The drive axle group can only have a max weight of 34,000 lbs total or 17,000 lbs per axle. Gross weight - The total weight of the truck and trailer cannot exceed 80,000 lbs without additional axles and permits.

How much weight can I legally haul with a 1 ton truck? ›

Heavy-Duty Pickup Truck Weight Limits

A half-ton pickup can hold 3,000 pounds of cargo. A three-quarter-ton pickup can carry 4,000 pounds of cargo. A one-ton pickup can carry 6,000 pounds of cargo. Pickups can also haul hitched trailers.

What is considered overweight freight? ›

An overweight load is any cargo exceeding 80000 pounds. These are the loads whose weight surpasses the regulation of a specific truck type. Every state and city has specific rules regarding what is considered an overweight load. The main reason for regulating overweight loads is to protect the nation's infrastructure.

Why can't trucks be overweight? ›

Overloading the truck can cause damage to the brake and steering systems of a truck. And if the brakes don't work right, the chances of an accident increase, again endangering other motorists on the road.

How do I know if my trailer is too heavy for my truck? ›

Tow Capacity Formula
  1. Determine accurate curb weight (this is how much your truck weighs empty).
  2. Add the weight of the payload (passengers, cargo, tongue weight) to the curb weight.
  3. Subtract this number from your truck's GCWR.
  4. This is your max towing capacity.
Aug 13, 2021

Can you exceed trailer GVWR? ›

Cargo can be added to your trailer up to the maximum weight specified on the placard. Remember, the total weight of your fully loaded trailer can't exceed the listed GVWR. Be sure to load your trailer properly and follow the proper air pressure recommendations listed on your trailer's VIN label or Tire Placard.

How much weight should you put in your truck? ›

A general rule of thumb is 240-300 pounds for a ½-ton pickup and 300-400 pounds for a ¾ to a 1-ton pickup. A common concern with adding weight to your truck bed is that it may increase your brake distance, but this isn't true. The added mass isn't enough to make a noticeable difference in your braking.

Where should the weight be on a truck? ›

The proper place for the concentrated load illustrated is just ahead of the rear axle with the longest side on the floor. This type of loading never should be permitted. The frame bends, the rear tires are very much overloaded and enough weight is taken from the front tires to make steering almost impossible.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Melvina Ondricka

Last Updated: 08/12/2023

Views: 5815

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (48 voted)

Reviews: 87% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Melvina Ondricka

Birthday: 2000-12-23

Address: Suite 382 139 Shaniqua Locks, Paulaborough, UT 90498

Phone: +636383657021

Job: Dynamic Government Specialist

Hobby: Kite flying, Watching movies, Knitting, Model building, Reading, Wood carving, Paintball

Introduction: My name is Melvina Ondricka, I am a helpful, fancy, friendly, innocent, outstanding, courageous, thoughtful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.