What does it mean to get an overweight ticket? What do overweight tickets cost? And how can your drivers avoid them? We're going to answer those questions today. In addition to answering those questions, we'll discuss three tech solutions that can help you avoid them.
If you're in logistics, you know firsthand how chaotic things can get on a regular basis. On any given truck load, a hundred different things could go wrong. Accidents can still happen, even when you're consciously following the rules.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) knows that accidents happen, and to mitigate that, they established a max weight for every load of freight. That helps avoid accidents.
But before we get into the FMCSA's overweight guidelines, let me provide a quick note about the organization. In reality, everyone in the logistics industry should be at least familiar with the FMCSA because they govern all aspects of truck driving.
The FMCSA defines itself as "the lead federal government agency responsible for regulating and providing safety oversight of commercial motor vehicles. FMCSA's mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses."
To put it simply, the FMCSA created the rules of the road to keep everyone safe and to help mitigate potential disasters. With so many drivers on the road hauling so much freight, rules help.
However, weight restrictions can result overweight tickets. And, indeed, overweight tickets bring a lot of questions, headaches, and penalties.
That's what brings us here today. In this post, we'll cover the following basics about overweight tickets:
I'll also provide some resources for where to find more detailed information to help with any specific issues you might run into.
We know the deal. Without the FMCSA rules, drivers would haul overweight loads, drive until they fell asleep behind the wheel, and probably cut as many corners as possible.
In a world without FMCSA regulations, the roads would quickly be a no-holds-barred, unsafe, and chaotic place.
Without rules, the next thing you know, we'd end up dressed like Oakland Raiders fans on the set of Mad Max duking it out in the Thunderdome!
So, let's keep things civilized, shall we, and arm ourselves with knowledge.
According to the FMCSA, the federally-mandated maximum weights allowed are as follows:
Drivers will typically find out that they are overweight when they go through a certified weigh station and are handed a weight ticket.
However, the definition of "overweight" is nuanced and can depend on what state you're in (not including the state of disbelief).
This is the key issue regarding overweight tickets—each state in the US has its own definition of overweight.
States are adamant about issuing tickets for overweight trucks because overweight loads can cause infrastructure damage over time. Road repair and maintenance costs can eat millions of dollars out of each state's annual budget. In light of that, each state charges different penalties for overweight tickets and punishments with different levels of severity.
Remember to bookmark this great index of state-by-state overweight fines in the event you or one of your drivers ever gets stopped in a state with laws you aren't familiar with.
Bear in mind that some states fine you on top of the overweight load costs.
Repeat offenders in all instances face escalating penalties. As the severity mounts, you can see how overweight tickets sincerely threaten a driver's livelihood. Not much is worth losing your ability to make a living.
Depending on the state you are in, if you're caught at a weigh station, there are a few ways of dealing with your overweight loads. Keep in mind that even if you're under 80,000 gross pounds, you can still be overweight on one of the axles.
If that's the case, your first option should be adjust the load by sliding one or more of your axles. Adjusting your axles can allow you to attain a safe weight distribution.
In some states, a driver is given a fine and allowed back on the road. Other states require a driver to remove the excess weight in order to scale legally before being allowed to move.
Another way to avoid an overweight ticket is to secure an overweight permit. There are many third-party companies out there that provide the necessary permit paperwork. Obviously there's a cost involved with using a service provider, but it beats jail time.
Perhaps you prefer a more official route for securing an overweight permit. In that case, check out the freight management and operations page of the Federal Highway Administration's website. On it, you'll find a link to every state's DOT page for overweight loads, as well as a quick reference list of each state's overweight hotline number.
Now, let's shift gears and look at a few ways tech can help manage—or avoid—an overweight ticket.
If you know in advance that you'll be running heavy, you can plan ahead and avoid scrambling. For example, a product on the website Oversize.io offers GPS routing features that allow you to acquire overweight permits for your entire cross-country route in advance.
This will save you time and money, and it will reduce potential headaches.
Some drivers weigh their trucks several times per day. All your weight tickets (overweight or compliant) become a stack of indecipherable yellow carbon paper. A great way to manage the endless stream of paperwork is to go paperless.
Vector provides a product with perfect scans that is considered the best-in-class imaging software. Document scanning software allows you to sync your weight tickets and upload all your paperwork to the cloud.
Thus, weight tickets, BOLs, PODs, and lumper bills are all contained electronically. Another feature you may want to look into is Vector's single-click invoicing capability. Single-click invoicing will help you get reimbursed ASAP for those weight tickets and keep your cash flow moving. Eliminating the paper trail alone is probably worth it.
Last, the on-board scales offered by a company like Air Weigh can provide real time, accurate weight data. When you know your weight at all times, it eliminates the guesswork, costly fines, and the downtime of overweight tickets.
Sure, the world of freight sometimes resembles that of Mad Max. But one of the easiest ways to avoid a trip to the Thunderdome is to think safety first and drive at a legal weight.
That said, if you do happen to tip the scales, don't go into full tilt. As cool as everyone looks in Mad Max, let's remember the FMCSA guidelines are in place with everyone's safety in mind.
This post was written by Brian Deines. Brian believes that every day is a referendum on a brand’s relevance, and he’s excited to bring that kind of thinking to the world of modern manufacturing and logistics. He deploys a full-stack of business development, sales, and marketing tools built through years of work in the logistics, packaging, and tier-1 part supply industries serving a customer base comprised of Fortune 1000 OEMs.