In most situations, a fully-loaded semi-truck weighs up to 80,000 pounds. But the weight can vary widely depending on the load and the road.

The weight of a truck can make a big difference in the damage caused by a truck accident. The energy of a vehicle varies proportionally with its weight. Since a semi-truck could weigh up to 40 times more than your vehicle, a collision will likely cause devastating injuries to those inside your vehicle.

Here is some information about how much a semi-truck weighs and how that affects the outcome of a truck accident.

Federal Trucking Laws

Federal laws determine the maximum weight of trucks that use interstate highways. Under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act, semi-trucks cannot weigh more than 80,000 pounds while traveling on an interstate. 

Since most trucks carry their loads at least part of the way on an interstate, most trucks will meet this weight limit.

The federal government has a few reasons for setting the weight limit for trucks using interstate highways. These include:

Bridge Capacity

Since the federal government funds bridges on interstate highways, it protects its investment by limiting the weight placed on them.

Public Safety

Larger loads endanger public safety, increasing risks of:

  • More severe injuries
  • Fatalities
  • Higher costs for property damage
  • Increased impact from environmental spills

Capping the weight of a truck limits the damage that its load can do in an accident.

Driver Safety

Drivers can have trouble carrying heavy loads. Limiting the weight of loads can help drivers to transport cargo safely.

State Trucking Laws

The federal government shares jurisdiction over trucking with the states. Specifically, the states determine which trucks will need to obtain oversize load permits.

The legal limit for trucks using interstate highways without a special permit is 80,000 pounds. Trucking companies carefully load trucks to avoid overloading. Texas can fine or even revoke a trucking company’s state registration for overloaded trucks

But trucking companies can exceed the legal limit if they obtain an oversize load permit. Most states allow oversize loads that are roughly double the standard legal limit with the right permit.

But Texas has a Texas-sized permitted limit. Texas allows a regular five-axle semi-truck and trailer combination with two tandem axles to carry up to 92,000 pounds. Texas also grants super-heavy permits that allow loads of up to 254,300 pounds.

Super heavy loads come directly from Texas’s energy industry. Power generators, oil and gas drilling equipment, wind turbines, and windmill blades all weigh tens of thousands of pounds. 

By permitting super heavy loads, producers can transport these industrial machines without having to break them down into smaller pieces.

Role of Weight in a Truck Accident

The legal limit for a semi-truck in Texas is 80,000 pounds. A semi-truck carrying an oversize load can carry up to 92,000 pounds. A super-heavy load can weigh up to 254,300 pounds.

By contrast, a passenger car will weigh between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds. An SUV will usually weigh up to 5,000 pounds. The heaviest passenger vehicles on the market, such as the Lincoln Navigator and Toyota Sequoia, weigh around 6,000 pounds.

This means that a standard semi-truck could weigh 13 to 40 times the weight of your vehicle. In a collision, a semi-truck traveling at the same speed as you will have 13 to 40 times the energy and momentum of your car. 

These facts have several implications:

  • Trucks take longer to stop
  • Trucks are less maneuverable
  • Even a low-speed collision with a moving truck could cause catastrophic injuries

Heavy loads also have a greater risk of shifting or damaging the truck or trailer. These problems can cause a truck to lose control and collide with other vehicles.

All of these facts mean that you should exercise caution whenever you pass or follow a semi-truck. A collision could lead to catastrophe.